Common Ground Labs: Driving Entrepreneurship that Bridges Social Divides
An incubation program where populations in social divisions come together as co-founders building peace and successful businesses.
Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)
We are in a world of increasing social division. Marches against refugees are commonplace throughout Europe as thousands continue to land on their shores. At the same time we are in a world of diminishing jobs, where the economic opportunity of a stable full time job is decreasing, and the migrants entering host countries are seen as a burden as they are unable to access work that was never actually available. Common Ground Labs will be an incubation program leveraging human-centered design and lean-startup methodologies to bridge these widening social divides while creating new economic opportunities. The first target populations are refugees and host communities, however in the future the methodology will be replicable with any populations in division including socio-economic, political, ethnic and religious.
The Labs will source people from both sides of the divide, meaning refugees / migrants and host communities and bring them together as co-founders of innovative social enterprises. They will come without businesses in mind, but as recognized leaders in their communities who want to change the world. Once in the program they tackle a broad challenge that has been pre-identified with a corporate sponsor. For example Vodafone might sponsor a challenge around: 'How might we facilitate digital inclusion?' Each activity of the program helps them design a better product, service, or program, but also builds cohesion. There is a strong community design element where they bring their divided communities together as co-creators. They address their own biases through storytelling and emotional leadership. Activities are interwoven in such a way that the participant barely notices their minds changing and these bridges being built. At the end of the program successful ideas will receive seed grants to continue their work. I have just returned from scoping to launch a pilot in Marseille, France in Oct. 2018 but am also investigating Colombia or Jordan / Lebanon.
Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)
We have two sets of collaborators whose experience results in an integral skillset that leads to better businesses. The pilot will be in Marseille, France.
-Refugees / migrants, 20 - 45 who have been resettled or have work permits. They may not have traditional education but speak the local language at least at an intermediary level, have an intermediate level of computer skills, and have demonstrated leadership potential within their community. They bring a deep knowledge of the motivations, aspirations and needs of their communities, and potential solutions (in Human Centered Design Speak - the desirability factor)
The other group is the host population. They are 20-45, speak English at an intermediate level and have intermediate to advanced computer skills. They also may not have had a formal education, but have also demonstrated leadership potential. They have a deep knowledge of the local business, entrepreneurship or innovation ecosystem. They bring the viability factor
How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)
There are mainly two types of incubators out there working on peace:
Support enterprises that have peace as a mission
Do not seek to create peace as part of the program
Founders are not inherently diverse
Vulnerable Population Incubators:
Cohort members come from vulnerable populations but do not collaborate with other populations in a peer-to-peer manner
Oftentimes are isolated from society and lack entrepreneurship ecosystem knowledge
We are different in that we flip the narrative. We do not consider refugees as a population that needs to be designed for or at but a population when collaborated with will lead to real innovation and better businesses. I have recently returned from a scoping mission in France where I have tested the waters with a variety of other incubator / accelerator programs and have found clear pathways for collaboration as pipeline and network partners instead of competitors.
Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)
Initial Design: I am exploring the idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.
Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)
Common Ground Labs builds products, services, and programs that drive social cohesion. The incubator is our flagship program however we also offer design strategy, user research, facilitation and training services to companies, NGOs and governments who seek to drive inclusion and social cohesion.
Organization Filing Status
Yes, we are a registered social enterprise.
In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.
I have done extensive work with refugees / migrants with the World Food Programme and IRC using Human-Centered Design. I've also built and facilitated incubators and accelerators. I've seen the potential for this process to bring people together as empathy creation is inherent in the design process. I began thinking about How might we leverage HCD to build bridges? I also believe to get people to work together there must be a shared mutually beneficial goal, thus using HCD to build businesses.
Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).
Peace and Prosperity in France and globally is influenced by a wave of immigration that has destabilized national identity and a political environment that casts refugees as burdens and job thieves. Increasing ethnic tensions between refugees and host populations can lead to violence if left unchecked. Prosperity is influenced by diminishing jobs due to the rise in automation. CG Labs seeks to influence both by creating businesses lead by diverse founders that will in turn create employment opportunities for diverse populations.
Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)
We need three types of partners, which potential organizations fill many of these roles have already been identified:
Pipeline Partners: Community organizations, local NGOs, business schools, entrepreneurship networks that will aid in sourcing participants for the program.
Sponsors: Funders of lab programs. We identify a social & business driven challenge that the organization is facing that they are interested in sourcing innovation around. The organization provides funding but also employee engagement through mentorship or speaking during the program.
Community Design Partners - Partners who have access to community networks in both populations to organization / facilitate the community design process (may overlap with pipeline partners)
Technical Partners - Partners to deliver tech modules and / or provide mentorship to cohort members
Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)
Refugee / migrant populations in France have a strong desire to work and integrate with the local population however they do not have the tools or channels to do so.
There is also increasingly a drive towards social entrepreneurship as is evidenced by the 'Social and Inclusive Economy' movement and many young people are involved in it. However there are not clear pathways for meeting and collaborating with refugees / migrants.
Pilot: Marseille, France - however looking at Jordan or Colombia as well.
How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)
18 months from start to evaluation.
Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)