Rhode Island Foundation reports back on Make It Happen RI

PROVIDENCE, RI – (October 15, 2012) The Rhode Island Foundation released a progress report sharing findings from Make it Happen RI, an economic development gathering held last month. The Foundation also announced that its board of directors approved a $1 million commitment to fund ideas from this initiative, which drew 300 Rhode Islanders together to brainstorm ideas to boost the state’s economy. The event was supported by the Foundation’s new Civic Leadership Fund.

“We are greatly encouraged by the response to Make it Happen RI,” stated Foundation President and CEO Neil D. Steinberg, who added, “the enthusiasm and positive energy, and the real, practical ideas that have come out of this convening are further proof that there are many talented, caring, and committed Rhode Islanders who want to work together to make something happen here.”

The progress report includes a summary of top-level ideas and themes, along with a detailed appendix featuring all of the ideas generated during the two-day summit and a full list of participants.

“Six overarching themes emerged from the summit,” noted Foundation Vice President for Strategy, Planning, and Special Projects Jessica David, who along with Steinberg organized Make It Happen RI. “Our hope is that Rhode Islanders will work with each other and with the Foundation to try new things and get some of these ideas off the ground.”

The six major themes are:

  • Create jobs
  • Close the skills gaps
  • Better connect the unemployed with existing job opportunities
  • Address specific barriers to success
  • Collaborate
  • Promote Rhode Island internally and externally

The progress report cites specific action steps and ideas that generated energy and interest at Make It Happen RI. Examples include:

  • Explore the need and capacity for a private sector fund for early or growth stage capital for local companies;
  • Host a “super” job fair to match those looking for work, those looking for workers, and training resources;
  • Ensure that economic decisions are based on data and facts by creating a research consortium of higher education institutions;
  • Develop a marketing campaign that celebrates Rhode Island success stories and allows every Rhode Islander to become an ambassador for the state.

Several action steps are already underway following Make It Happen RI, which are noted in the report.

Additionally, The Rhode Island Foundation is committing $1 million to be expended at its discretion in the next year to initiate, accelerate, and amplify these efforts, beyond what the Foundation plans in terms of leadership, organizing, and convening.

“The next 12 months are critical,” noted Steinberg. “We cannot afford to wait.”

“This progress report is our pivot point from the two-day event to a year of action,” said David. “We are excited about many of the ideas and partnerships that emerged from Make It Happen RI and hope that more will develop in the future. Together, we will move Rhode Island forward.”

The full progress report is available here.

The Rhode Island Foundation is a philanthropic and community leader dedicated to meeting the needs of the people of Rhode Island. Founded in 1916, the Foundation is one of the oldest and largest community foundations in the United States, and is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. In 2011, the Foundation made grants of $28 million to more than one thousand organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities.http://www.rifoundation.org

The Civic Leadership Fund is a field of interest fund at The Rhode Island Foundation. Launched in 2012, the fund allows the Foundation to go beyond traditional grantmaking to serve as a leader for critical or emerging issues in the state.  Activities supported by the fund include commissioning research, convening interested parties, advocating for changes in public policy, and bringing nationally known speakers to Rhode Island to help create real, substantive, and positive change in Rhode Island.  Learn more atwww.rifoundation.org/leadership.

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