Inclusive Innovation Incubator founder Aaron Saunders calls for ongoing support for organizations like his supporting technologists, entrepreneurs and creatives from underrepresented backgrounds.
From Guest Post on Technical.ly/dc
“Race and racism is a reality that so many of us grow up learning to just deal with. But if we ever hope to move past it, it can’t just be on people of color to deal with it. It’s up to all of us — Black, white, everyone — no matter how well-meaning we think we might be, to do the honest, uncomfortable work of rooting it out.” — Michelle Obama
When I started my mobile and software company in 2009, I knew there were only a few Black-owned tech companies able to provide similar services as Clearly Innovative, and also understood the technology gaps in the underserved and underrepresented communities, which is why I hired individuals who demonstrated willingness to learn, to gain tech experience and to commit to the numerous hours working on small projects.
I have always believed that more people can learn to code if given the opportunity. A few years later, in 2017, Inclusive Innovation Incubator (In3) was initiated as an extension of my mission, which is to provide a space for education in tech, business and entrepreneurship, purposely designed, developed and managed for underserved and underrepresented communities, especially Black technologists, creatives and entrepreneurs.
What is happening now is about social justice, the right to exist and having our basic human rights protected; but it is also about economic justice, our right to have the same opportunities as others.
At In3, we focus on solutions because we are aware of the racial problems that have been reported for several years such as our names, a lack of Black CEOs, the financial literacy gaps, hurdles in wealth building, challenges with technology access and high-tech workforce missing representation.
As an ecosystem builder with the purpose of increasing tech-ready professionals and well-equipped entrepreneurs, I know firsthand the challenges faced by underrepresented and underserved communities. For instance, in regard to our reality, the only institutional support thus far we have received has been from the D.C. government in addition to our long-standing collaboration with Howard University. We know how the private sector can play an important role in this change, and should see In3 as their partner to address this opportunity to support the community and economy in the region.
With greater support from corporations and other funders, we would be able to increase our programming that has benefited over 1,500 youth and adults, entrepreneurship workshops which have prepared over 150 entrepreneurs and small business owners as well as mid-career professionals, and hosted over 600 in-person and online events since opening in 2017. Our purpose is to educate and empower while providing a space to build community for meetings, events and courses.
There is a wealth and an opportunity gap that needs to be resolved, and Inclusive Innovation Incubator can serve as the bridge between companies, funding organizations and foundations seeking to have measurable impact. We are committed to building a dense community of diverse entrepreneurs, technologists and creatives, by focusing on what I call the 3 Cs — technical capital, social capital and financial capital.
I wonder what it will take to recognize the need to be intentionally focused on investing in ecosystem builders already doing the work instead of allocating to those without prior experience or capabilities?