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Innovation Works plans to create 250 social enterprises, 5,000 new jobs in Baltimore in 10 years

Posted at 4:48 PM, Aug 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-15 17:46:33-04

BALTIMORE — The goal at MissionFit in Baltimore's Remington neighborhood is pretty straightforward: get kids moving.

"We provide free services for kids to work out, relieve stress. It's really a one-stop shop for them," said Joshua Day, executive director of MissionFit.

They work with kids ages 11 to 24, like 17-year-old Corey Harris. Harris just became a Strength Ambassador at MissionFit and helps train and reach out to kids in the community.

"This is like a home, like a second home," he said. "When I come here, I get a good vibe, so I think it gives kids a good vibe. It gives them a bunch of energy and when they leave, they are just full of energy."

MissionFit is exactly the kind of social enterprise that the non-profit Innovation Works wants to see more of in Baltimore. It has a goal of creating 250 social enterprises throughout the city, employing 5,000 people and attracting $100 million in capital over the next ten years.

To accomplish this goal, Innovation Works has partnered with the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship out of California, which launches and grows social enterprises on a global level.

"We're bringing their model, with some adaptations for Baltimore, to support neighborhoods in Baltimore that are the most economically distressed by bringing the Miller Center/Silicon Valley entrepreneur methodology to meet the individuals, to be able to take charge of their own lives and their own neighborhoods to launch businesses," said Jay Nwachu, Chief Innovation Officer at Innovation Works.

Innovation Works will work with people at various stages of building their social enterprise, whether it's just starting out with an idea or trying to expand their business.

They are also looking for more mentors, or neighbor partners, to work with their budding entrepreneurs to help them build successful businesses.

"Our model is finding neighborhood partners who would then take programming and resources into the actual neighborhood. It's really unique to Baltimore and we've heard loud and clear how much that is needed," Nwachu said.

Their goal may be an ambitious one, but when you see the difference social enterprises like MissionFit are making in their communities, you realize this plan may be one of the solutions Baltimore needs to turn itself around.

"There are no saviors that are going to come, no matter how many checks we write," Nwachu said. "At some point those checks will stop. We have to get into communities and help them at the neighborhood level because only folks at the neighborhood level are going to be able to figure out how to lift themselves up. All we simply need to do is bring the resources and get out of their way."

If you would like to become a neighborhood partner or would like more information about getting help to start a social enterprise, click here.