Research indicates that vibrant arts and culture in a given region attracts growth, sparks diverse and creative thinking, and drives innovation. With this in mind, four leading regional organizations came together and found alignment in their visions to spur economic growth and enrich arts and culture in the area. From this collaborative synergy, the Thriving Communities Initiative was launched as way to help cities and towns in a tri-state region collaborate and leverage locally-based arts and cultural assets to generate economic growth and vibrancy.
Eight teams of community leaders from Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama were selected to participate in the initial Thriving Communities program focused on the design challenge: How might we utilize arts and culture to create community vibrancy and economic growth?
Using the best of design thinking methodology and asset mapping, Bridge Innovate designed and delivered a three-month program coaching community teams to create synergistic arts and culture growth strategies for the region.
The program kicked-off with a Design Thinking Crash Course where participants learned the basics of human-centered design, followed by a research and inspiration gathering phase for teams to build empathy and dive deeper into the assets, wants and needs of their communities. Next came the SWARM® Accelerated Design Session where teams created future growth visions and first stage prototype designs. Then, teams took steps to turn concepts on paper into reality through a Test Sprints phase where they conducted a series of small experiments to test ideas and assumptions. The program culminated with a final Growth Strategy Pitch for Investment with key funding stakeholders.
The collaborative model of sharing resources, ideas, and investment across different communities and organizations provoked thought, accelerated learning, and enabled teams to come up with more creative solutions.
Small steps can lead to incredible outcomes. Two communities applied for and received funding to implement their big ideas, and four additional communities are receiving continued program support. One community’s small test thrown together in a matter of days ended up being a 300-person community-wide event, which eventually led to a one-million-dollar investment. Based on the success of the initial Thriving Communities cohort, the sponsoring organizations have plans to expand the program to more communities in the future. Building relationships and creating connections across communities sparked a collaborative, regional movement. Sharing investment across the collaborative empowered individual communities to push boundaries and accomplish goals far beyond what they could have done alone.
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