Over the past few months, I have been working on a new partnership called Econogy. Econogy combines business school educators and students with neighborhood business districts to give local businesses and entrepreneurs something they usually can’t afford:
Industry-leading strategic planning and business operation assistance.
One aspect of Econogy that I am particularly excited about is a service called Neighborhood Grow. Neighborhood Grow takes the kind of neighborhood planning that we’ve all been doing for time immemorial, and drives that deeper to make a real difference for the business district organization and for businesses themselves. Instead of simply preparing a plan and then hoping to find the money and expertise to do the work that the organization can’t do alone, Neighborhood Grow allows planning to flow directly into implementation by transitioning seamlessly to the expertise in marketing, branding, management, event logistics and more that have to be mustered if the plan is going to go into action.
Small businesses and neighborhood organizations often operate by the seat of their pants, doing the best they can on business and management fundamentals despite the fact that, chances are, no one has ever taught them sound practices. And conventional business management assistance, such as consulting, is too expensive and too elaborate to be of any good.
Neighborhood Grow grew out of a realization that students who are learning business management and related skills need and want opportunities to apply what they are learning in the real world. These students not only need to build their resumes and show future employers that they have relevant, practical skills, but they increasingly want to do so in a way that makes the world better. Because of that, universities are increasingly working project-based learning into their coursework, and particularly enterprising students are realizing that they can stand out in the job search when they can show how they have used their skills to make a business and a community better.
The Neighborhood Grow process starts with convening participants and gathering existing conditions and identifying visions, but it then focuses on near-term, practical steps that can be taken to help the neighborhood business district operate better. This might include re-branding and a tech-savvy marketing campaign; business training in specific skills, creating and managing events, improving accounting and management systems, or more. Because the focus is on operations, instead of our usual heavy emphasis on design solutions, Neighborhood Grow initiatives can make a real impact in much less time and for much less money than it takes to build a streetscape!
Neighborhood Grow is based on the work of Xavier University’s X-Link and similar project-based learning initiatives across the country. As far as we know, this is the first time it’s been applied to neighborhood business districts and their organizations.
We’re still in the early stages, and formal marketing materials aren’t all polished up yet. If you’re interested in learning how Neighborhood Grow can help your community, send me a note and we’ll talk!