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The Year in Review: Most Popular Blogs of 2016

As 2016 draws to an end, we’re taking the opportunity to reflect back on what has helped drive awareness and progress in underserved communities around the country. With that spirit in mind, we’ve rounded up the most-read blogs from ICIC in 2016. These posts exemplify the initiatives, innovation, and dedication that continues to spread growth and prosperity in America’s inner cities.

It has been an exciting and momentous year, and we’re looking forward to what’s ahead in 2017! From of all of us at ICIC, we want to say, “Thank you!” to our partners, clients, and readers for your continued support. We hope you enjoy (or enjoy again!) our most-read blogs of 2016:

1. Catalyzing a National Conversation: #AccelerateInclusivity. In October ICIC hosted a national conversation at the Roxbury Innovation Center in Boston about what it will take to create more inclusive entrepreneurial hubs. The dialogue was grounded in presentations of new findings on the barriers facing women and minority entrepreneurs in accessing incubators and accelerators. Until they fully engage women and minority entrepreneurs, incubators and accelerators will not truly jumpstart urban entrepreneurship. This blog provides a complete recap of the event, the expert speakers and the new findings that were presented.

2. Benchmarking Performance of High-Tech Incubators and Accelerators. Are business incubators and accelerators really all that effective? Unfortunately, the lack of data means that we don’t really know – until now. ICIC teamed up with JPMorgan Chase as part of a year-long effort to measure the effectiveness of eight high-tech incubators and accelerators. The incubators and accelerators were located in cities across the country and collectively supported at least 600 individual businesses. The research team created a number of key performance indicators to measure the effectiveness of each incubator or accelerator. See how each fared when benchmarked against the others.

3. To Grow Downtown Business, Cities Should Tailor Strategies. As part of a good-faith effort to grow their Main Street business districts, municipalities often fall victim to a common trap: throwing money aimlessly at local businesses. Well, it turns out that providing a greater quantity of funding to businesses does not actually guarantee success. At this year’s National Main Streets conference, Della Rucker, principal of Wise Economy, argues for a more strategic approach focused on three key strategies: (1) Peer and mentor networks; (2) Targeted support at the right scale; and (3) Whole business support.

4. Key Findings from Year One of Small Business Forward. In 2014, JPMorgan Chase launched Small Business Forward, a five-year, $30 million initiative to support small businesses by connecting them to critical resources to help them grow faster, create jobs, and strengthen local economies. In the first year of the program, nine organizations operating in different markets were awarded funds to drive business growth in specific industries (e.g clean tech, food processing and interactive media). As a Small Business Forward partner, ICIC conducted an analysis of these nine organizations in an effort to measure their performance and impact.

5. #CityCloseUp, Philadelphia: In America’s Birthplace, is Innovation Benefitting the Inner City? A city steeped in the tradition of innovation, Philadelphia has gone to great lengths to support local entrepreneurs. Some have gone so far as to say that Philly’s start-up community is poised to “rival other regions, like New York, Boston, and Austin.” But are the benefits of Philadelphia’s entrepreneurial ecosystem reaching all residents? In other words – are inner city residents benefiting equitably from the growth of the city’s innovation economy? On one hand, Philadelphia’s inner city has markedly shrunk in size between 2009 and 2014. But on the other hand, although the inner city is physically smaller, ICIC research finds that poverty and unemployment in these areas has worsened during that time. This article argues that Philadelphia’s economic development strategies need to be more narrowly tailored to generate jobs and increase economic opportunity for the city’s most vulnerable residents.

Look back even further: check out ICIC’s top blog posts of 2015 recapped here.

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