Advancing Innovation in Education, Economic, and Workforce Development Civic Forums lay the foundation for entrance into

the innovation economy for regional economies reliant on legacy industries January 2010/Updated March 2011 Written by Betsey Merkel The Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open), a not for profit economic development organization based in Northeast Ohio, celebrates over seven years of public service to advance education, economic, and workforce development. Beginning in August 2003, I-Open led Civic Forums in collaboration with organizations, universities and colleges, businesses, and government to convene citizens and build valuable civic networks to advance Northeast Ohio regional business development. Civic Forums lay the foundation for entrance into the innovation economy for regional economies reliant on legacy industries. From September 2006 through July 2009, I-Open Co-Founders and Directors, Susan Altshuler, Dennis Coughlin, and Betsey Merkel, hosted forty-six face-toface conversations in collaboration with leaders in education, government, business and civic organizations to address timely global issues affecting Ohio communities. George Nemeth and Gloria Ferris of Meet The Blogger’s, a Northeast Ohio based network of leaders experienced in guiding conversations focusing on civic journalism, advocacy, democracy, and government process, led many of the conversations in collaboration with I-Open. Civic Forums also teach “Strategic Doing” – a simple, but disciplined method to advance ideas to action quickly - designed by Ed Morrison, Economic Policy Advisor, Purdue University, Center for Regional and Development, and WIRED initiative in North Central Indiana. Ed is a Co-Founder and past Director, I-Open.
Copyright 2011 Betsey Merkel and I-Open. Creative Commons 3.0 AttributionNoncommercial-No Derivative Works. Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open) 2563 Kingston Road Cleveland OH 44118 Phone: 216-220-0172 Web: http://iopen.posterous.com/

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Industries in focus Civic Forums focus on innovation opportunities in industry. Since 2006, 40% of IOpen conversations exchanged information and updates in water, advocacy, health care, creativity, land, energy, transportation, and technology; another 40% of the conversations targeted innovation in education, economic, and workforce development; the remaining 20% shared insights into lifestyle, civic service, and regional culture. Betsey Merkel designed the Civic Forum process to bring people together to build trust, civic networks and collaborative communities to identify citizen priorities and entrepreneurial opportunities. The I-Open Civic Forum process offers communities and regions a place to start to strengthen good habits of collaboration, engagement, and civility. Civic Forums model collaborative behaviors drawing from such disciplines as Appreciative Inquiry and Servant Leadership – important ‘soft’ skills for every entrepreneur to thrive in locally based, global business environments. Since 2006, the I-Open conversations focused on five priority areas for regional economic development: the importance of strengthening education; the relationship of social and behavioral economics to build prosperity; how to grow resilient, attractive communities; how to build innovation and entrepreneurial networks; and the intrinsic value of quality communications sharing stories of regional culture. The connection of civic interviews and guided conversations to regional development To inform the strategy and design of civic forum conversations, civic leaders have contributed over 100 interviews, nearly fifty conversations with over 1000 voices participating, and over 150 hours of content to I-Open research. Interviews share insights, stories of innovation, and civic priorities. During the thirty-one month period, I-Open educational communications reached over 195,000 (opt-in) subscribers mailed who read over 48,000 email communications, exploring 14,000 information web links to people, research, and innovation in energy, health care, land, food, and water.
Copyright 2010 Betsey Merkel and I-Open. Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works. Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open) 4415 Euclid Ave 3rd Fl Cleveland, Ohio 44103 USA

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Civic Forum conversations are broadcast live with chat and archived to the web in an on-demand library for public access. Since early 2008, the Midtown Brews channel, for example, has quickly grown in value, accruing over 250,000 viewer minutes sharing citizen priorities focused on global issues. The forty-six public conversations cost an average of $50.00 per month (for technology related fees) for a total of $1550.00 generating over 4,000 contacts at about $.01 cost per contact – proving that building the open civic networks for communication and collaboration to strengthen businesses and emergent cluster industries can be strategic, efficient, and financially prudent. Gary Murphy, Professor of Undergraduate Economics Program at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, describes I-Open as “a sophisticated center of civic dialogue that furthers the community’s understanding and engagement of issues.” I-Open Civic Forums build the open, neutral spaces for important new conversations to take place focused on citizen priorities, building civic networks to connect people and resources. The resulting growth of business rejuvenates universities, colleges, and libraries and advances innovation in regional education, economic, and workforce development.

The Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open) shares best practices and tools for Open Source Economic Development, a method to accelerate enterprise collaboration in communities and their regions. All information is published under a Creative Commons License Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States. Please share freely with Attribution to I-Open and Betsey Merkel. Mailing address: The Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open) 2563 Kingston Road Cleveland OH 44118 Phone: 216-220-0172 Web: http://iopen.posterous.com/

Copyright 2010 Betsey Merkel and I-Open. Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works. Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open) 4415 Euclid Ave 3rd Fl Cleveland, Ohio 44103 USA

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