Six Months In: An Update from Community Foundation of Louisville Vogt Innovator Raechele Gray

Culture Code Louisville at 800 Tower
Wow, it’s hard to fathom that today marks the beginning of month number six within the 1804 Vogt Innovator Fellowship. It has been an incredible experience thus far learning the landscape of our ever-expanding startup community and cultivating meaningful relationships to help identify and, when needed, create opportunities to make our ecosystem more inclusive for underrepresented entrepreneurs.  For me, this fellowship has served as a valuable learning lab for developing diversity and inclusion in tech entrepreneurship. In the spirit of reflection, I’d like to highlight a few moments of share-worthy acknowledgement, as well as share insights I’ve gained along the way in helping to create inclusive impact within our startup community. 

Inclusion is Meaningful Community Partnership 

Within the first month or so of my fellowship, I intuitively recognized the essential importance of authentic trust-building and meaningful community connection. I put exclusive priority on identifying current stakeholders in the space and connecting with vested community partners to find out their impact goals and learn how our team could best engage, support, and/or add value alongside their inclusive entrepreneurial efforts. One of the first organizations that agreed to engage with us was the Kentucky Youth Career Center for their Entrepreneurship Internship Academy. Since then we’ve successfully had several impact-driven organizations engage on multiple levels, including co-leading seminars, guest lecturing for workshops, coordinating site visits of our HQ offices and/or other startup community locations, or holding community-based office hours onsite for the entrepreneurs they serve. It cannot be understated how fundamental crucial is it to cultivate meaningful community partnership. Our hope is to continue to conducting ongoing community-based office hours with more partners to increase access to local startup resources and provide 1-on-1 assistance with local entrepreneurs.

Inclusion is Active Listening 

Another insight that has been integral to developing more inclusivity within our work has been the practice of active listening. In May, we partnered alongside Startup Weekend(SW)organizing team to co-launch a new monthly workshop series entitled, Startup Saturdays. The development of this series was in direct response to the need for continued programming for the SW startup teams as well as local founders that voiced they experienced scheduling barriers in attending the casual weekday programming due to other work obligations. This targeted a common systematic barrier among founders of diverse background, lack of access. As this month’s upcoming workshop (August 18th) will mark our fourth Startup Saturday event, we’ve gain incredible insight on the varying needs of startups that have attended.

Inclusion is Intentional Engagement 

The fundamental purpose of this role was to help discover and understand what unknown barriers and bias that may exist within our startup ecosystem and help develop solutions for those barriers. Sometimes the way to uncover unknown barriers is to create a safe space where authentic dialogue can take place and issues can be addressed front and center. As part of this 12-month fellowship, I’ve launched Culture Code Louisville as one of my professional projects with the goal of creating safe spaces to have conversations around diversity and inclusion within our regional entrepreneurship ecosystem. Culture Code Louisville is a quarterly event series that features fireside chats, presentations, panels, and networking to provide diverse entrepreneurs with a platform to cultivate relationships and to gain knowledge that will help to grow their startups. The kickoff event took place in July in collaboration with the amazing team from the WILD Accelerator(insertWILD webllink) as our event partner to tackle the conversation around investing in women entrepreneurship. Our featured guest,  Kristina Montague, Managing Partner of the JumpFund was phenomenal in sharing her journey and empower us all to be action-takers for the gaps we see in our innovation ecosystem. Although the work is just beginning, I’m truly gratefully for the progress made and hopeful for the impact were dedicated to making moving forward.

The Other Innovator

Check back next week when we’ll have an update from our Google Fiber Digital Inclusion Innovator, Dr. Angelique Johnson.