By John Land, General Manager, CIC St. Louis
As CIC St. Louis launches its third Social Impact Cohort, I reflect with gratitude on the evolution of this exciting program, what it means to our innovation ecosystem, and its place in the greater St. Louis community. The CIC Social Impact Cohort provides collaborative space and learning and connection opportunities to innovative organizations that are working to make a positive change in St. Louis.
This program began at CIC Miami and quickly caught on in our Philadelphia location. When I began my role as the General Manager of CIC St. Louis, I was immediately interested in developing the program here. I found the idea appealing because one of the conundrums that we continually grapple with is trying to be a truly inclusive space while also acknowledging that it costs money to be here. By nature, our goal of inclusivity and that simple truth conflict – where there is a financial barrier to entry, you cannot be wholly inclusive. Our aim in bringing the Social Impact Cohort to St. Louis was to create a fair and just way to provide entrepreneurs access to this space that is meaningful to them and doesn’t leave our existing clients feeling undervalued.
While previous iterations of the program have had a more structured curriculum, our past cohort members have told us that the biggest benefit to them is just being here and having access to our amenity-rich, collaborative space where they can bring in clients or investors — having a landing pad that meets all their needs and that they are proud to show off. We took that feedback to heart in planning for the third Social Impact Cohort, which just began on September 5.
To that end, we have extended the runway time for which the space is free to participants from three months to six months. To date, approximately 75 percent of our cohort members remain at CIC after that initial period. I am thrilled to know they find value in being here, and our community becomes an integral part of the work they are doing.
Finally, we are also focused on helping members make valuable connections within the local innovation community — introducing them to people who can open doors and further their possibilities. In a close-knit city like St. Louis, relationships are how things get done, and thus those connections have potential to be the most valuable piece of the cohort experience. Moreover, cohort members will continue to have access to exciting programming and networking opportunities through our weekly Venture Cafe gatherings, now operating in partnership with TechSTL, furthering their connections to the innovation community.
Although we are constantly striving to make this program even better, I was delighted to see the work of CIC’s Social Impact Cohorts recently recognized at the White House. Vice President Kamala Harris announced that CIC was selected for the Minority Business Development Agency Capital Readiness Program, the U.S. Commerce Department’s largest investment in support of underserved entrepreneurs. As one of only 43 nationwide awardees of the $125 million technical assistance program, CIC will use the funds to expand the reach of this program with a Social Impact Program in Massachusetts.
With that momentum in mind, I welcome our new Social Impact Cohort class and am even more excited that our new members will have the benefit of meeting and interacting with our previous cohort graduates, providing an added layer of support and community-building. The organizations that make up our third cohort are already doing incredible work to make St. Louis a better place; we can’t wait to see what they do with even more room to run, and we are proud to offer our space and platform as a means for them to do so.
2023 CIC St. Louis Social Impact Cohort class: Tech Jobs for Good, Spirit’s Joy Foundation, Consuming Kinetics Dance Company, Activate STL, Unlocked Labs, Abstract Consulting, Kurkowski Consulting, and Women’s Foundation of Greater St. Louis