May 25, 2018

Giving rural residents more options for getting around

Three inspiring stories of innovation and ingenuity across America

Olli by Local Motors. Local Motors photo used with the permission of Local Motors. All rights reserved.

Each week, The Renewal Project shares three stories from around the country that highlight the innovative solutions individuals and organizations are creating in their communities. Want to share a story from your hometown? Email us at

Tech leaders solve for rural mobility: Call a cab, grab an Uber, shortcut the freeway, or take a subway ride. City-dwellers often take such mobility options for granted, but they are simply not an option in many rural areas. And rural America is closer than you think: most of us live within two counties of a rural area. The lack of mobility options can be critically important to the aging or infirm in rural areas. To help drive more philanthropy efforts toward investing in mobility solutions for rural areas, Grantmakers in Aging (GIA) held a symposium, gathering leaders from technology, automotive, rural, and transportation services to discuss the mobility issue. GIA also prepared a report on the issue. Some of the key highlights include: AccessibleOlli, a partially 3D-printed, wheelchair-accessible self-driving shuttle; drones to deliver vital supplies to hard-to-access areas; and mobility managers using technology to increase productivity and efficiency. “Many service providers and philanthropists in rural places have told me that mobility is the number one issue that they face,” John Feather, CEO of GIA wrote in Inside Philanthropy. “Technology could do much to change that.”

Blighted Detroit neighborhood turns to solar for renewal: Will Bright, David Cross, and Darrell West are on a mission to save Detroit … one zip code at a time. The three are founders of It Starts At Home, a community redevelopment group dedicated to rehabbing Detroit neighborhoods. The three started the organization when abandoned houses became magnets for crime. They first started by boarding up the homes to make them inaccessible, an effort that eventually led to a collaboration with the mayor’s office. The city provides supplies, and It Starts At Home provides the muscle to get the job done. Boarding up the houses was just a stopgap measure to revitalizing the neighborhood: the real work was in turning the vacant lots into hosts for solar power plants, community gardens, and public spaces. The effort provides local jobs and delivers sustainable self-reliance. “Our goal was to leverage Detroit’s vacancies as an asset,” Constance Bodurow of the urban design collaborative Studio-Ci told EcoWatch, dubbing the effort “generative infrastructure.”

Innovation lab aims to close gender gap in the workplace: 

A new research and collaboration initiative has launched at Stanford University that seeks to permanently close the gender gap in the workplace, both in terms of diversity and income inequality. Called the VMware Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab—the lab is underwritten by a $15 million grant from tech giant VMware—the new effort will pursue long-term evidence-based studies that can be used to create concrete action plans to address the long-standing issue. “We are calling this new endeavor a ‘lab’ to underscore our goal of creating broad research collaborations that break down barriers across organizational contexts,” said Shelley Correll, Stanford sociology professor and director of the new lab in a statement. “It’s critical that we close the gap between what is known in academia and what organizations have been doing in practice.” As an example of shaping workplace policies, Correll notes the work done with companies to get rid of implicit biases toward women. “We know that simply training managers about bias is not enough, and it can even backfire,” Correll said. “In our research, we have found that if we involve managers in the design of tools and processes to block biases we see immediate improvements. Further, as managers see progress being made, those ‘small wins’ inspire them to make even more improvements. It becomes a cycle of continuous improvement.”

Brock N Meeks

Brock N Meeks is a contributor to The Renewal Project.
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