With its six-month progress report on Make It Happen RI, The Rhode Island Foundation shows that interesting, transformative things can happen here, if you have people willing to take leadership roles.
Driven by foundation President and CEO Neil D. Steinberg, Make It Happen not only convened more than 300 private-sector leaders in the fall to brainstorm about possible solutions to the state’s economic problems, it now has granted $630,000 to a dozen projects that already are having an impact in the region.
The foundation views its investment – part of a $1 million commitment it has made through its Civic Leadership Fund – as “seed capital” for these self-identified projects, and expects that their collective impact will be not just real but self-sustaining.
That approach is literally true in the case of the New England Institute of Technology’s Shipbuilding/Marine Advanced Manufacturing Institute, set to launch by fall. It received $50,000 from the foundation and subsequently attracted a $2.5 million U.S. Department of Labor grant to get up and running. The College and University Research Collaborative, which connects all 11 of the state’s higher education institutions with the goal of supplying high-level research resources to Rhode Island’s policymakers, garnered $100,000 from the foundation, which was matched by $100,000 from the R.I. Economic Development Corporation.
All 12 of the projects touch on good things happening already in the Ocean State (including an initiative to develop a statewide marketing plan to highlight what is right in the state). The challenge now is how to get more people in a “Make It Happen” frame of mind. •