EDA Center for Regional Economic Innovation Update

By Jennifer Bruen

Innovation Fellows

The REI University Center seeks to implement innovative tools, models, and policies. The Innovation Fellows program was established in 2016 to attract and support top champions in communities and organizations to tackle the tough economic development issues that our distressed communities face every day. Innovation Fellows provide on-the-ground support and coordination to move concepts to actions. They are often recruited by REI, its partners, economic development districts (EDDs), and others interested in strengthening their local economy. If you or someone you know is an innovative thinker—a real change agent with a great project for a distressed community or region—please consider this opportunity!

To learn more about past Innovation Fellows and their projects please visit their project pages:

Samantha Farr: Women Who Weld

Bill Stough: Triple Bottom Line and Zero Waste in Mid-Michigan

Joel Rash: Flint City Pop-Up

Rita Fields: Exploring the Underground Economy

Laleah Fernandez: Network and Digital Media in Southwest MI

For more information, contact Jennifer Bruen at bruenjen@msu.edu.

Student-Led, Faculty Guided Projects

SLFG projects assist Michigan communities in completing local and regional economic development initiatives. SLFG projects leverage existing real-world initiatives to provide economic development professionals with access to technical assistance and data analysis that otherwise would not be available due to budgetary or time constraints. Work is completed by students at colleges and universities throughout the state, under the supervision of experienced faculty. Through these projects, students gain firsthand and practical experience in the application of previously studied theory, and economic development professionals receive technical assistance that might not otherwise be available. Projects typically include data collection, analysis, and the development of plans and implementation strategies. Examples of projects have included assessments of regional ports and community redevelopment plans. Technical assistance selection is a competitive process. REI typically funds ten or more semester-long projects each year at up to $2,500 each. Students are expected to write a report, conduct a webinar, and present at the annual Innovate Michigan! Summit. Past SLFG project reports can be found on REI’s current projects page.

Co-Learning Plans

Co-learning is a process in which multiple parties collaborate to generate new knowledge. In a co-learning project, innovative economic development tools, models, strategies, policies, and practices are researched, and the findings and recommendations serve as a key resource for economic development practitioners and policymakers in Michigan. Co-learning plans can be written by practitioners, decision-makers, community leaders, entrepreneurs, scholars, or other stakeholders. Co-learning authors are expected to conduct research, engage in co-learning with peers, write a co-learning plan, develop a dissemination plan, identify potential Innovation Fellows, and present at the Innovate Michigan! Summit. Co-learning plan selection is a competitive process. REI typically funds up to four co-learning projects each year, and authors receive up to $8,000 in support.

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