Wharton senior and Wharton Social Impact Initiative Resident Fellow Celia Lewis dispatches from the 2013 Social Capital Markets Conference, where she helped present FastFwd, a cutting-edge system for urban innovation created in Philadelphia earlier this year.
What if we defined some of the most pressing urban challenges in our society not as problems, but as opportunities? How might solutions from different sectors be applied in new and different forms? What if entrepreneurs and governments were able to collaborate and innovate together?
In front of a standing room-only audience of leading social entrepreneurs and impact investors at the 2013 Social Capital Markets (SOCAP) Conference, FastFWD, a collaboration between Wharton Social Impact Initiative (WSII), the City of Philadelphia’s Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, and GoodCompany Group, began answering these questions and more. As a founding member of FastFWD, I had the opportunity to discuss my experiences and present on behalf of the work of WSII’s student-led research team.
FastFWD, an urban innovation refinery, is at the cutting edge of redefining how organizations and institutions approach 21st century challenges.
Recognizing that (a) solutions to challenging urban problems can often be found in different sectors and disciplines from the one the problem is located in and (b) many of these kinds of solutions already exist, FastFWD aims to leverage the skills and expertise of the private sector, academia, and government to facilitate creative 21st century products, services and innovations.
At SOCAP, the importance of FastFWD’s work was apparent – without the ability to collaborate with government, many entrepreneurs have found themselves limited by the restrictions or regulations imposed upon their companies, products or services.
With such tremendous power, influence and capital, the public sector is not only a critical stakeholder for many companies, but a potential customer as well.
Perhaps one of the most exciting moments at SOCAP was announcing FastFWD’s focus on public safety as the challenge area for this year’s cycle of entrepreneurs and innovations.
This result was the product of four months of research conducted by WSII and a team of Wharton and Penn students. From interviewing Mayor Nutter to combing through budget reports, our team analyzed a variety of quantitative and quantitative data, devised a framework for synthesizing our results, and ultimately lead us to prioritize public safety as the challenge area with the some of the greatest potential at present for high impact entrepreneurial solutions.
Moving forward, I look forward to working with our team to keep designing and refining our process for analyzing and synthesizing those urban challenges that present the most pressing need and unique opportunities for entrepreneurial solutions. With FastFWD, we are not only solving problems, but challenging and redefining the process for creating meaningful, sustainable impact – an incredible learning opportunity I look forward to continuing to shape for myself and others with WSII as this year progresses.