RTI announces virtual ‘Idea Lab’ to spur equitable economic development

RTI announces virtual 'Idea Lab' to spur equitable economic development

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — RTI International has announced the creation of a virtual Idea Lab that aims to create and implement “practical ideas for a more equitable economy,” according to the nonprofit research institute based in Research Triangle Park.

“We know that the economic development field is at an inflection point,” said Sara Lawrence, program director of economic development at RTI, in a statement.  “Economic inequalities are becoming more extreme and unfortunately there is no standard set of tools, approaches or practices to address them.”

Lawrence created the concept during a partial sabbatical award funded by RTI in 2020 and 2021.

This effort is just one of the many ways that RTI can play an important role in the future of the Triangle and in the future economic growth globally, noted Jacqueline Olich, Ph.D., at an event organized by the Triangle Business Journal on Tuesday morning.

“We’re pretty geeky, and we have a lot of smart people, and we can convene a lot of smart people,” said Olich, explaining the role the institute may plan in the future economic growth in the Triangle.  Olich then explained the launch of the virtual idea lab, adding that an emerging focus of economic development is on equity.

“As we’re thinking about the future, how do we make decisions about the future regarding equitable economic development,” Olich posed to the audience.  “I want to make sure RTP is front and center in these national conversations as well,” added Olich.

The idea lab is an online forum for tool sharing, according to its statement, with the goal being “to generate a more equitable future for communities across the world,” said Lawrence.

The lab will include input from institutions and businesses and will provide economic development practitioners, program directors, policymakers, leaders, and investors resources and approaches that may spur broader economic growth within and across communities.

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One component of the Idea Lab is what RTI called in its statement a “gallery of voices“, 17 short interviews with global thought leaders.

“We know that many voices and organizations are needed to provide answers to creating a more equitable future — the Idea Lab is an excellent platform to combine resources and knowledge from leaders across different backgrounds to work together to make an impact,” said Lawrence.  “As the economy evolves, we see the lab evolving and adding in new voices and resources to the conversation.”

The lab includes an initial paper authored by faculty and students at the Duke University Fuqua School of Business that discusses how cities create more inclusive entrepreneurship and a feature highlighting how small Southern cities maintained economic resiliency amid sharp declines in surrounding economies, according to the organization.

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Kassie Hoffman
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