CCI Announces the Westside Innovation Lab Fellows!

This year’s Westview Summer Solstice Celebration was held on Saturday, June 11, 2016. Local community vendors, businesses, and residents  came together to celebrate not only the height of summer, but also the announcement of the Center for Civic Innovation’s inaugural Westside Innovation Fellows!

The Westside Innovation Fellows are a group of of eight ventures that will be supported with business training, mentorship, partnership, and early stage capital at the Center for Civic Innovation. Over the next six months, these eight ventures will be able to test and grow their business ideas, ultimately creating social change through sustainable entrepreneurship in Ashview Heights, AUC, Bankhead, Castleberry Hill, English Avenue, Grove Park, Vine City, and Washington Park neighborhoods of Atlanta.  From youth-based initiatives to sustainable agricultural development, these eight fellows represent the future success of one of the most historic and integral parts of Atlanta. Saturday’s announcement was an opportunity for each social entrepreneur to share how their venture will contribute to the economic and social development of Atlanta’s Westside in a way that is true to the community.

With that said, meet the 2016 Westside Innovation Fellows:

Taranji Alvarado and Jahlil Mudavanha are the creators of Tendalush, an initiative focused on providing employment and training opportunities to the youth on the Westside through landscaping services and training. “I’m excited about the community working together to make it better,” Taranji Alvarado remarked. “I’m excited to be able to learn about business development at the Center for Civic Innovation.”

Keitra Bates plans to use an underutilized restaurant space in order to create a shared kitchen space and marketplace to package and sell healthy, affordable foods through the creation of Marddy’s. She sees many independent food vendors in her food community and hopes to bring them together in a commercial kitchen space with the proper training and certification to sell their products to a wider audience.

Abiodun Henderson, the lead resident behind Gangstas to Growers, aims to use agricultural training and employment at a living wage to community members transitioning out of gangs or incarceration and at risk youth.

Naida Hill and Breanna Rice, two Spelman College students, want to bridge the STEM education gap in the Washington Cluster schools through their coding program, Code Black. “Code Black usually refers to an emergency in a hospital. We want to bring that urgent type of attention to the lack of STEM education kids in our communities have,” mentioned the Washington High School alumnae. “We’re excited to network and learn about the other innovative ideas that will be come out from this.”   

Coffee connoisseur Richard Hinds of Good Kupa Koffie wants to introduce a neighborhood coffee shop and roaster to bridge the economic gap between coffee farmers abroad and consumers in the US, while providing training and jobs to people on the Westside. “I’m very excited to have a chance to work on my vision with the Center for Civic Innovation. With the experience that this group is bringing to the table, we will be able to make it a success,” Hinds hopes.  

Masterminds Tiffany Jones and Cashawn Myers of HABESHA have developed agricultural programs for all ages. In continuing to promote these activities throughout Atlanta, Jones and Myers want to bring an intergenerational approach to their gardening programs with their Golden Growers initiative. “By using food as a medium, I hope to continue to connect young people to the elders within the community,” pledged Myers.      

Through University Barbershop, Lateef Pyles wants to use an existing barbershop as a resource, education, and apprenticeship center to bring men in his community together.

WECYCLE’s Shawn Walton has created a bicycle co-operative and engagement center in West Atlanta. “I’m most excited about the cohort of people who are deserving of this opportunity,” he says. “I’m excited that a lot of the neighbors get to further their work with the Center for Civic Innovation," says Walton. 

Congratulations to the first Westside Innovation Fellows! We are excited to witness all of the great work each one of you will bring to the Westside and to the greater Atlanta community.  

Stay tuned for more updates as we begin our six-month journey with the 2016 Westside Innovation Fellows! We will post updates from our Fellows’ journey here on our blog and will continue to host open forums in communities on Atlanta’s Westside to keep the community updated.