While the population of Baltimore is overwhelmingly Black, Blacks and Hispanics are more likely to be excluded from the traditional labor market and are deeply mired in poverty. In 2015, 62% of Baltimore residents were Black, 28% White, 5% Hispanic, and 3% Asian (Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance). Furthermore, unemployment rates for Blacks (14%) are more than triple that of Whites (4%) and double that of Latinos (7%). Perhaps most importantly, Black and Latino households have less liquid assets (savings) to cover unexpected crises like the loss of a job, a medical emergency, or other financial crisis (Racial Wealth Divide in Baltimore). Innovation Works exists to support the many ongoing entrepreneurial efforts in Baltimore as a path to economic sustainability. More specifically, social entrepreneurship as a way of building neighborhood economies, increase average household incomes, and creating sustainable jobs.
The launch of IW came as a result of 15 months of due diligence exploration of Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship and similar programs, led by Mr. Frank Knott, a Baltimore-based Jesuit-educated founder of the 26-year old community development social enterprise ViTAL Economy. It was concluded that the Miller Center program was the global best practice model that could fulfill three extraordinary needs: (1) providing a path to economic sustainability for African Americans and Latinos disengaged from the Baltimore workforce; (2) creating opportunity for a community presently underserved by the existing social entrepreneurship ecosystem in Baltimore; and (3) offering Jesuit institutions in Baltimore a means to live out their mission by responding to a pressing faith-justice issue in our city.