Building Sustainable Neighborhood Economies


The mission of Innovation Works (IW) is to reduce Baltimore’s neighborhood and racial wealth divide by teaching and accompanying members of disinvested communities to build and own successful social enterprises that create sustainable neighborhood economies and result in better family living, more resilient communities, and a safer, more vibrant city.

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The Innovation Works Story

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.

The goal of IW is to help launch and grow 250 social enterprises in 10 years that will employ 5,000 Baltimore residents and attract $100M in capital to Baltimore’s under-resourced neighborhoods.

Miller Center

Innovation Works is a strategic partner of Miller Center, with Baltimore serving as the domestic urban test bed for their 20+ year global practice. IW is working diligently and collaboratively with its Baltimore partners to adapt the Miller Center model for for Baltimore. Innovation Works has collected feedback from over 100 interviews with Baltimore stakeholders about Innovation Works and the Miller Center model. Through these listening sessions, we collected insights into how Innovations Works could be successful in Baltimore. These insights now guide how we move forward.  IW’s Collaborative Leadership Council, comprised of stakeholders, is engaged in the adaptation process in specific areas such as curriculum, model, systems, and technology adaptation.


Key Initiatives (2018-2019)

In addition to its 5 stages of entrepreneurship development, the following are IW’s ongoing initiatives:


Launch IGNITE Neighborhood Networks

IW’s IGNITE network is made up of partnerships with already-established anchor institutions within each neighborhood. Through these organizations, we engage with residents and determine how best IW’s resources can be leveraged to bring added capacity to the neighborhood’s economic development.

Develop BNIA Trajectory Analysis and Dashboard

IW is partnering with BNIA to develop a Neighborhood Investment Trajectory Analysis and Neighborhood Impact Dashboard. The goal is to develop a tool capable of conducting in-depth analysis of key neighborhood indices and inform more effective approaches to neighborhood investments and outcomes assessments. The tool will be open to all Baltimore stakeholders.

ExPlore Collide Innovation Acceleration Platform

IW is partnering with Think|Stack to explore its innovation acceleration software platform, Collide, for applicability to the Baltimore social innovation ecosystem and communities in general.

explore Youth Social Entrepreneurship

IW is partnering with Dent Education to conduct an assessment of youth entrepreneurship in Baltimore. IW will use findings to determine how it can support the ongoing efforts.

Host Inaugural Baltimore Boost Program

On June 18-20, 2019, IW will host its Inaugural Boost program. The program is designed to support 20-30 non-profit, business and social enterprise leaders over three days, with focus on how to build and manage sustainable impact entities.

Launch Mentor Network

IW is launching its mentor network. The IW mentor network is a critical component of the IW platform, enlisting value-aligned executives and founders to accompany IW social enterprise partners in building and sustaining their enterprises. Learn more about the Mentor Network.



Heroic Vision

Innovators are on every corner across Baltimore. Each person, no matter their circumstance, has untapped leadership potential. Unlocking the entrepreneurial human capital potential in Baltimore’s marginalized communities is an area of opportunity for Innovation Works to support sustainable neighborhood economic development.


Baltimoreans are capable of becoming the social innovation thought leaders for our nation. Innovation Works seeks to support bold but actionable visions that create sustainable social enterprises and prosperous neighborhood economies. We believe these entrepreneurs can create grassroots, national models of quality, livable, urban community solutions.


Work is fundamental to the dignity of the person. Every person is created in God’s own image. Innovation Works believes that every person, through their lived-experience, can create work that produces Goods that are Good for society and Services that Serve society. Work is God’s invitation to be co-creators, co-laborers in the unfinished work of creation.


Innovation Works meets community members where they are, lifting up Innovators on every corner. We respect, value, support and collaborate with trusted community anchors. We walk with social entrepreneurs as they discern, create and build social innovations to improve their community and create opportunity beyond their community.

For the Greater Good

We encourage innovators across Baltimore to identify and create viable and transformative business ideas that address the most pressing problems in our community and beyond. We encourage social entrepreneurs to see opportunity as more than about income. If ideas fulfill one's deepest desires and calling, they become mission-driven enterprises that solve problems, make profits, and create sustainable economic prosperity.