By Nancy Dahlberg
If you missed last night’s virtual town hall this week called The Case for Equity + Inclusion in Miami’s Tech Ecosystem, we've got you covered. Below are some highlights of the 90-minute discussion and you can hear the recording here.
It was great to see 260+ of you turn out to the town hall featuring Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, Michella Abbs, managing director of Mana Tech, Felecia Hatcher-Pearson, co-founder of the Center for Black innocation, Dr. Lashinda Moore, principal at iTech Academy, Maria Derchi Russo, executive director of Refresh Miami, Keith Carswell, senior advisor to the Miami City Manager, and Leigh-Ann Buchanan, president of Venture Café Miami. They took questions from the audience. Afterward, attendees could meet in smaller groups to continue the discussion.
Some of the themes discussed included looking at accountability and success that is data driven, measured and transparent; the role of talent, education and institutions that are serving our workforce; the availability of resources and creating centralized platforms to access them; government support; and how are we making sure we are meaningfully integrating the influx of new investors, founders and tech professionals with the existing community, Buchanan said, in a discussion centered on “how can we be inclusive, equitable, accessible, anti-racist and look at bridging the systemic gaps that exist in our tech and innovation ecosystem.”
Here are a few of the highlights shared:
Suarez: No 1 priority to ensure we have an inclusive tech ecosystem is supporting organizations that support inclusion. As more new people come to Miami, we welcome them and want more creative, innovative people, but we also want to make sure they invest both on the philanthropic side and educational side and also in organizations that promote inclusivity, he said. “We want to make sure we have a Miami for everyone.” … on accountability, he said we need to measure the kinds of jobs and who is getting these job -- are they being filled by women and minorities? And on the education front, are we giving kids the tools to be successful in the new economy? …There’s much to celebrate here and we need to do better at telling our story, he said. But we are also an exporter of top talent and our challenge is to attract them back, he said.
Levine Cava: “We need a Miami for Everyone investment, it has to lift the people who are here as well.” We are talent scouting but we have talent here that needs development… We [in government] are here as partners, and if we are going to have a successful community we have to work together and have metrics to measure how we are doing. The County is creating an Office of Equity and Inclusion and rolling out a community participation process called Thrive 305. … It’s not just about tech, it’s about the business. Levine Cava started a successful incubator in South Dade and the model is being expanded. “I’m looking for great ideas – we are waiting for your guidance.”
Hatcher-Pearson: For the Center for Black Innovation and her work that started more than six years ago because the Black community was not included, she says we need to be honest about where we are. Yes, we can talk about the great things, but also about current realities. Then let’s develop a roadmap for where we want to go – New York City has had one for years, it is time for us to have one. On progress to inclusion: Measure density, fluidity, connectivity, diversity, culture, talent, tech infrastructure, mentorship, and procurement opportunities; partner with research institutions to do the measuring and make the data accessible. At the end of the day, we need early-stage innovation funding that is accessible: “People show up on stages but don’t pick up the phone.” Other cities and states have government funds that help in this area. Hatcher also suggested bringing back the Amazon HQ2 report proposal and build on the strategies already mapped out in that report.
Abbs: It’s going to take courage to hold ourselves accountable as we move forward and be as bold as we want to be. “We are building something completely new and aspirational,” she says … As we are trying to convene best-in-class folks we want to co-locate downtown as part of Mana Tech, we want inclusive and diverse teams: “That’s a priority for us.” … “With what has already been built in Miami and with the wave of interest in the last couple of months, we know if we center that in one place together, we will allow for more of those serendipitous collision moments.”
Moore: We are starting to create that pipeline of talent as early as elementary school -- we are not waiting for kids to get to high school to talk about technology, careers and innovation, she said. She is proud that iTech offers advanced placement computer science. “At iTech, we are also working with schools in our feeder school network to make sure we have that pipeline,” she said, and lauded the community involvement that benefits her students at iTech.
Derchi Russo: Opening up the dialogue is one of her priorities and finding more ways to help one another along the way. Wyncode and Ironhack have programs to increase diversity. Derchi Russo runs the Women in Miami Tech group that aims to advance women in tech but also promotes giving back through mentorship. For the younger students, she’s a big fan of Code Fever (now part of the Center for Black Innovation) and CodeArt. “The more we support organizations like that, the better off we’ll be.”
Carswell: Miami is really a small town. “I’m here to listen to your ideas and see what we can implement within the City of Miami.” One thing government can do is to provide and incentivize the incentives we make, making sure that the incentives are in line with our inclusive values. Carswell pointed out the incentives to Magic City Innovation District aim to give back to the needs of the community.
Buchanan: You cannot divorce metrics from equity and inclusion. The idea is once we have a roadmap, what are the data points we all want to contribute to and see action on? What’s our health check on inclusion for our ecosystem? Tech jobs grew 40% over the last six years but it does not like our community – 64% white, 7% black and 8% Hispanic. On the executive level in tech, blacks make up 2% and Hispanics make up 3%. “Those disparities are huge.” … She also said government and the community needs a playbook, and the Miami Tech Manifesto was a great start.
The next town halls will dive deeper into the Tech talent pipeline (Jan. 21), unlocking capital and inclusive investment (Feb. 4) and the creating a regional advantage (Feb. 18).
The MiamiTech Manifesto has attracted more than 300 adopters. You can read it and sign it here on wearemiamitech.com.
READ MORE ON REFRESH: The MiamiTech Manifesto serves as a guiding light for newcomers and locals alike
Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter and email her at firstname.lastname@example.org