Four organizations with very different ideas for creating jobs, economic impact, and visibility for Delaware have been selected as finalists for the Reinventing Delaware process sponsored by the Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation.
The four organizations, which were selected from nine whose ideas were evaluated by Social Contract following a dinner in November that generated 100 ideas, are:
- FlyGATEWAY, which hopes to create an internationally acclaimed aerospace campus (both online and local) at the New Castle Airport, where students and veterans can be trained in any facet of aviation, making Delaware a go-to hub for aerospace employers.
- Lights…Camera…Action, which wants to make Delaware a strategic hub for film productions. Delaware is close to other film hubs, less expensive and is already home to many incorporated film companies. Film production provides great training for support positions and will generate tourism revenue for Delaware.
- The Real Opportunity Zone Benefit, which hopes to leverage donations of earned capital gains to provide equity to families seeking to improve their economic futures via small business investment or home purchases.
- NERDiT Now, which was featured on ABC’s Shark Tank in 2019 and retrofits ambulances and unmanned kiosks to repair desktop and mobile devices. NERDiT Now will teach individuals from underserved communities to be tech entrepreneurs, resulting in business opportunities and jobs to Delawareans and the charitable donation of hundreds of computers per year.
The four groups will now move to a six-month idea development program led by Social Contract, which will help them refine and develop their ideas, said Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation Executive Director Stephen Sye, adding that the choice of which applicants to move forward with was the toughest it’s been for the foundation’s board. The remaining four will then present their ideas to the Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation board, which will select two winners and announce them this fall at the foundation’s Freedom Award dinner.
“We were so inspired by the diversity, caliber, and potential for impact of each of this year’s ideas,” said Catherine “Cat” Lindroth, co-founder of Social Contract. “Each scoping session brought forward visions that were extremely compelling – and through them we saw a glimpse of a very exciting future for Delaware.”
Over the next six months, Social Contract will work through the individual plans it crafted for finalists, each responsive to their respective needs and priorities. These work plans will include everything from business modeling to workforce program design, project management, national research, policy work and collaborative facilitation.
“The initial scoping process was a creative collaboration that made us look at our organization from angles we hadn’t considered,” said Liz Quinton, executive director of the FlyGATEWAY Aviation Institute. “We also had the opportunity to explore assumptions, risks, and barriers. I think this was the most valuable part of the workshop. Continuing to examine each process step-by-step allows us to better understand our students’ needs and how to overcome barriers to serve them better.
FlyGATEWAY was voted best idea at the November dinner and Quinton said they’ve received a great response since then from people wanting “to express their enthusiasm and to ask how they can help support our mission. That has been so exciting for our team. When the community believes in what we are doing, it keeps the momentum going that much stronger.”
“FlyGATEWAY will be able to measure success in 2020 with improvement in enrollment rates, success stories from our graduates, maintaining a positive cash flow, and supercharging community involvement. Success will also be defined by our ability to provide more financing options to students, breaking political barriers so we can serve veterans sooner, and being granted more terminal space at the New Castle Airport to grow the aerospace campus,” Quinton added. “I believe that as we further define our strategies and get more people on board that we are going to make a significant impact in Delaware.
For Matthew Parks, of the Real Opportunity Zone Benefit, having Social Contract focus his group and lead the discussions was invaluable.
“What our idea will ultimately need is access to high-net-worth Delawareans (or other individuals) and social impact investors who would like to provide direct economic opportunity to others, which could lead to a better life for individuals and families versus supporting the causes that under-served populations need as a result of not having the economic opportunity to begin with,” said Parks, whose day job is Community Reinvestment Act officer at Discover Bank. “Donations to certain causes will always be needed but social investments with the right support and infrastructure can hopefully lead to solutions to eliminate the need to begin with.”
Although they didn’t make the final list of four, some of the semifinalists said they got a lot out of the scoping process over the past few months.
“While I was disappointed to miss the final cut with my Modular Delaware concept, I remain committed to taking this plan through to execution,” said Bill Freeborn, executive director of the Wilmington Land Bank. “I am convinced that modular construction is the future of both affordable and market housing in Wilmington and beyond. A highlight of my experience was having the opportunity to get to know and work with Cat Lindroth and Ron Berry and their team at Social Contract. This is a new relationship that I know will continue for this project and others.”
Malcolm Coley praised Social Contract’s advice on his IFL Gaming idea.
“The Scoping Process was extremely in depth and well put together,” he said. “The scoping process hashed out pros and cons of our idea while pulling out certain thoughts that didn’t cross our mind. Social Contract was instrumental in helping us shape our idea for the next steps of this process. We now have a clear vision as to what we need to do in order to execute our Gaming Idea.”
“We are so thrilled by this opportunity to work with such talented leaders over the next few months, and are humbled by this unique chance to support such talented leaders,” Social Contract’s Lindroth said.