Fighting Poverty with Passion
|“I am one of two staff members at the Entergy Innovation Center, a community technology center and business incubator in the Upper 9th Ward. A project of the Idea Village that launched this past July, The Entergy Innovation Center works to support the growth of entrepreneurship and computer literacy in the area. With the EIC being just a few months old, my main tasks since starting as a VISTA have been focused on community outreach to
1) spread awareness about our services and resources,
2) build relationships with community members and local organizations and
3) demonstrate that entrepreneurship is a viable option for economic success.Some of my methods include going door-to-door introducing myself and the EIC, meeting with local community leaders to encourage referrals to the EIC and assess community needs, and making sure to have flyers and business cards with me at all times—many good conversations have emerged during my numerous lunch trips to Poppas Seafood to get my fill of chicken tenders. While a large portion of my job description is program development and I came in with lofty goals of implementing a full business curriculum within the first few weeks (what was I thinking?), I have found that, at this stage, it is key to first get out into the community and just get to know people and their interests in order to really develop programming that can meet their needs.The goal of the EIC is to be an entrepreneurial hub. To that end, we have two retailers—Unlimited Communications and Lollipop Boutique—housed within our building in addition to offering office space for rent to small business owners. Our newest tenants, Sharika Mahdi and Myesha Francis, are two local artists who have opened MFrancis Gallery on the second floor of the center. They will also be the lead artists for a community mural design on the EIC building and we are incentivizing community involvement in the design process by having a design contest (with cash prize, of course). Immediately after coming on board I joined the efforts to plan and execute the opening of their gallery and launching of the design contest and it was so exciting to see it all come together! I have some video production experience, so I offered to create a marketing video for the two artists which became a great feature included in email invitations and community event message boards. With the Mario Abney Trio pumping out some live jazz on the sidewalk and some light refreshments, the art show attracted over 100 guests! Some of my fellow VISTAs volunteered at the event, taking pictures, greeting guests, and pouring wine, and I was able to mingle and make some connections with the attendees. It was amazing to see how many local art entrepreneurs came out to support the show. It seems like the opening of MFrancis Gallery at the EIC could develop into an Upper 9th Art Community.
Moving forward I will continue working with my supervisor to expand community outreach efforts, work on designing long-term programming at the EIC, and incorporate University students and volunteers in our initiatives. This is only the beginning!” – Jodine Gordon, VISTA Member
To learn more about The Idea Village visit their website at: www.ideavillage.com