BOSTON, Mass. – Jared Arnett, executive director of Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR), joined a delegation from Kentucky for meetings at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on September 11-12.
“This trip was about learning and sharing ideas,” said Arnett. “Coming into the meeting, I thought it would be a lot of learning, but it was really more about innovation and collaboration. We were obviously interested in what they were doing, but they [MIT] were equally as interested in the things we are doing.”
One of those things is SOAR’s interactive SOAR.network, which allows individuals and organizations across Appalachia Kentucky to share ideas and collaborate.
“Networking and building a platform for people to communicate and share ideas is at the forefront of a lot of research,” said Arnett. “That’s essentially the way people and organizations communicate. As communication evolves, so will the platforms that allow us to do so. We learned about some cutting-edge technology that will help us better evaluate some of the things we are doing in Appalachia Kentucky.”
Joining Arnett on the trip was Sam Ford, a consultant, MIT research affiliate and Future of Work in Kentucky lead; Payton May, chief operating officer of BitSource; Chris Mills, co-founder of Hitcents; Clinton Mills, co-founder of Hitcents; Chase Vincent, executive director of the Ohio County Economic Development Alliance; Cate Webb, associate dean of research at Western Kentucky University’s Ogden College; and Mark Simpson, associate professor of communication at Western Kentucky University.
The group toured MIT’s Game lab and Arcade lab, Computer Science lab, Artificial Intelligence lab, Open Documentary lab, Hyperstudio, Center for Civic Media, and Center for Collective Intelligence.
Arnett also shared SOAR’s Regional Blueprint with MIT officials. The Regional Blueprint is a plan of action for Appalachia Kentucky and is aimed at creating a 21st Century Appalachia. It consists of seven goals:
· Increase the availability of affordable, high-speed broadband, through fiber, to businesses and residents; and increase adoption rates throughout the SOAR region;
· Develop our regional workforce to be competitive in the digital economy and emerging industries;
· To create more and expand existing small businesses within the region by taking full advantage of the digital economy;
· To reduce the physical and economic impact of obesity, diabetes and substance abuse;
· Increase the amount of industrial employment, which includes manufacturing, natural resources, processing, and distribution by expanding existing companies and attracting new ones;
· Create a local foods movement by connecting local producers to markets for their product both within and outside the region; and
· Establish Kentucky’s Appalachian region as a tourism destination.
The group also learned about MIT’s Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (REAP), which provides opportunities for communities around the world to engage with MIT in an evidence-based, practical approach to strengthening innovation-driven entrepreneurial (IDE) ecosystems. They achieve this by translating research insights into practical frameworks, convening stakeholders focused on IDE, and educating regional leaders through team-based interaction to achieve economic and social impact.
“This is an extraordinary model that promotes entrepreneurship and its social impact on communities,” explained Arnett. “We want to foster an environment that promotes and nurtures entrepreneurs, and create a culture that inspires our people to turn their dreams of a business into a reality.”
To learn more about SOAR, visit www.soar-ky.org.