Tag: Fight Blight BMore

Social Innovation Lab (SIL)

2 Teams Share $25,000 Prize at Social Innovation Lab…

2 Teams Share $25,000 Prize at Social Innovation Lab Impact+Innovation Forum

May 1, 2019

The Happy Teacher Revolution was awarded $15,000 and Fight Blight Bmore was awarded $10,000 during the Social Innovation Lab Impact+Innovation Forum on Tuesday night.

The announcements were the culmination of a six-month program for the 10 teams in this year’s Social Innovation Lab (SIL) cohort and an emotional evening where each team pitched their project to an enthusiastic crowd of family, friends and fellow entrepreneurs at the Chevy Chase Bank Conference Center at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The winners were chosen through a secret ballot completed by cohort members plus five outside judges. The prizes were funded by a donation from The Abell Foundation.

Nneka N’namdi, left, of Fight Blight Bmore, Alex Riehm, director of the Social Innovation Lab, and Danna Thomas of Happy Teacher Revolution. (Photo: Larry Canner)

The Happy Teacher Revolution is an international movement that aims to organize and conduct mental health and wellness support groups for teachers to increase their happiness, retention and professional sustainability.

Danna Thomas, the organization’s founder, taught in Baltimore City schools for seven years and received her master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins University School of Education.

“You are my family,” Thomas said to her cohort members through tears after receiving the prize. “I am so inspired by everyone and am amazed at how much we have grown in the last six months.”

Said Alex Riehm, director of the Social Innovation Lab: “Danna has shown herself to be a true leader of the cohort, sharing ideas and resources and her positive energy and enthusiasm to help us all make progress on our ventures.”

Fight Blight Bmore is a campaign of people working together to cultivate safe, green, economically vibrant communities in Baltimore, according to its website. Founder Nneka N’namdi started the group based on her experience with community organizing and activism in her own neighborhood.

“Though I am a winner, I’m going to find ways to work with my SIL members to stretch the dollars,” N’namdi said.

Said Riehm: “Nneka’s work is more than a digital platform: It’s a community action plan that helps our city mobilize for action we want to see in our neighborhoods.”

Cohort members received funding, mentorship and office space through the program, as well as the opportunity to attend workshops that empower them to build stronger global communities.

Riehm, in his opening remarks Tuesday, noted the diversity of ideas of cohort members but said their work is interrelated.

“We can take care of one another,” he said.

Eighty percent of the teams chosen for the 2018–2019 cohort are led by women and entrepreneurs from minority groups. Sixty percent of the teams include a Johns Hopkins University student or alum or a Johns Hopkins employee.

More than 100 teams applied for the 2018–2019 cohort, covering categories such as education, health and well-being, arts and culture and products and services. Applications for next year’s cohort open in August.

SIL has previously supported 72 ventures, including Portable Alternative Crib Initiative, Urban Pastoral, Baltimore Teacher Supply Swap and ClearMask. The ventures combined have raised over $37 million in funding, hired 459 individuals in paid roles and made positive impacts in their communities.

The other 2018–2019 SIL teams are:

Ars Medica: A space where doctors and medical students can share their stories and support each other in their journey toward more humane and compassionate medicine.

Core team: Javier de la Maza, Marielle Bugayong, Taj Keshav and Jianyi Nie

Rose: A technology-driven mental health company simplifying the way patients experiencing stress, depression and anxiety seek and receive care.

Core Team: Kavi Misrilall

Baltimore Farm to Clinic Project: Provides healthy foods and nutrition education to vulnerable individuals living in underserved neighborhoods.

Core Team: Bailey Miles, Kate Rediger, Jon Shaw, Laura Harding-Fukushima, Joann Williams and Brian Adams

Baltimore Job Hunters Support Group: Assists older, long-term unemployed workers with the social, emotional and psychological pain that comes with mid-career job loss by providing counseling, coaching, information and referral services, outreach and advocacy.

Core Team: Janet Glover-Kerkvliet

Health 3D: A student-run social venture that creates customized, 3D-printed education equipment for children in hospitals.

Core team: Chris Shallal, Kirby Leo and Jody Mou

MOMCares: Provides postpartum doula support to black mothers navigating a NICU experience with their child.

Core Team: Ana Rodney

Roots & Raíces: A social enterprise geared toward creating a platform for immigrant artists and musicians to come together to support, highlight and celebrate immigrants through the arts and civic action.

Core Team: Valeria Fuentes, Abbey Parrish, Torianne Schiff, C Kim, Luz Orozco, Eean Logan, Ariel Foster and Adrianna Fuentes

Be. Virtual: A youth-built virtual reality technology for social-emotional learning.

Core team: Tonee Lawson

Social Innovation Lab (SIL)

Meet the Entrepreneur: Nneka N’namdi Battles Blight in Baltimore…

Meet the Entrepreneur: Nneka N’namdi Battles Blight in Baltimore One Home at a Time

March 28, 2019

Nneka N’namdi was outside her home in Baltimore’s Upton neighborhood on Mother’s Day weekend 2016 when she almost witnessed a “tragedy.” Children were riding bikes on the sidewalk of Fremont Street, next to four row homes being demolished. No barrier existed to prevent the children from falling into the 6-foot-deep, debris-filled holes.

It was in that moment the self-described “technoartivist” decided to tackle one of Baltimore’s biggest problems: the many dilapidated, unsafe and vacant properties throughout the city. N’namdi founded Fight Blight Bmore (FBB), which is developing a smartphone app through which Baltimore residents can report blighted properties.

N’namdi describes FBB as a “social, economic and environmental justice initiative” based on neighborhood data. She wants to use technology, art and activism to engage people about the impact of blight: FBB’s motto is “A blighted Baltimore is a bleeding Baltimore.”

Nneka N’namdi

A graduate of Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and Morgan State University, N’namdi is director of community wellness at The Living Well, where she curates community space for artistic, economic and social ventures. She also is a co-creator of SisterGather, which holds events for women of African descent.

With FBB’s membership in the 2018–19 Social Innovation Lab cohort, N’namdi is using the year to design the app and tailor it to customer needs. Meanwhile, she also is practicing what FBB preaches by developing two formerly blighted properties in her neighborhood.

In five words, what does your organization do?

Inform, support, advocate, report and account.

What are your goals and how will you get there?

I want Baltimore to be free of blight, especially concentrations of it. I also want development in the city to happen without displacing or disenfranchising existing populations. And real estate ownership across classes to reflect the city demographics.

We will reach these goals by providing data, information and a tool for the community to enable and mobilize its visions.

Why did you choose Baltimore as your startup’s home?

I chose Baltimore because it is ground zero for restorative justice for African-descended people in America.

What opportunities make it a good place for growing a business or organization?

Baltimore has a few organic and authentic spaces that support growing a business or organization. For example, The Living Well has a Center for Social and Economic Vibrancy where artists, innovators and healers can launch their ventures. It provides spaces, technical assistance and access to a variety of support services, including photography, grant administration and strategic planning. It’s been the support of The Living Well that has pushed FBB this far.

In terms of startups and innovation, what’s one (positive) thing that separates Baltimore from other innovation hotbeds?

Baltimore is a city of many colleges and universities, which creates and supports a culture of idea generation and curation.

If you could give your past self one piece of advice for creating a startup, what would it be?

I would tell myself to find partners for the business from day one.

What book are you currently reading?

“The Ghosts of Johns Hopkins.” How ironic!

What innovator do you look up to? Why?

I look up to Stephanie “Safi” Edwards because of the visionary way she used hair design and fashion to heal the hearts and minds of #BaltimoreGirls. She created a nuanced expression of black womanhood and girlhood in Baltimore through art that created safe space for black women and girls to unpack and address racial, gender-based, sexual and economic trauma. Her work is humanity in its highest form!

It’s after a long day of work, and you don’t feel like cooking. What is your go-to Baltimore restaurant?

I have a few favorites: Terra Café, Land of Kush, Flight and Teavolve. I also keep Healthy People Juice and City Weeds’ micro greens in my fridge at all times.

What’s your favorite non-work-related thing to do in Baltimore?

My favorite thing to do in Baltimore is to shop in the emerging and growing business owned by black Baltimoreans.


Follow Fight Blight Bmore on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The organization, along with the other members of the 2018–19 Social Innovation Lab cohort, will present its work at the Impact + Innovation Forum 2019 on April 30. Click here for more information and to RSVP.

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