Innovation and Opportunity Program

The Joint Center helps communities prepare for the future in places like inner-city Detroit and the rural Black Belt of Mississippi.

Automation, artificial intelligence, and data analytics are changing America. Grocery stores are installing self-checkout lanes. Manufacturing plants are increasingly using industrial robots. Driverless trucks, buses, and cars will soon be commonplace.

How will these changes affect communities of color? How can we mitigate challenges like job loss? How can workers acquire "new economy" skills and jobs? How can local entrepreneurs capitalize on these changes to grow businesses? How can we use innovation to tackle challenges like lack of access to health care, education, transportation, and other services?

How can we use innovation to advance equity?

Startups like Amazon and Tesla anticipated change to transform the retail and auto industries. In just a generation, Singapore harnessed innovation to leapfrog ahead and become a world-class city. How can we do the same in places like Baltimore, Detroit, Gary, Memphis, New Orleans, Oakland, Santa Ana, and the Black Belt of Alabama and Mississippi?

The Joint Center will answer these questions in 2017-2018 through the following projects:  

1. The Future of Work
    • The impact of artificial intelligence and automation on communities of color reports and policy briefs (see our initial data showing that 26% of Black workers are concentrated in just 20 jobs at high-risk to automation)
    • Home health care providers and telemedicine policy brief
    • Retooling community colleges policy brief
    • Comprehensive future of work and recommendations report
    • Expanding jobs and entrepreneurship in rural communities of color policy brief
2. The Future of Entrepreneurship
    • Black and Latino business in the internet economy report
    • Black and Latino business internet app survey data brief
    • FinTech that expands access to capital policy brief
    • Incubators and accelerators tailored to Black and Latino startup success
3. Smart Communities

In support of the work above, we will produce executive summaries, infographic fact sheets, 2-minute animated policy videos (click here for examples), public opinion survey data briefs, roundtable events, and an innovation speaker series. We will also partner with community leaders in three cities and regions with large communities of color to implement our ideas in 2018, and several other areas thereafter.

This work builds on the Joint Center's past research on African Americans and technology and economic issues, and over a dozen 2017 meetings with experts in tech and race, health, energy, transportation, and financial services.

The status quo may seem entrenched. Change may be hard to imagine. But innovative leaders do not usher in massive change by nibbling at the edges. Instead, they envision moonshot projects and work hard to make them reality. How can communities of color do the same?



The Joint Center was founded in 1970 to serve Black elected officials, and quickly established itself as the Black think tank (history here). Today, the Joint Center remains anchored in the African-American community and collaborates closely on issues of mutual interest with organizations from other communities, like the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.