Inclusive Innovation in Georgia

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By: Prerana Kamat

On August 6th, Georgia Smart Communities Challenge (Georgia Smart) virtually announced the 2020 class of winning communities. As part of the event, a discussion on Inclusive Innovation in Georgia was held with an esteemed group of panelists including Geoff Duncan, Lieutenant Governor of State of Georgia; Angel Cabrera, President of Georgia Tech; Wendall Dallas, Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Georgia Power; Doug Hooker, Executive Director, Atlanta Regional Commission; and Maria Thacker Goethe, President and CEO of Georgia Bio and CEO for the Center of Global Health Innovation. The panel was moderated by Aarti Tandon, CEO of Smart City Expo, Atlanta.

As the discussion began, Ms. Tandon asked the panelists to share their views on what Inclusive Innovation meant to them and what role it played in their organizations.  Lt. Governor Duncan explained that, for the state of Georgia, Inclusive Innovation is multi-dimensional, striving for geographic, economic and educational equity. The state wants to “innovate without obstruction” to attract the best and brightest from around the world. President Cabrera noted that inclusive innovation is a centerpiece of the new vision for Georgia tech and that “learning happens when we confront ideas and perspectives and partner with people who look at the world differently than we do.” In other words, “innovation happened at the edges” and needs all voices to be successful. Wendall Dallas echoed that the innovation ecosystem is important to Georgia Power as they strive to create solutions that benefit everyone regardless of income or geographic location to help make communities safer, more connected, more resilient, and more sustainable. Doug Hooker discussed the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) which has invested more than $254 Million in planning and construction grants to Georgia communities to assist them in establishing more walkable, livable communities. Lastly, Maria Thacker noted that Atlanta is the ideal place to focus on achieving health equity for all and conveyed that at the Center for Global Health Innovation, mobilizing teamwork and partnership across various industries and sectors not only in Georgia but across the nation is crucial to inclusivity in innovation.

Attention then moved to the current pandemic with Ms. Tandon noting that it has “accelerated digital transformation” and that Georgia has been at the forefront of embracing “smart.” The panel then discussed what they thought might be a headline five years from now in Georgia regarding inclusive innovation. Suggestions centered around proactive and intentional steps that the state can take now to be inclusive leaders in the future. The Lt. Governor noted that inclusive innovation is just a phrase that needs actions behind it as it cannot become a reality without action. Adding to Lt. Governor Duncan’s view that hopefully in five years everyone in Georgia will feel empowered and capable of innovating in Georgia, President Cabrera envisioned that the headline might be “Reverse Migration of Entrepreneurial Talent from the Silicon Valley to Atlanta,” hoping that the flow of talent will have changed to having the best and brightest here in Atlanta.

Lastly, the panelists were asked about what advice they would give to the next generation of leaders regarding inclusive innovation. Ideas of agility and diversity of thought were a common theme with President Cabrera also emphasizing the importance of multisector collaboration and Doug Hooker stressing the importance of access to better health and technology, as well as more opportunities for the younger generation to allow them to fully embrace their talents and abilities  as their untapped potential is “critical for competitive advantage in Georgia.”  

The GA Smart Announcement and complete panel discussion recording can be viewed in their entirety here.


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