A new research paper “Disrupting Innovation” co-authored by Richey Piiparinen, director of urban theory and analytics at the School of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University, creates a conceptual framework for inclusive development, one of the first of its kind. In doing so, it suggests that improving health in Cleveland’s poorest neighborhoods should be the mission of economic development projects.
The analysis uses novel statistical techniques, particularly natural language processing and social network analysis, to more precisely answer questions that Cleveland has been trying to answer for some time. What are the region’s R&D assets that differentiate it from other cities? Who are the key researchers doing that work? How could these innovation-inducing assets be fostered by precision migration and convention strategies via the likes of Global Cleveland and Destination Cleveland? Most crucially: Do any of these regional assets align with neighborhood needs, in effect creating a feedback loop between economic and community development as opposed to the parallel, diverging, paths these sectors are currently on?
A recent article by Cleveland.com featured the study as a call to action in changing the way Cleveland approaches economic development to address our region’s population health. In referring to traditional economic development projects, which are often unproductive in addressing equity, Piiparinen was quoted as saying “Why would Cleveland want to join a group that has some of the highest rates of racial disparity by income? Why would we walk over the same cliff we’ve seen other cities do? It doesn’t’ make any sense.” He went on to say, “Why aren’t we using our greatest human capital and financial capital to solve problems like poor health, and ecological issues? Why aren’t we using innovation to solve problems?”
The paper, which is co-authored by Joshua Valdez, and Jim Russell, principals of Rust Belt Analytica; and Valdis Krebs, a principal at Orgnet, proposes that population health lies at the nexus of the opportunities and challenges that Cleveland faces. The report proposes that the economy is inseparable from health. Without health, prosperity isn’t possible. It’s an appropriate time to “disrupt,” or fundamentally reimagine, innovation, the healthcare industry, and health outcomes in Cleveland. The endgame, here, is not yet another economic development policy with well-being as a hoped-for byproduct. The endgame is better health in Cleveland.