Friday, April 08, 2005

Why didn't African-Americans show up?

InnoVenture 2005 was a smashing success. 450 people attended. Major organizations from Clemson to USC, from Savannah River National Lab to SPAWAR, from BMW to Michelin, had displays of their innovations. Fifteen emerging companies presented their business plans to investors. The energy in the room was electric.

When we began planning for InnoVenture 2005 last summer, we invited African-Americans to join our planning committee (though they later dropped off). We went on a black radio station, and reached out to the Upstate Urban League Young Professionals. We invited an African-American keynote speakers (well we really invited a Harvard MBA who is an expert in innovation who happens to be an African- American).

That is addition to all the other promotion we did. We had an intensive e-mail campaign. We wrote editorials. We advertised on Mike Switzer's South Carolina Business Review on SC Public Radio. We had several people interviewed by Mike.

18% of the population in Greenville County, and 30% of the population in South Carolina is black. So why were less that 1% of the 450 people who attended InnoVenture black?

We will not have the most innovative economy we can unless people who have diverse experiences and perspectives are at the table. So what can we do to attract more blacks, Hispanics, and other minorities to InnoVenture 2006?

I'm open to any and all suggestions.

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