Poverty and Climate Change issues hack NC’s innovation ecosystem

The majority of the Institute for Emerging Issues 2015 Forum innovation tournament entries were Triangle technology organizations. No genuine ‘bootstrap’, startup innovators were included… until InnovoGraph signed up with its Sustain Asheville / Sustain WNC solution.

ASHEVILLE, NC – Sustainability-oriented innovation addressing climate change and human opportunity is adding critical value to this year’s Institute for Emerging Issues Forum innovation tournament. This year’s theme is Innovation Reconstructed and the innovation tournament is called the Spaces Challenge. In many ways the InnovoGraph Spaces Challenge submission reforms our innovation assumptions, adding to the illustrious IEI community welfare record and other trend-setting strategic innovation examples our state has produced, like the North Carolina Progress Board and more recently, GroWNC.

Asheville management consulting firm InnovoGraph has proposed a sustainability-oriented innovation platform backed by an online social business environment and in-person activities. This solution will support the Asheville and larger Western North Carolina innovation and opportunity ecosystem (IOE). Given the Paris climate talks and UN Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, sustainability-oriented innovation represents a major new market. For example, the International Energy Agency reported last year the global transition to clean energy alone would cost $44 trillion and save $115 trillion in avoided fuel costs by 2050.

Download the InnovoGraph IOE model here: http://bit.ly/1xEd4if

Sustain Asheville / Sustain WNC also argues for a larger national sustainability strategy… by upgrading North Carolina’s poverty innovation and climate change innovation capabilities. At no time in our history is it more important to dial in on our National Motto “Out of Many, One”, and our National Strategy found in the constitution’s preamble, in order to pull out new, transformative value:
“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” – Preamble to the US Constitution

 North Carolina needs open strategic innovation

The term for this ‘mash up’ of business, government (esp. university), nonprofit, and individual value creation used in the Sustain AVL-WNC movement is called strategic innovation.

We’ve known for decades that technology inherently holds risks. Examples are a nuclear weapon or the way creative destruction works in terms on one economy with lots of low labor/high value software, web app solutions, and automation versus one that does not. The possibility of North Carolina’s Triangle becoming another Silicon Valley is close to a reality… though the Triangle may never obtain the same scope of valuation in the San Francisco Bay Area. However North Carolina as a whole will never be a state solely populated by Internet millionaires and billionaires. That’s not possible and that’s not a realistic future state vision.

So what constitutes North Carolina progress by 2020? A ‘Beyond GDP’ approach actualized by the innovation ecosystem market design of Silicon Valley could be part of North Carolina’s unique state solution.

“America is searching for a vision of purpose and greater tranquility. Just and conscious reliance on our National Motto and National Strategy is needed in order to intervene with courage in the massive challenges of poverty innovation and climate change innovation,” said Grant Millin, the Sustain AVL-WNC ombud and owner of InnovoGraph. “It is well past time to push for deeper, smarter, and vastly more ethical government strategy for the sake of our people and essential environmental services.”

Grant suggests interested parties read the Wilson Center’s publication of A National Strategic Narrative written by two Joint Chiefs of Staff strategists in order to see a good outline on strategic innovation. The majority of the Spaces Challenge submissions focused on management of technological innovation (MTI). Innovation ecosystems are often an MTI process, like the way Silicon Valley works.

Sustainability value is common sense

There is a multitude of byproduct software and web app ‘jobs-to-be-done’ associated with making our national strategy a reality. Of course it’s not about tech first. Its about our people first—and our necessary environmental services first as well—for a chain link community strategy based in a sustainability framework.

North Carolinians want to know what wastes their time and what matters right away when ‘the next big thing’ comes along. Common sense is a key concept in our state. At the same time our challenge as a state is look outside our borders for what works when it comes to poverty innovation and climate change innovation.

North Carolina needs a vibrant, ‘people first / environment first’ IOE with robust capital flows allowing for sustainable growth. Grant adds, “Folks may want to believe government is a non-factor, but there’s no escaping government in decline. And money is the last thing we are short of. Just vision and ethical purpose.”

IEI and its Commons platform offers an excellent example of state level open innovation. Sustain AVL-WNC is meant to offer a similar service at the community level. One large difference is Sustain AVL-WNC is free to take action in the political space.

Examples of strategic innovations Sustain AVL-WNC will promote include:

  • The Asheville Community Energy Plan can be a ‘best system of emissions reduction’ demonstration for our state. Facilitating strategies: Climate Protection Act, EPA Clean Power Plan, and upgrade to NC Green Power program.
  • New public housing and affordable housing similar to Denmark’s House 8 Facilitating strategies: Raise Federal poverty levels, expand HUD housing vouchers and establish a Federal Community Infrastructure Bank. Expand opportunities for quality, zero and very low cost housing. Current application limitations on most housing programs are too conservative.
  • End hunger among US citizens. Facilitating strategies: Raise Federal poverty levels and investigate a Basic Income Guarantee linked to the consumer price index.
  • Asheville Tourism Carbon Audit. Facilitating strategies: Use Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventories and Orbiting Carbon Observatory data. Connect to additional subject matter experts and stakeholders.
  • Asheville sSWOT brochure. Facilitating strategy: Maintain an Asheville sSWOT analysis with various sustainability risks and opportunities facing the people of Asheville. Create an annual report brochure and seek brochure dissemination partnerships with restaurants, hotels, and the Asheville Airport.

According to the 2014 Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report our per capita wealth is $348,000 for a national personal wealth of $83.7 trillion. This is not the total national valuation of corporate, government, and natural resource assets.

Owning up to our national strategy in new ways in contrast to predominate market messages directed at consumer-citizens is strategic innovation too.

Sustain AVL-WNC supports greater economic and environmental security for more people by seeking out and deploying what works. GroWNC (website: http://www.gro-wnc.org) was a major success on several levels for Asheville and WNC. One reason is that we are now a region within the historic Federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities. Sustain AVL-WNC takes the GroWNC efforts further.

Sustain AVL-WNC is essentially a brand, or cause campaign, and leadership group at this point versus a formal nonprofit. Sustain AVL-WNC is an extension of the management consulting firm InnovoGraph based in Asheville, NC. Grant Millin is owner and an innovation strategist.

InnovoGraph processes include tools like a What Works Matrix and sSWOT (Sustainability Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) maps. When it comes to making the now and the future better for all of us, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t add filters for time wasting approaches that have already been tried in one way or another. But a lot has worked in our communities. Sustain AVL-WNC and InnovoGraph tools support greater community intelligence for strategic innovation revealing paths otherwise unavailable.

The Sustain AVL-WNC movement

The IEI motto is “We work for the future of North Carolina.” This year’s IEI Forum is looking for solution answering how can North Carolina companies and communities innovate to compete in a future of accelerating everything? The Innovation Reconstructed event will “outline critical decision points for economic developers and policymakers in communities of all sizes”. What our poverty innovation and climate change innovation strategies are at the end of 2015 must be included in these state matters.

Prior Asheville Collider’s stealth launch, InnovoGraph launched an online system for strategic innovation called Open Strategic Innovation for Communities (OSIC). OSIC is the Sustain AVL-WNC and InnovoGraph technical solution to IOE management. The Earth Science and Sustainability Exploratorium (ESSE) and National Climate Risk and Sustainability Strategy Center (NCRSSC) was also announced prior to Asheville Collider’s pre-launch. ESSE and NCRSSC are examples of community projects more readily outlined, enhanced, and monitored for performance with OSIC.

The online component of the IEI Commons offers a great sampling of state issues and way to foster citizen engagement with our issues. The Sustain AVL-WNC movement and InnovoGraph-produced events offer additional options, including political action. The OSIC social business platform offers a more portable, granular data environment with project management tools.

Sustain AVL-WNC was added late to the IEI Spaces Challenge. Citizens are welcome to vote for Sustain AVL-WNC and add comments here:


This ‘crowdsource’ voting opportunity is meant to add citizen weight to the ideas IEI fosters in terms of accelerating innovation (new value creation) into every aspect of North Carolina civilization. Sustain AVL-WNC targets the western part of the state, however there is no reason there can’t be a Sustain Piedmont and Sustain East to better connect North Carolina around our strategic outcomes.

Sustain Asheville and Western North Carolina’s people and our necessary environmental services, now and for the future.

Related links

Sustain AVL-WNC Meetup:


Sustain AVL-WNC Facebook Page:


InnovoGraph’s Open Strategic Innovation for Communities solution:


About the Innovator

Grant Millin is the Sustain AVL-WNC ombud. Grant Millin is a management consultant and owner of InnovoGraph LLC. InnovoGraph offers strategic innovation services. Grant was the North Carolina project manager for the historic Hydrogen Road Tour. His family owned the historic T.S. Morrison & Co. general store during the 1980’s. He is a veteran.

Grant is a GroWNC consortium member. Grant is also the WNC Citizens Climate Lobby coordinator.


Organizations of scale—even communities—grapple with a mix of complexity, effective strategy search, missing innovation supports, and talent potential loses. Wiping out greater wisdom and key activities due to poor engagement and absence of a solid, amplifying strategic innovation capability is too easy. InnovoGraph supports strategists with value-amplifying strategy, innovation and design capabilities.

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