The IEI Ten: Director Leslie Boney

leslie-boney-headshotKicking off the new year, IEI is excited to be welcoming our new director, Leslie Boney! While many of you know Leslie from his economic development work through the UNC system office and the state of North Carolina, we thought it would be fun to dig a little deeper into who Leslie is by asking him the “IEI Ten” – our ten essential questions. Read his answers below the fold: Continue reading

Inclusive Economies Are Necessary

Great blog post from our partners at IEI Civic Engagement Blog on the need for inclusive economies.

Civic Engagement Blog

This blog was contributed by J. Matthew Williams, Director of Communication for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at Wake Forest University. 

My grandfather was a blind, black man reared in a small Georgia community during the Jim Crow era. Unfortunately, his disability combined with racial segregation practically eliminated opportunities for work. As a result, he relied on bootlegging alcohol and farming while my grandmother worked multiple jobs, including years as a nurse’s assistant and weaver in a textile mill. Eventually, the two worked and saved enough cash to open a small grocery store for local residents in the community, but they were not short of challenges.

Similarly, my sister, a formerly incarcerated woman with a felony record is often denied employment because of her status. And more recently, the loss of her teenage son in a tragic accident makes working a nine to five challenging because of unpredictable moments…

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And the winner of the BB&T Discovery Forum is…

Over the weekend, we welcomed fifteen teams of young entrepreneurs – all winners of our regional Discovery Forum series – to Hunt Library for the BB&T Leadership Symposium, with each team pitching their social entrepreneurship venture for the chance to win $10,000! We’re so proud of each our participants for their ingenuity, dedication, creativity and commitment to their local community.

DF Collage

We’ve been talking a lot at the Institute about the importance of project-based learning (PBL), a theme that resonated through each of our five FutureWork Day Two Leadership Hackathons. These innovative young upstarts – all ages 18 to 30 – demonstrate the need in North Carolina for more PBL initiatives, including on-the-job skills training, to prepare our next generation for the future of work. Without preparation for work from PBL, we could be missing out on similar brilliance from bright young minds; hands-on training can light the spark on the next great idea to improve the future of North Carolina!

We’ll be talking more over the next few weeks about this event and our ties to civic engagement, but learn a bit about our three finalists below.

And, without further ado, the winner of the BB&T Leadership Symposium – FreshSpire!


A little about our three finalists:

  • FreshSpire (winner!) partners with grocery stores so that consumers can get updated notifications on marked down perishables like meats, breads, dairy, and produce. We recover nutritious food that would otherwise end up in our landfills.
  • According to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library, 1 in 5 local households (nearly 200,000 citizens) do not have a home computer, affecting nearly every aspect of economic and educational achievement for those affected families. Informative Technologies has sucessfully piloted a solution to this “Digital Divide” by creating ReviveDrive™computers: recycled laptops pre-loaded with our multi-lingual, Windows-compatible operating system, tested and packaged by high school interns, and sold at a wholesale price of $100 to area schools and nonprofits as a profitable fund-raiser. The technology allows “reduced-lunch” families to connect to subsidized broadband at home.
  • Special Pedals, Inc. is a non-profit bike shop that trains and employs adults with disabilities, while offering convenient low-cost bikes and bike repairs to UNC Wilmington students. Special Pedals, Inc. seeks to build a community where adults with disabilities are employed in positions that offer equal hours, pay, and quality of life. The mission of Special Pedals, Inc. is to offer individualized training programs and employment opportunities for adults with disabilities

For more information on the Discovery Forum series, visit our website.

Care about project-based learning and its impact on North Carolina? Register for next week’s FutureWork Virtual Engagements in five sectors: Banking & Finance, EdTech, Energy, Goverment/Smart Communities and Healthcare!


InnovateSENC: Perspectives on PBL

UNCW CollageOur partners at InnovateNC traveled to Wilmington last week for the InnovateSENC (Wilmington/Carolina Coast) cross-city convening! In touring its facilities, like the Center for Marine Science at UNC Wilmington (pictured above); businesses like MARBIONC and literal makerspace Manufacturing Methods; and community colleges like Cape Fear Community College and Brunswick Community College, we learned a great deal about project-based learning, innovation and the future of work.

These hubs of innovation are using project-based learning to equip their students and young workers with the skills necessary to thrive in industry. Students at Cape Fear Community College, for instance, can  enroll in its nationally recognized marine tech program and spend 32 days at sea on Cape Hatteras, getting their hands wet – literally. Wilmington and its coastal neighbors are at the forefront of innovation, and by embracing project-based learning, they’re well-suited to weather the changing future of work.

Check out the full InnovateNC/project-based learning conversation via Storify!

Anita’s Blog: Congratulations to NC State NSF Scholars!

author-v2It’s been less than a week since my return from Beijing and, even through the fog that is my yet-unyielding jet lag, I have been thinking a lot about China’s commitment to deepen its science and technology “maker” bench.


It all makes sense. The nations that lead in the creation of new products, processes and services will be the global economic leaders. But China has a lot of ground to cover to catch up with countries such as ours. Take the announcement of 31 National Science Foundation Scholars selected from NC State University, for example. The program is the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind, recognizing outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees. Since 1952, the NSF has funded 50,000 Graduate Research projects to stellar students across the country.

That’s a lot of innovators already at work.

IEI Environments Newsletter: March!

author-1Ivan copy2Our March Environments Newsletter is out!
We’re thrilled to welcome old friend Diane Cherry and FutureWork Leadership Hackathon panelist Ivan Urlaub as expert voices for this edition of the Environments Newsletter.

Cherry and Urlaub, both of the NC Sustainable Energy Association, tackled how to best develop North Carolina’s Energy Vision:

As part of FutureWork, stakeholders participated in a special energy sector “Leadership Hackathon” focusing on an important question: What can North Carolina do now to ensure the right mix of new employees given the utility business model changes?

Future Works, 2016 IEI Forum

After their work was done, participants voted for strategies they felt were the most important. Topping the list was a unanimous decision that we must first develop an energy vision for North Carolina’s energy economy before considering other workforce development strategies.

Read more from Cherry and Urlaub, and subscribe to all of our sector-area newsletters.

Anita in China: We have work to do in NC

author-v2I’ve loved the experience of being in Beijing. That said, I am more than ready to be back in North Carolina. It’s time to put my learning to work.

I’ve noted the way government officials, educators and business leaders are working together to build a culture of innovation in China. Take, for instance, the Beijing Youth Science Creation Competition (BYSCC). Hundreds of projects on display at the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, significant cash prizes, high-level leaders using the opportunity to encourage school teachers, and an award ceremony reminiscent of a Hollywood affair.

Meanwhile, the North Carolina Science and Engineering Fair will be held this weekend, at Meredith College in Raleigh.

I’ve been talking to Tom Williams, who is also here in Beijing. He explains our event will be heroically pulled together by a hearty group of volunteers, supported by limited ever-faithful sponsors, and is unlikely to attract the high-level policy officials who should most celebrate its existence. We can change that.

I’m committed to working to support the 2017 North Carolina Science and Engineering Fair, to help it reach a new scale. I hope you’ll join me.


Many thanks to the NC Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education Center for inviting me to serve as a delegate this year. I’m grateful to my colleagues, to my fellow travelers, and to the wonderful students we went to support. I have many ideas for how to implement the lessons I’ve learned here in North Carolina; I’m off to work!