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Welcome to Innovation in the Burg, a podcast about science and innovation in St. Petersburg. If you’re a self-described science or technology geek, or even if you aren’t, this will be a fun and informative conversation. Each week, we’ll be joined by a local science or technology expert who will talk about what they’re working on. But to make sure we keep this in perspective and we don’t become too technical, we have a community member joining us. Our hope is that you learn something new and enjoy our conversation.

02/27/2020 | Episode 012 | 33:07

Innovation in the 'Burg: Digging into The Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg's Center for Health Equity

Digging into The Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg's Center for Health Equity

On this episode of Innovation in the 'Burg, Alison is joined in the studio by Carl Lavender of the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg and Dr. Cynthia Johnson of the Florida Small Business Development Center. On the table for discussion is the Foundation's new Center for Health Equity. Lavender explains the Foundation's mission, why they created the Center for Health Equity and how equity enters every conversation held in the space. Johnson shares her own perspective as a community member in the space and how equity enters conversations surrounding economic development.

Key Insights

  • Today's expert: Carl Lavender, Chief Engagement Office at the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg
  • Today's community member: Dr. Cynthia Johnson, Director of Florida Small Business Development Center at Pinellas County Economic Development
  • Lavender shares the story of the founding and mission of the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg. The Foundation advances health equity in South Pinellas County, and over the last years has invested $20 million in the community.
  • Lavender says the Foundation allows nonprofits, particularly those in South St. Petersburg, a chance to build up their backbones and their advance smart missions in the area.
  • The Center for Health Equity is located at the corner of 34th Street and 22nd Avenue South, previously the site of a Publix. It is the first center of its kind in Tampa Bay, and one of only a few across the nation.
  • The Center for Healthy Equity was created because the Foundation recognized the difficulty of scaling small nonprofit missions, without a place for convening nonprofit leaders and advocates together.
  • Convening at the Center means bringing together facts and lived experience, structured as a safe space to talk about race and equity, a place to bring together different perspectives to build a movement beyond grant-making.
  • Courageous Conversations Regarding Race, program that allows the space to be candid about different experiences with race, fostering culture change.
  • The Center operates on a set of ground rules and guiding principles. It doesn't allow space for just any meeting, those using the space must have an equity lens and must talk about equity within the hosted conversation.
  • Johnson explains the importance of how the Center makes citizens feel. Johnson says she feels a certain pride because she lives in a community who cares about what happens to "the least of us."
  • Lavender shared a story from Jim Oliver, a leader in St. Pete's African American community, who said that the plaza in which it is located were once barred black residents from even entering the space, let alone the grocery store that was once there.
  • There is a transformative power to creating a space curated for and staffed by African American residents.
  • Lavender also explains the physical makeup of the Center, and the structures that make it so special, including "idea theaters" and round tables that ensure there is no "head" of the table.
  • Lavender asks community members to make an appointment to visit the Center for Health Equity outside of special event hours.
  • Barlow shares a lesson she learned from the Foundation. As a facilitator of hundreds of discussions in the community, she never thought about the importance of equity in those conversations. Johnson shares the importance of diversity in suppliers for economic development.
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1 Reviews on this article

Carl Lavender
27. 02 2020, 09:12:1010
Great job Alison. Always enjoy sharing innovative ideas with you. Dr Johnson was also a delight. Peace.

About the host

Alison Barlow is the Executive Director of the St. Petersburg Innovation District. Her role is to harness expertise in health science, marine science, education, and art to form unique collaborations. These multi-sector, cross discipline collaborations strive to identify innovative solutions that will grow the economic and social vibrancy of St. Petersburg and address key global issues. Alison grew up in St. Petersburg, graduated from Boca Ciega High School, received a Bachelors in Hospitality Administration from Florida State University, and later a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Management of Global Information Systems from American University in Washington D.C. For 17 years, Alison worked as a business and technology consultant based in Washington DC, often for the Department of Defense. She focused on strategic planning, process improvement and technology collaboration. Following her relocation back to St. Petersburg, Alison became the manager and a lead facilitator for Collaborative Labs at St. Petersburg College. Alison joined the St. Petersburg Innovation District as its inaugural Executive Director in June of 2017. In addition to her work, Alison is involved with the Leadership St. Petersburg Alumni Association, Friends of Strays Animal Shelter Board, and the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce.

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