Revolutionary new program, first launched with partners in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Oxford, Mississippi, supports local Builders in launching their ideas and solving community challenges.

Bentonville, Ark., Sept. 29, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Bentonville, Ark. (September 29, 2021) -- Today, Heartland Forward and its partners, Builders + Backers and Accenture, announced the expansion of the groundbreaking Community Growth Program and Toolkit (CGPT), a first-of-its-kind idea accelerator, Pebble Grant and Buildership™ program to stimulate entrepreneurial thinking and action across the heartland. After a successful launch in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Oxford, Mississippi, Heartland Forward is committing to raise $4 million to expand the program to 1,000 builders across the heartland by 2023. In its first launch, CGPT secured 100 percent retention from Builders and the majority of Builders were women and people of color.


The announcement was made during Heartland Forward’s virtual inaugural Community Impact Event, which featured guest speakers and Builders in conversation about how to stimulate experimentation and entrepreneurialism in the heartland. Alejandra Y. Castillo, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, opened the event in discussion with Angie Cooper, Heartland Forward’s Chief Program Officer.


“Community-based solutions that advance individual empowerment is what our country is built on. This is the American Dream,” said Alejandra Y. Castillo, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development. “As a child, I helped run small businesses to support my family. This experience has fueled my passion for entrepreneurship and its impact on lives, communities and economies. What Heartland Forward is doing with their inaugural program is exciting.”


Other panelists included: Jimmy Etheridge, CEO of North America, Accenture; Hon. Robyn Tannehill, Mayor of Oxford, MS; Hon. Kathy Taylor, former Tulsa Mayor and former State Secretary of Commerce;  Elizabeth Frame Ellison, president and CEO of Lobeck Taylor Foundation; Jon Maynard, president and CEO of Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation; Ken Levit, executive director of George Kaiser Family Foundation and Alana Beard, founder of 318 Foundation, co-founder of 318 Foundation and former WNBA player.


The event also featured Builders who have completed the program: Shakori Fletcher and Luka Mutinda of Tulsa, Oklahoma and Andi Bedsworth of Oxford, Mississippi.


“We have been fortunate to have outstanding partners with this program.  Builders + Backers as well as Accenture have been with us from the beginning,” said Heartland Forward President and CEO Ross DeVol. “Innovation and entrepreneurship can be a gamechanger for a community, and the Community Growth Program and Toolkit is first-of-its-kind for social entrepreneurs as well as entrepreneurs who may scale their business over time. We believe the true differentiator is giving people the chance to experiment while being surrounded by mentors who are experienced entrepreneurs themselves, and in some cases investors. They want to see these aspiring entrepreneurs be successful as entrepreneurs whether with today’s idea or one in the future.”

“Great ideas, and people capable of building them, can be found, funded, and scaled in every community,” said Donna Harris, CEO of Builders + Backers. “The key - and the economic urgency - is getting more people, in more places, to actually put their ideas into action. That’s the power of small experiments and the premise behind our entire program. For the same price as a single venture investment, we can unleash and fuel thousands of experiments, ensuring the best ideas rise to the top, no matter who has them, where they come from or what form they take."

“One of the ways we live our purpose is by doing good, and that means supporting our people, businesses, and communities,” shared Jimmy Etheredge, Accenture CEO for North America.


At the heart of the CGPT are the Builders + Backers four program pillars, designed to mobilize and equip Builders through:

  • Idea Accelerator: This cohort-based program combines a 45-day Builder Bootcamp to teach participants how to put ideas into action, followed by 45 days of actively executing their ideas through a single experiment.
  • Pebble Fund: Builders are supported by a $5,000 Pebble Grant to test their ideas. Participants are mentored by Master Builders throughout the program.
  • Storytelling: A comprehensive media program that curates, captures and distributes stories of Buildership™, both from within the programs and in communities everywhere. Through video, written stories, social media and media partnerships, the program inspires people to become Builders.
  • Buildership™ Workshops: Workshops and other events introduce people to the ideas of Buildership™ and demonstrate that anyone can generate creative solutions through entrepreneurial experimentation that contribute to the sustainability of communities.


In partnership with Accenture, the Community Growth Program and Toolkit will release a highly engaging and interactive platform. The digital platform will allow users to search through Builder initiatives, explore Heartland Forward’s rich data and analytics and connect Builders across the country to one another.


There are serious deficits in the heartland related to human capital and innovation capacity, posing a serious challenge to improving future prosperity in the middle of the country. Of the 50 states ranked in the forthcoming report, America’s Entrepreneurial States, being issued by Heartland Forward, the heartland held 16 of those ranked in the bottom 20, and only three heartland states made it into the top 25 -- Texas (14th), Illinois (20th) and Minnesota (25th).  By bringing together the comprehensive curriculum of Builders + Backers with the expertise and agility of Accenture, the Community Program and Toolkit gives communities the ability to better solve challenges, support innovation and entrepreneurs, foster job creations and champion inclusive growth. The mission is to lead and equip heartland communities with a transformative and modernized approach to problem solving, with an entrepreneurial mindset, creating value for communities and increasing access to capital and resources.


About Heartland Forward:

Heartland Forward is a nonpartisan, 501c3 organization whose mission is to improve economic performance in the center of the United States by advocating for fact-based solutions to foster job creation, knowledge-based and inclusive growth and improved health outcomes. Heartland Forward conducts independent, data-driven research and programs to facilitate action-oriented discussion and impactful policy recommendations. To learn more, visit https://heartlandforward.org/.


About Builders + Backers:

Builders + Backers invests in exceptional entrepreneurs who are building global-scale ventures to power an entirely different future - one where technology creates value for many instead of capturing it for a few. Through proprietary programming, Builders + Backers also inspires and equips people to best seize the opportunities of our digital era - from experimentation and solving problems in their local communities to starting new ventures that could scale. By backing the most creative builders across the country, we can shape the digital future to be one in which more people participate and thrive.


About Accenture:

Accenture’s purpose is to deliver on the promise of technology and human ingenuity. Accenture embraces the power of change to create 360° value and shared success for clients, people, shareholders, partners and communities. Through partnerships with many of the world’s leading organizations, a network of specialists across industries and deep innovation capabilities, we help ideate, build, and scale transformational businesses that drive systemic change.






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