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Columbus' Rise Innovation Center to launch a hub for human service providers

Danielle Sydnor
Rise Together Innovation Center
Danielle Sydnor is the CEO of the newly formed Rise Together Innovation Center in Columbus. Sydnor spent the last year learning about the region to identify priority needs for the community.

The Rise Innovation Center in Columbus is set to launch a Community Information Exchange to bring folks in need of human services and its providers together in one place.

The center was established to fight systemic and structural racism as a catalyst to end poverty.

The exchange will help people in poverty contact large non-profits faster to better fit their needs. People will share information in the exchange online. It will then connect them with a list of human service providers like the Columbus Urban League, the Mid-Ohio Food Collective, and more to show what they qualify for.

Stephanie Hightower is president and CEO of the Urban League.

“Instead of people going this place that place and maybe only getting 10% of their needs met here, but really not being able to be referred to where they should be, it really continues the whole cycle of poverty,” Hightower said.

Danielle Sydnor is president and CEO of the Rise Innovation Center. Sydnor took over in August 2021 and spent the last year meeting with organizations, non-profits and funders to learn more about the region.

"When we wrapped that process, we've been spending time identifying the first kind of priority areas that Rise would focus on, which dovetails really nicely into working on the CIE project," Sydnor said.

Sydnor said she has two goals for the community information exchange. The first is reducing time spent navigating a myriad of systems and the second is focusing on people's needs.

"Sometimes organizations can parachute or helicopter into communities and somewhat tell residents and people what they think they need or should be doing," she said. "Ultimately it's not a sustainable long-term solution to working on challenges and issues."

Hightower said the system should be about economic growth and development.

"We shouldn't have all these different systems going on," she said. "It's important that we have one system, one approach, that we're all feeding into."

As the Community Information Exchange is built, Sydnor hopes that the people and human service providers will take advantage of the system as it works to improve the exchange over time.

"We recognize that this does not solve poverty, but ultimately will be a tool that allows us to make more proactive decisions and build towards something that we can build more interventions off of," she said.

The innovation center has 13 goals for accessing jobs, healthcare, housing and youth services to fight poverty. Franklin County Commissioners is expected to approve $2 million in COVID relief money to fund the effort at Tuesday's meeting.

Tyler Thompson was a reporter and on-air host for 89.7 NPR News. Thompson, originally from northeast Ohio, has spent the last three years working as a Morning Edition host and reporter at NPR member station KDLG Public Radio and reporter at the Bristol Bay Times Newspaper in Dillingham, Alaska.