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Opening Students' Eyes to the World of Innovation

For more than a decade, Lincoln has been emerging as a hub for entrepreneurship, innovation, and technology. And now, thanks to the Inside/Outside Innovation Summit, there’s a conference dedicated to the growth of all three. The inaugural event, which hosted more than 500 attendees and dozens of corporations and startups, was held June 19-21 at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Keynote speakers from all over the country came to talk about how to navigate the often choppy waters of new technologies and emerging markets. Break-out sessions and workshops provided hands-on experience for all attendees.

When Brian Ardinger from local enterprise consulting firm, Econic, received a grant from the Lincoln Community Foundation (LCF) along with support from other sponsors, the Inside/Outside Innovation Summit was born. Through the grant, LCF earned its place as a sponsor for the event. But rather than traditional sponsorship benefit, LCF used that money to do something incredible to further the Prosper Lincoln community agenda. By granting scholarships to high school students to attend the Summit, innovation was introduced to the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Prosper Lincoln’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Ambassador, Rich Claussen contacted principals and administrators from every high school in Lincoln. These administrators were asked to pick one or two rising sophomores or juniors who would greatly benefit from attending the summit. In the end, eighteen students received scholarships to attend the event free of charge, and every high school in Lincoln was represented. The summit was meant to teach students to think differently about college decisions and career paths, and, according to the kids, it did exactly that.

“I learned about business and how important innovation is,” said Caitlin Vancura, one of the student attendees. “I also got to learn about a lot of new startups and meet amazing people.”

“The opportunity has given me a new motivation to become an entrepreneur in the near future,” said Angelina Tran, a student attendee from Lincoln High School.

At $699 per person, the summit registration is simply not feasible for many students and their families. Through the summit and other innovative approaches, Prosper Lincoln and LCF want to continue to get more students thinking about entrepreneurship and innovation at a young age.

Learn more about the Inside/Outside Innovation Summit at and look back at the students’ experiences on Twitter, using #iostudents.

Quotes From Our Supporters

Prosper Lincoln is one of the most exciting community engagement and community-building efforts happening in the country.  It’s a real model!

Dan Cramer, Co-founder, Grassroots Solutions, St. Paul, MN

Prosper Lincoln will not only benefit all of your kids and your community; it is also a model for similar efforts around the country, thanks to the leadership of LCF.

Richard Ober, President & CEO, New Hampshire Charitable Foundation; Founder Community Foundation Opportunity Network; Concord, NH

Communities across the US are searching for innovative initiatives to improve economic opportunity and mobility.  We can all learn from the amazing work of Prosper Lincoln!

Brian Collier, Executive Vice President, Foundation for the Carolinas

Prosper Lincoln is breaking new ground in economic revitalization without displacement.

Ellen Shepard, CEO, Allies, Chicago, IL

To see an entire community come together to ensure all Lincoln residents are successful is very inspirational.  Congratulations!

Nancy Van Milligen, President/CEO, Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, Dubuque, IA

In my regional and national work in community development this is one of the most unique and exciting strategies for true change I have seen!

Del Gines, Senior Community Development Advisor, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City Omaha, NE

Bringing together a multi-sector group of committed Lincoln residents will support prosperity for all.  Congratulations on this excellent collaboration.

Holly C. Sampson, President, Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation, Duluth, MN

Diverse voices from across Lincoln came together so that current and future generations can thrive. This is no small feat, and it’s inspiring to see that collective vision inch closer to fruition. You can consider yourselves a model for other communities starting to embark on this work.

Megan Powers, International Program Officer, The McKnight Foundation Minneapolis, MN

There is no better example of the power of convening than Prosper Lincoln! Bringing together members of the community from all walks of life to enrich the City is inspiring.

Regine Webster, Vice President Center for Disaster Philanthropy, Washington, DC

Prosper Lincoln is creating a national model for building vibrant, equitable and resilient communities.  Systems thinking + the right resources!

Sandy Wiggins, Chair, Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) Washington, DC

Prosper Lincoln is an important approach to solving community problems. By bringing together local businesses, nonprofits, neighborhoods, government and faith organizations, they are bridging divides, building connections, and sparking opportunities in way that shows true community engagement.

Vikki Spruill, President and CEO, Council on Foundations

This is one of the most impressive community focus efforts I have seen. You are making considerable progress!

Cynthia Hardin Milligan, Trustee and former Chair of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Battle Creek, MI

Lincoln is one of a few cities across America where citizens and leaders from across different sectors have come together to tackle their community’s most complex challenges. Your ability to already show results and persevere is inspiring.

Ben Hecht, President and CEO of Living Cities, Washington, DC

Solving tough national problems like the opportunity gap begins locally, and Prosper Lincoln is leading the way.

Robert D. Putnam, Professor of Public Policy and author, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

There is nothing more powerful in securing a community’s long-term health than evolving a shared vision through community engagement. Congratulations!

Rip Rapson, President, The Kresge Foundation, Detroit, MI