The Connected Smart-Community Initiative (CSCI)

Ensuring marginalized communities are both connected to and realizing the benefits of disruptive technology.

Photo of David Rixter
0 2

Written by


  • I am not an employee of BNY Mellon, or an immediate family member of a BNY Mellon employee
  • I am over 18 years of age
  • My organization is incorporated as a non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid organization, or I have a partner that is incorporated and could accept funds on my behalf
  • I have already piloted my initiative and have some initial evidence of impact
  • My organization is headquartered and creating impact in the United States


  • Man

Where are you making a difference?

1. Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands : (Rota) 96951 2. Tennessee 3. North Carolina (Halifax County) 27839 4. Kansas (Overland Park) 66223 5 Virginia (Northern Virginia) 22191

Focus Areas (required)

  • Business & Social Enterprise
  • Children & Youth
  • Civic Engagement
  • Development & Prosperity
  • Environment & Sustainability
  • Human Rights & Equality
  • Peace & Harmonious Relations

Date Started


Organization Type

  • for-profit

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Start-Up (first few activities have happened)


  • $10k - $50k

Website or social media URL(s) (optional)

LinkedIn URL

1.Founding Story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed.

I was working in the federal space, managing relationships associated with a portfolio of state grantees. During an inter-agency discussion in rural Kentucky, a series of comments were made about the fact that resources available in the public sector were disconnected (i.e. access to capital, technical assistance, mentoring, etc). At that moment, something clicked; I understood the critical need to connect resources to collaborate and drive progress and made it my mission to do so. I leveraged the convening power of the Treasury Department to promote inclusive and rural entrepreneurship nationwide and now through HCR Consulting, I continue to connect silos by sharing effective practices and fostering peer-to-peer collaboration.

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

The Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), a U.S. territory and community of Pacific-Islanders is facing a workforce development crisis. Forty percent of its workforce may be forced to move off the island if a Contract Waiver Visa program ends in 2019 (12,000 workers). While CNMI is part of the US, it is often excluded from access to resources that support economic viability due to its remote location and insular status.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Ensuring marginalized communities are both connected to and realizing the benefits of disruptive technology will be achieved by: • Establishing a connected community-of-practice to share knowledge and effective practices of integrating disruptive technology into our society; • Creating strategic partnerships with technology organizations; o Building the infrastructure and sharing its technological resources with the community hubs • Partnering with academic institutions to foster national student-to-student cohorts that will share effective practices; o Facilitating Hackathons and other collaborative convenings • Implementing a workforce development strategy to close the skills gap by equipping the underemployed/unemployed workers with the soft skills required for the 4th industrial revolution; • Establishing an entrepreneurial mindset by leveraging cultural awareness and pride within each community; • Leveraging the spillover effect to entice technology institutions to scale solutions to nascent communities.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of how your solution is working to solve the problem.

In May 2018, HCR Consulting hosted a Pop-Up (Virtual) Hackathon for students from CNMI, the states of Kansas, North Carolina and Tennessee and students from Year-Up (non-profit headquartered in Northern VA). The challenges: 1. How can we leverage AI and other disruptive technologies to prepare CNMI and isolated communities for the skills that are required for the 4th Industrial revolution? 2. What strategy would you implement to close the skills gap issues around workforce development in these communities? Students collaborated to share knowledge and build a connected community that would help leverage disruptive technology and help close the skills gap prevalent across CNMI and other isolated communities.

5a. Too many people in the U.S. have unmet needs for financial products and services. How is your work reaching a population(s) that is currently underserved? If it is not reaching an underserved population yet, how might it in the near future?

While the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) is a U.S. territory, the islands that comprise it are insular and are considered low-and-moderate-income communities, as defined by the US Census (LMI). The North Carolina schools that participated in the Hackathon have predominately African American students, while the schools in Kansas and Tennessee are not as diverse; students from Kansas provided technical assistance and capacity-building expertise to the students from CNMI.

5b. Please specify if the population you are reaching is underserved due to any of the following characteristics:

  • ability
  • geography
  • work status
  • race/ethnicity
  • gender
  • age - youth
  • age - elder
  • socio-economic class

6. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

The United States does not have a coherent, cohesive strategy around integrating disruptive technology at the federal, state and/ local level. Seeing as countries around the globe are outspending the United States 1000:1 on R&D Brain City (Hangzhou) Initiatives, addressing this gap is both a moral and economic imperative. Accessing, implementing and benefiting from disruptive technology is a strategic imperative that must be intentionally managed for underserved communities within and across the United States.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

All domains of CNMI's Entrepreneurial Ecosystem and its community are ready to embrace disruptive technology for all its benefits. Through its relationships, HCR Consulting has pulled in practitioners from Tennessee, North Carolina, Kansas, West Virginia, Alabama and Ohio to support CNMI and explore strategic partnership opportunities to scale and support capacity.

8a. Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling your impact?

Spread Strategy will include: • Establishing a connected community-of-practice to share knowledge and effective disruptive technology practices • Creating strategic partnerships with technology organizations o Building infrastructure, guiding and sharing technological resources with community hubs • Partnering with academic institutions to foster student-to-student cohorts to share effective practices o Hosting Hackathons and other collaborative convenings • Implementing workforce development strategies to close the skills gap within underserved communities across the United States

8b. If applicable, which of the following scaling strategies have you launched?

  • Organizational Growth
  • Large Scale Partnerships
  • Organizing Conferences
  • Trainings, Consultation
  • Open Sourcing
  • Lobbying, Policy Change

9. Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

This initiative will be successful as a result of the community of practice being implemented and the relationships that have been developed and fostered over several years. Growth strategies will include leveraging strategic relationships with state economic development agencies, non-profit organizations and private partnerships with technology companies.

10. Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

The CSCI team is diverse and representative of the demographics of our nation; our intent is to leverage the team's diversity as a source of strength. The CoP will serve as the governing structure. As new resources are connected to the initiative, current leaders in economic development will work to identify Connected Community Assets (CCAs) -- i.e. trusted and culturally-aware persons within the community capable of guiding and supporting the integration of new technology into the community.

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 - Which of the following categories do you identify with? (optional)

  • Black or African American (for example: African American, Jamaican, Haitian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Somalian, etc)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 - Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities? (optional)

  • Communities of color

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media
  • Recommended by others

Evaluation results

3 evaluations so far

1. Overall, would you champion this entry as a excellent example to move forward to the next phase of the challenge and become a semifinalist?

Yes, absolutely! - 33.3%

Yes/maybe - 33.3%

Maybe - 33.3%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

2. Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

Yes, absolutely! - 66.7%

Yes/maybe - 33.3%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

3. Is this entry IMPACTFUL on financial wellbeing?

Yes, absolutely! - 33.3%

Yes/maybe - 0%

Maybe - 33.3%

Maybe/no - 33.3%

No - 0%

4. Is this entry SUSTAINABLE?

Yes, absolutely! - 0%

Yes/maybe - 66.7%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 33.3%

No - 0%

5. What are some of the HIGHLIGHTS of strengths of this entry?

Connection to underserved community - 66.7%

Clarity of Model - 33.3%

Clarity of Writing - 0%

Idea Originality - 100%

Understanding of the marketplace or sector - 0%

Impact measurement - 0%

Impact Potential - 0%

Financial Sustainability - 33.3%

Team - 33.3%

Partnerships - 66.7%

Potential to scale - 33.3%

6. What are some of the areas for IMPROVEMENT of this entry?

Connection to underserved community - 0%

Clarity of Model - 100%

Clarity of Writing - 50%

Idea Originality - 0%

Understanding of the marketplace or sector - 100%

Impact measurement - 100%

Impact Potential - 50%

Financial Sustainability - 0%

Team - 0%

Partnerships - 0%

Potential to scale - 0%

View more

Attachments (4)

Pop Up Hackathon.pptx

Neil Sahota (IBM Watson) powerpoint deck on AI

CNMI PopUp Hackathon_all.pdf

Hackathon Flyer: Three states and a territory come together to solve a common challenge


Join the conversation: