Programs are a critical part of our work as a “think and do” tank. It takes what we’ve learned from our research and provides a pathway for it to live in Heartland communities.

We know the lifeblood of a community and economic development come from entrepreneurial residents working together to drive solutions and change. Innovation and Entrepreneurship will lead the inaugural work of our four pillars. We can already see the intertwining of this work with the strategy around human capital/workforce development, health and wellness and regional competitiveness.

The Heartland Forward Community Growth Program and Toolkit (CGPT) is the inaugural program of Heartland Forward – a “think and do” tank focused on changing the narrative about the middle of the country and kick-starting economic growth.

In partnership and with a shared investment by each community, the goal of CGPT is to lead and equip social entrepreneurs and in some cases scalable business entrepreneurs or “community builders” who have a vision to address systemic change in their Heartland community.

We have a transformative methodology to help these community builders solve problems with the support of resources and tools as well as capital. We are not an incubator and are providing a modernized approach that is a first-of-its-kind.


In partnership and with a shared investment by each community, CGPT is being developed with our partners: Builders + Backers and Bloom.


Builders + Backers is an organization led by Donna Harris. Donna is co-founder of 1776, on the board of the Global Entrepreneurship Network and has led many significate project and initiatives across the country. Builders + Backers is founded on three years of research with proven frameworks and tools for local entrepreneurial thinkers and doers to equip them to accelerate their communities’ economic engines.


Bloom will be providing a digital platform to discover the ‘trapped values and opportunities for growth’ within each community. This allows the data to inform the Builders and Backers within a community to make decisions to forge forward with an investment of time, talent and funding. It is also information that will be captured and shared from community to community for insight.