Thursday, September 13, 2007

Introducing Sujata Shyam- CORO Fellow As a CORO Fellow in Pittsburgh, I'm learning about numerous projects relating to social entrepreneurship, community development, and the relationship between the public, private, and non-profit sectors. The CORO Fellows Program in Public Affairs is a nine month long leadership training program, based on experiential learning. We're learning by doing and by asking questions. We have 5 placements over the course of the year in all three of the sectors mentioned. In addition, the 15 fellows work on several projects together, one of which is collaborating with a community development corporation and the residents of East Liberty on issues of community development in the neighborhood. I'm planning on sharing relevant bits and pieces from my experience on the blog, so have a look, and let me know what you think! Vacant lots Plus Biofuel Equals Social Entrepreneuership: Vacant lots are a problem in East Liberty as they end up being sites of drug trafficking and prostitution. Students at the business school of Carnegie Mellon came up with an innovative idea to address this issue. The organization, GTECH has partnered with ELDI, a local community development corporation to turn vacant lots into productive spaces through planting biofuel crops on vacant lots owned by ELDI. ELDI has been buying up properties in the neighborhood for twenty years now, with the goal of eventually selling the properties to help realize East Liberty's Community Plan ( the aligned vision of all community members and stakeholders of East Liberty ). However, while waiting for the right buyer, the vacant lots are problematic. So, why biofuel? Planting a community garden is usually a popular idea, but is not possible with these lots due to toxins in the soil, However, biofuel is not consumed by people, so toxicity is not an issue, and it can be sold. GTECH would like to employ neighborhood youth to maintain the crops, which will then be sold to companies that make biofuel. GTECH is still waiting to see how profitable this endeavor will be, but it seems very likely that the main goal will be accomplished: create a self-supporting project that turns a sites of crime into productive spaces before they are sold to new owners. The side benefits are employing local youth and supporting alternative energy. - Suj

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