MKE Tech Ecosystem Exchange: Building generative communities through awareness-based systems change.

4 min read

"The strength of our movement is in the strength of our relationships… Scaling up would mean going deeper, being more vulnerable and empathetic." - Adrienne Maree Brown

Milwaukee is actively growing into a thriving tech destination, but there is much room to grow. We see this moment as an opportunity for our community to shape together.

Perennial Culture recently partnered with the Milky Way Tech Hub and the co-hosts, Urban Future Centers, to facilitate an ecosystem exchange program that centered around some of the most pressing items such as the great resignation, workforce development, racial disparities, and the needs of our community.

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Initiatives like this are vital to the societal transformations we know are needed and possible. As a community, these programs surface, nurture, and celebrate the initiatives and the co-creative partnerships that are growing in our community today. It enables us to come together, learn from one another, and co-create with each other. This co-creative experience cultivates interdependence and supports the emergence of new social cohesion – allowing the opportunity to disrupt cycles of ruin and inequality.

Milky Way’s vision to make this city a hub of diverse tech talent aligns with our goals as we continue to build and expand our workforce in the area. We are excited to continue working together and building this collaboration to reduce disparities and increase innovation in a way that benefits all stakeholders.
- Stewart, Brianne, Construction technology manager at Milwaukee Tool and member of Milwaukee Tool’s Community Impact Team


We like to view the Urban Future Centers as a generative community – a highly intentional community with members that cultivate inspiring practices and aim for growth and change.

What we love about these types of ecosystem exchanges is it allows us to go on a personal and collective journey into the emerging future.

Looking at the world right now, on the one hand, we see an acceleration of crisis and disruption. On the other hand, as our systems collapse, we see communities, projects, and movements of regeneration, renewal, and healing coming to life like never before.

“Milwaukee has a unique opportunity to address racial disparities and grow the city’s economy through tech, but we must be mindful of how resources are provided and to whom. Leaders on the ground, working in the community know best how to provide access and opportunity to residents and program participants. True equity is making sure we direct resources where they are needed most. Our corporate membership to Milky Way Tech Hub and our support of partner organizations like Young Enterprising Society, not only helps to advance our DEI work at Northwestern Mutual but also puts the resources with the leaders making impact at the community level.”

- Sarah Dollhausen-Clark, Lead Program Manager, Technology Strategy & Transformation

This is extremely evident in the work that the Milky Way Tech Hub and the Urban Future Centers are leading together.

There were many key discussions and learnings from this experience, but here are a few that stood out to us at Perennial Culture.

  • The consistent action and co-creation with the community are what drives long-term impact – To the point that it is feeding into a national effort led by the Black Congressional Caucus.
  • We need to establish more funding to go to local and civic-driven tech hubs - specifically federal funding.
  • DEI – Reported from corporate partners as “dead-end initiatives.” We need less talk, fewer empty promises, and more equity in action now.
  • Leaders, corporations, and participants leading change need to make a major shift from external goals to inner goals. Our people, especially top leadership, need to realign and develop critical qualities and skills that are needed to drive external change.
  • There is no room for a scarcity mentality when growing an ecosystem. There's a lot of work to be done and this is an all-hands-on-deck effort. Let’s think big and act big.


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It is always such a joy and inspiration when we can bring community members together and truly communicate around some of our most pressing and often vulnerable topics at a deeper level. We were grateful to have a local and national perspective during this program.

Thank you to: 

During these programs, I am often reminded of the philosophy "Ubuntu" or "I am because you are." That as a community, we need to be humane and ensure that human dignity is always at the core of our actions, thoughts, and deeds when interacting with others. That we need to show care and concern for all of our neighbors. That there isn't the "them" and "us." That we grow and thrive only in community. That we as individuals and as individual stakeholders should not endlessly strive to secure "individual freedom" from everyone else. That we actually find ourselves in a community that only thrives from the context of community. And when one part of our community becomes unwell, our entire wellness is threatened. So let's use this time in our lives as an opportunity to open our minds and let go of old habits and judgments, open our hearts and look at the problems from the viewpoint of others by accessing the power of empathy, and open our will to let go of old intentions, old identities and letting come of emerging future possibilities.

Perennial Culture supports organizations and communities to see the world in new ways and practice a method that allows leaders, entire organizations, and larger social systems to connect with and achieve their highest potential.

These types of exchanges and programs that we support are driven to create meaningful connections, participatory learning, awareness building, and practices to support positive cultural change. As a collective, we can address the significant divides that our communities face. We believe these types of communities of practice support the emergence of new social cohesion and synergy that enable us to co-create solutions to some of our world’s biggest challenges.



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