Three North Florida Organizations with Innovative Solutions to Address Economic Disparities Advance in $100,000 Challenge

GuideWell Mutual Holding Corporation (GuideWell), the parent to a family of forward-thinking companies selected three North Florida organizations, to receive seed money to implement their innovative ideas to address economic disparities.

The organizations - Jacksonville’s LIFE, Keystone Heights’ Mission of the Dirt Road and Tallahassee’s Domi Station - were selected from a group of 12 regional innovators across North Florida to each receive $5,000 in funding. In addition, they advance to GuideWell’s Growing Resilient Communities challenge finals on Oct. 27 where they’ll have the opportunity to compete for a $40,000 state grand prize. Funds will be used to accelerate the development of their place-based approaches that focus on addressing economic inequities that exist in their respective local communities.

Program overviews of the three North Florida organizations advancing to the state finals:

LIFE – Leadership Is For Everyone (Jacksonville, Duval County) – LIFE is a leadership development program for community and academic activists, and believes that those people who are closest to the issues are best situated to create sustainable solutions for those issues. The organization believes everyone wants to matter, to learn, to contribute, and to be recognized. LIFE's leadership development framework focuses on the reflective practices on one’s self, provides developmental networks of mentors and sponsors, and helps people develop their voice for advocacy.

Mission of the Dirt Road (Keystone Heights, Clay County) - Intentionally located at the entrance of the distressed neighborhood of High Ridge Estates just outside the city limits of Keystone Heights, where the median income is roughly half that of the area and approximately 60 percent of children live in poverty, Mission of the Dirt Road functions as a community center where local agencies can meet with clients for counseling, tutoring and mentoring in a safe space. Additionally, a variety of support groups meet at various times throughout the week. These groups include AA, grief, anxiety and depression, and cancer support.

Domi Station (Tallahassee, Leon County) - Domi Station is a nonprofit startup incubator and coworking space with the mission of changing lives through the power of entrepreneurship. It offers programs, resources and events that help entrepreneurs start and scale sustainable companies. The group’s regional network matches members to seasoned mentors, investors and industry advisors to educate and empower local entrepreneurs. Helping to grow generational economic prosperity is at the forefront of its mission.

“We want to applaud all of the applicants for demonstrating their passion and willingness to innovate, collaborate and drive change for the people and communities in North Florida,” said Kirstie McCool, executive director of GuideWell Innovation. “This challenge is designed to empower local residents to help jumpstart their communities and create long-term economic prosperity, which in turn can lead to healthier and stronger communities.”

According to a September 2020 report by the Urban Institute called Creating Places of Opportunity for All there is a direct correlation between the economic prosperity of a person’s neighborhood and their health.

In July, GuideWell issued the statewide challenge to entrepreneurs, nonprofits, innovators and organizations to advance community-based entrepreneurship, financial literary, as well as access to educational, legal and health resources.

Aside from Thursday’s event in North Florida, three other regional virtual pitch events are taking place throughout the state. The three finalists from each region will be invited to present their approaches and compete for the grand prize of $40,000 at the Growing Resilient Communities challenge statewide showcase on Wednesday, Oct. 27.

Like the regional pitch competitions, this year’s statewide event will also be held virtually. All 12 organizations that competed in each of the four regional competitions, a total of 48, receive a unique opportunity to attend the GuideWell Growing Resilient Communities virtual town hall event on Thursday, Oct. 28, an invitation-only, collaborative gathering, bringing together experts and stakeholders from across the state and nation to focus on improving economic disparities in Florida communities.