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Southern Rural Development Center
March 2012

Dear Colleagues:

I would like to share with you an important update that I received from Andy Lewis at the University of Wisconsin. I urge our land-grant university colleagues and other rural development partners in the South to give serious consideration to becoming part of this innovative effort. I am proud that the SRDC has played a part in helping advance this effort via its ecommerce/broadband efforts.

Bo Beaulieu


Most of you know that Wisconsin has been at the epicenter of Inventor & Entrepreneur club activity. As part of a broadband initiative in Wisconsin there was a proposal to create a virtual Inventors & Entrepreneurs network. As that idea was shared with colleagues in other states, the idea grew. The SRDC has played an important role in convening some or our Extension educators across the country to begin building this platform collaboratively. They came to the realization that we didn’t need another static web site with more stuff. Rather we needed to create a dynamic, active environment where entrepreneurs were talking to other entrepreneurs, educators, and economic development professionals across state lines.

Last week a proposal was submitted to the Knight News Challenge Grant program to help further support this idea. The Knight News Challenge Grant is all about creating networks using existing web-based tools. Logically, part of the funding decision is based on our ability to mobilize people to support the application and to join the conversation about what is proposed.

The funding request is a modest one….$76,000. Here is how you (and the entrepreneurs in your region!) could help create a buzz and improve upon the concept:

  • Most important: Sign up and join the nation! http://signup.ienation.com/
  • Second Most important: “Like” our challenge here: newschallenge.tumblr.com (feel free to share on Facebook and Twitter!). Please take the time to add a comment that supports the effort. The best comments are ones that are strong votes, explicitly from our target audience, e.g. "I'm a social entrepreneur and I support this…" "I'm an inventor and without these clubs I would not be the success I am today, so I applaud this virtual I&E club idea." etc.

  • You all get bonus points if you can also do the following: