Local Innovation Lab

Local Innovation Lab

The Local Innovation Lab (LIL) is a student-supported accelerator program designed to bolster local commercial and social enterprises. LIL is a partnership between Southern Oregon University, the Humane Leadership Institute, and Ashland Works (501c3). LIL started as a response to the Covid-19 disruption to local employers and their employees. The goal was to offer students opportunities to gain experience by helping meet local needs while creating new local jobs.

What makes the LIL unique is an explicit focus on empowering the next generation of leaders by incorporating top notch values-based leadership training for students while they provide on-the-ground research, analysis, and solutions design support for local organizations.

The internship program has three components:

  • Paid internships that offer skills and network-building opportunities.
  • Coursework to develop professional and leadership skills that empower future independence and capabilities.
  • Proof of capability and professional network building – participants come away with extended social/professional networks and project deliverables for use in future job searches.
Hard at Work Building Skills

LIL is a pilot program, in partnership with SOU, to develop a self-sustaining, repeatable model that bridges universities and the underserved communities surrounding them while developing the leaders our communities need tomorrow.

The LIL Road Map

What’s next? 

Stage 1 started in September 2020. We are aligned to start phase 2 in January 2021 and are currently raising the funds required. Phases 3-5 are planned to unfold over the course of 2021.

The Winter and Spring terms will see LIL expand the number of local nonprofits and small businesses served, the size of the cohorts, the class offerings, and the number of solutions developed.

Who benefits? 

Our focus is on serving traditionally underserved populations in Southern Oregon, both with the needs addressed and by the students served. Committed SOU interns, many of whom are first generation college students, gain professional experience and networks while learning to lead in their own communities.  SOU is served by gaining an important bridge for students to create and move into meaningful local jobs.

Whenever possible, we prioritize projects that meet needs of the underserved in our communities. While we will be supporting some commercial enterprises, our focus is to create living wage jobs that meet essential needs. 

How can I support LIL? 

  • Interns – reach out to apply for Winter term internships.
  • Volunteers – sign up to support interns as they begin considering problems and solutions to address this winter.  
  • Organizations looking for help – apply to offer an internship here
  • Donors – help support the program via donations directly or through the SOU Foundation. Request information on current opportunities and uses of funds by contacting us. 
  • Investors – consider donating to support the early phases of LIL as we develop solutions and prototypes for scaling.  The Community Investment Fund will make micro grants and small loans to solutions the CIF board of advisors deems promising. 
  • Partner organizations – we are seeking to make LIL a prototype for successful small university/community collaboration going forward.  If you share our vision of local innovation creating meaningful solutions and jobs that meet local challenges, please contact us to begin a dialogue.

What support does LIL need now?

Our Phase 1 goal is to raise $32,500 to develop and run the program.  We are currently over 75% of the way to our goal. Please help us meet our financial objectives. 

Our Phase 2 goal is to double our internship cohorts to 20 paid interns and  continue to develop stage 2 and 3 program and curriculum.  The Phase 2 goal is to raise $45,000, some via the clients served by the internship program.