(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final article in a two-part series examining two complementary initiatives based in Nashville. They are the Global Action Platform and oneC1TY. Th organization is hosting a forum later today in Nashville spotlighting successful innovation districts.)
By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
The three words in the name Global Action Platform (GAP) were carefully selected, Scott Massey, the organization’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, says.
“Global” describes its reach. While based in Nashville and strongly focused on the region’s growth, there are also international efforts, specifically in the Philippines, and an emphasis on developing global markets for Tennessee.
“Action” signifies that GAP is not simply a think tank, but also an organization dedicated to making things happen. Finally, “platform” is intended to connote a neutral convener facilitating collective impact and collaboration among organizations.
“Words really matter,” Massey observes.
When the Nashville native returned to his hometown to help launch GAP, he says one of his first actions was to talk with leaders of Nashville’s universities to develop the right vision. “It had to be inspiring and attractive, but not controlling or competitive with other efforts,” Massey explained.
The key ideas that began to be bubble to the top were prosperity, economic opportunity, health, and food. As discussions continued, Massey said it became apparent that GAP should position itself at the intersection of three topics critical to the future of any region.
“Our mission is to create scalable, sustainable solutions for abundant health, food, and prosperity,” he says. “Our projects have to be economically and environmentally sustainable.”
How does GAP execute on its mission? There are several initiatives including programs at oneC1TY, a Leed-certified community designed to create a model for how cities can prepare for the world’s rapidly growing urban populations. Located just west of the downtown Nashville area, the development will ultimately have one million square feet of office space plus a hotel and an apartment complex.
“It took six years to get the first building out of the ground and fully leased,” Massey said, adding, “We could not simply do nothing while the campus was being built – something that has and will take years; we had to take action from the start to create a new brand, a reputation for thought leadership, a knowledge base, and relationships with key leaders and institutions that would pay off down the line.”
And that’s what GAP has done, starting with its annual summit each November in Nashville that attracts distinguished speakers and leaders from around the globe. This past year’s event featured CNN’s Fareed Zakaria and Bruce Katz, Centennial Scholar at The Brookings Institution, among over a hundred experts and executives who spoke.
The organization also has launched a number of other initiatives under a “five Cs” umbrella – Convene, Challenge, Connect, Communicate, and Create.
- In addition to the annual summit, the Convening agenda also includes three Global Action Forums (three annually – one each with the United Nations, World Bank, and National Press Club) and the Global Action Fellows program.
- The Challenge initiative is highlighted by the Global Challenge Impact Fund, while the connect bucket is all about building alliances and partnerships around GAP’s core mission.
- Under the communicate banner, the organization publishes and distributes two reports each year in partnership with the Diplomatic Courier which are sent to 25,000 select global leaders in print copy and are read by 5M online.
- Finally, create is focused on starting new initiatives with partners domestically and globally. Massey says the newest, launched in November, is named “Empower Health” and focused on the opioid epidemic. Others include “1C Innovation” that builds on the culture of oneC1TY, a partnership with Harvard University’s “Young American Leaders Program” designed to help local leaders in urban areas create locally-based solutions for shared prosperity, and the “Caraga Initiative” that is helping produce a sustainable economy benefiting the indigenous people of the Caraga region of the
How’s it going in Massey’s view?
“We’ve made really good progress on collaboration, but I wish we could have done more already,” he answers. “The most frustrating part is that it has taken longer than I expected.”
Nevertheless, Massey believes GAP and the emerging oneC1TY development are making an impact on the region and a name for Nashville on the national and global front. Knowledge gained in the local area is being exported to others through the numerous initiatives.
“I’m really gratified by the number of business people who have found our mission attractive and have really rallied around us,” he says.