More than 500 entrepreneurs and nonprofit activists came together last week at the Buckhead Theatre to share their ideas to improve the city and the world around them by leading Atlanta both socially and creatively to achieve common good.
Wednesday and Thursday the theatre hosted Plywood Presents, an event coordinated by Plywood People founder Jeff Shinabarger to gather like-minded individuals to focus on solving problems. It has been held about five times over the last four years. Five of these problem-solvers presented their ideas Wednesday night and one winner earned $5,000 in cash and about $13,000 worth of public relations, accounting and other business services.
Winner Global Growers, a Clarkston-based nonprofit, is matching local farmers with universities, hospitals and other institutions to get fresh produce to their kitchens.
Shinabarger, who lives in East Atlanta Village, said he hopes to make Atlanta a center for social innovation by taking advantage of its infrastructure including Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, creative corporations like Coca-Cola and its history as the home of Martin Luther King Jr.
“We want to come up with creative solutions to the world’s greatest needs,” he said.
Shinabarger said Plywood People will have smaller-scale networking events in the fall and early next year. Those looking to get their ideas off the ground can attend a Sept. 23 through 25 educational retreat in Serenbe in south Fulton County.
Susan Pavlin, an Avondale Estates resident and founder of Global Growers, said the nonprofit works with about 230 different international refugee families that grew $25,000 worth of vegetables in 2012.
“All of them, almost 99 percent, are food insecure,” Pavlin said. “They started here with almost nothing.”
While working with the families, Pavlin realized mid-size farmers need an opportunity to sell their produce when they produce too much to sell at farmer’s markets and too small to sell to grocery stores.
“The next piece of the project is a for-profit arm called the Local Source,” she said. “It will be designed to kind of break that bottleneck between the groups of small farmers out there and those really big kitchens.”
Pavlin said the money and public relations support from the win will go a long way toward making the new effort viable. One of the first Local Source efforts is working with Decatur City Schools to provide food for the district’s school cafeterias. Pavlin said they have already worked together to submit an application for a federal grant.