social entrepreneurial
The James Gang (social entrep)
The James Gang (social entrep)
14 years, 7 months ago Posted in: social entrepreneurial, work 0

Founded in 2002, the James Gang is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, community-building, social entrepreneurial incubator based in Iowa City, USA. I was one of the organization’s co-founders and served as the head of The Board of Directors from 2003-2006. I left the organization in early 2006 to undertake a trip around the world.

The James Gang is committed to fostering interdisciplinary community development through helping people realize and develop their own creative ideas, expressions, and ambitions.  The James Gang pursues its mission by selecting, incubating, growing and spinning-off unique and often innovative ‘endeavors’ that empower individuals to pursue their creative passions to benefit and grow the surrounding community. The James Gang’s mission is “to foster community-oriented actions, attitudes and experiences in which creativity and service thrive.”

“To put it simply [The James Gang] answers the questions: “I have a cool idea, how do I get it done?” and “If I need to do something, how do I connect.” (Former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack)

Founded by young people all under the age of 23, The James Gang has been recognized by former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, Economist Richard Florida and United Way CEO Barry Gallagher for its innovative community-building work.  The James Gang was selected as the 2005 Iowa City 
Press-Citizen Person of The Year for having the largest impact on the community.

What does it all mean?

James Gang Business Model

You could describe The James Gang as an entrepreneurial center that, instead of solely focusing on for-profit businesses, works to start and grow innovative, cross-sector businesses, organizations, projects and collaborations (collectively known as “endeavors”) that develop individuals’ creativity (which is broadly defined) while fostering economic growth, community development and improving our communities’ quality of life.  James Gang endeavors often meet at the convergence of the for-profit, non-profit and government sectors in fields as diverse as the arts, music, technology, civic engagement, economic development, health care, the humanities, real estate and community activism.

An example of how this might work: A person might want to put on a play, hold a community meeting, create a bike path or start a local food festival.  Many people have these types of ideas, but they often don’t know how to make them happen, let alone know where to begin.  The James Gang works to connect people to resources and resources to people to help make these ideas into a reality.  The James Gang’s established network, institutional knowledge, grassroots skills and community credibility allow the organization to quickly assess ideas, pinpoint strengths and weaknesses, sharpen concepts and connect resources and people to bring these ideas into reality.

James Gang Principles

Pragmatism and William James: “The James Gang” is a reference to the philosopher William James, who among other things, developed the theory of pragmatism; that is, an idea does not have a worth until it is put into action. For our purposes we define this as meaning, “Instead of just sitting around talking about doing something, you should get out and do it.”

Go Public: The James Gang’s tagline is “Go Public.”  The organization exist to help people take their ideas, interests, passions, etc and put them out there. Instead of sitting around saying, “I wish people volunteered more in our community,” “I wish I could play my music for a crowd,” or “I wish our schools could be better,” The James Gang works to make connections and provide the infrastructure to empower people to put these types of thoughts into action.

Connected and Connecting: The James Gang is connected in the community through networks of community leaders, creatives, doers, thinkers, and community members. The James Gang works to make connections and foster projects between the for-profit, non-profit and government sectors in innovative ways to help further the future for all of the community.

Developing a Community of Doers: The James Gang not only exists to create community endeavors, but through its efforts it also develops community doers. Our hope is those involved in our organization and its endeavors become strong and passionate leaders who will invest in their communities for the rest of their lives.

A Sample of a Few James Gang Endeavors:

The 10,000 Hours Show THE 10,000 HOURS SHOW: A tool to invest young people in their communities through volunteer service and a celebration of this service with a premier concert by a nationally-known performing artist that is just for volunteers. 
Now a program of The United Way on college campuses nationwide. (more info)
cFree Wireless Network cFREE WIRELESS NETWORK: A collaborative community project that built one of the nation’s first multi-city outdoor free public wireless internet networks in public parks and urban spaces. Now a stand-alone 501(c)(3) organization. (more info)
Saturday Night Free Movie Series THE SATURDAY NIGHT FREE MOVIE SERIES: A weekly summer event in Iowa City showing outdoor movies and featuring local filmmakers and musicians. Now part of a local community art management umbrella group.
Public Space One PUBLIC SPACE ONE: A volunteer-run, art, culture and performance venue providing opportunities for local visual and performing artists with limited experience to 
”Go Public” with their talents.
Exodus Music Festival EXODUS MUSIC FESTIVAL: An annual three-day music festival in Solon, Iowa celebrating local music and community, while raising money and awareness for local charities.
Earth Expo EARTH EXPO: An annual environmental expo in Iowa City designed to celebrate and highlight local alternative energy and environmental solutions.
The Coaster Project THE COASTER PROJECT: An innovative community building project that promotes non-profit organizations on beverage coasters designed by local artists and distributed in local food and drink establishments. (more info)

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