Several high profile KC companies have contracted with Keystone Labs to innovate across a range of business and social challenges
KANSAS CITY, MO., October 8, 2020 — Keystone Community Corporation has announced another important step in its long-term mission to address gaps in economic opportunity, community development and regional collaboration in Kansas City. Today, the organization unveiled Keystone Labs. For decades, corporations have searched for innovative solutions and market opportunities. Typically, these efforts were driven internally, in confidential “skunk-works” projects or innovation teams. But recently, as industries have begun to recognize the complexity of business and social challenges, companies are looking outside their own walls for fresh thinking and new ideas. “As a company that serves some of the best companies from around the world, we’ve seen first-hand the benefit of how creativity and cross-industry collaboration drive opportunity and growth. It’s time for this to happen in KC,” said Jeff Geheb, Chief Experience Officer at VMLY&R. “As a founding partner in Keystone Labs we’re committing our experience, our teams and our proven brand of design-driven problem solving to help KC become a global center of Transformation Design.” As the first of its kind in the region, Keystone Labs will give corporate members access to cross-industry expertise and some of the city’s leading transformation toolkits. Beyond that, Keystone Labs will create a unique access point for both the Keystone community and its surrounding neighborhoods to access corporate resources and new opportunities for innovation at the community level. Keystone Labs has made a particular commitment to the Kansas City community. As an essential part of the Keystone Innovation District, Keystone Labs will work to establish principles of inclusive prosperity within Kansas City's urban core. This approach brings diverse voices and perspectives into the planning process, facilitating more deliberate economic involvement and business leadership for now and generations to come. “Programming like Keystone Labs is important to successful activation of the Keystone Innovation District and clustering of innovation is important to our community,” said Sheri Gonzales, VP and Director of KC Rising at The Civic Council of Greater Kansas City. “Keystone will further the design industry’s distinct advantage in KC. More importantly, by bringing business activity into parts of the city that have been overlooked by other development efforts, we can create the opportunity to unlock potential in existing firms and residents for a shared economic benefit.” Cross Industry Collaboration When a client partner, or member, brings a challenge to Keystone Labs, they will now have access to more than ten regional universities, colleges and educational institutions, plus KC’s growing entrepreneurial ecosystem. Bringing together a founding cohort of over a dozen of the most innovative companies in the region and powered by the world-class teams at VMLY&R, Keystone Labs will be the single access point to an entire ecosystem of collaborators and intellectual capital. “In cities with large numbers of rapidly growing companies, it’s less about each company, and more about a web of connections that join companies, universities, entrepreneurs and their communities,” says Kevin McGinnis, Founder and CEO of the Keystone Community Corporation. “Here in KC, we have a lot of talent, but that talent has been disconnected for too long. With Labs, we will have a network where people can collaborate on design challenges across industries to generate ideas and drive exponential benefit to our region.” Founding Client Partners and Studios A number of high-profile Kansas City companies, including Black & Veatch, Children’s Mercy, and several leading firms involved in KC Global Design, have already committed to growing the Keystone Labs’ collective. "In light of the health and wellness challenges we've all experienced this year, we couldn't be more enthusiastic about the opportunity to participate in cross-industry collaboration with Keystone Labs," said Laurie Ellison, SVP-Chief Marketing Officer, Children’s Mercy. The program will include three core studios which have been modeled to tackle the biggest problems facing universities, startups, corporations in our community: 1 // The Ideation Studio will connect corporations to entrepreneurs and startups as well as help them bring their own ideas into viable concepts. 2 // The Collaboration Studio will foster development of innovation concepts by connecting members to each other in project- or challenge-based initiatives. 3 // The Growth Studio will provide ongoing support for growth-stage opportunities and learnings. Dan Smith, a Member of the Keystone Community Corporation Community Development Subcommittee and Co-Founder of The Porter House KC, is enthusiastic about the Labs program. “For years, we have been talking about the role corporations can and should play in ecosystem building – providing access and resources. We are excited to see this project’s impact on the community we come from and serve.” As the momentum launching Labs builds, city and region-wide membership outreach to elicit corporate participation will continue. “Just one example of the kinds of challenges we face is how can we design healthier and more sustainable cities. This is not a challenge that is limited to solely a public, private or corporate solution,” says McGinnis. “To design truly great solutions, we need collaboration across corporate, civic, educational, non-profit and governmental agencies. Keystone Labs reaches into each of these areas to develop and execute ideas that can have transformational effects. Without this approach, it’s hard to achieve the regional goals of shared prosperity, and accelerate economic opportunities for all.” Beyond Labs, the Keystone Community Corporation is well underway with additional programming and capacity building efforts, namely finalizing a Standing Committee for Research and Advanced Studies, a Real Estate & Planning Subcommittee, and a Community Development Subcommittee. Each committee is comprised of a diverse range of leaders with unique backgrounds and skillsets to help ensure Keystone’s long-term strategic imperatives are met: an emphasis on programming and placemaking, achieving collaborative regional scale and creating positive, equitable and inclusive impact.