November 28, 2023
Our team didn’t need an unfathomable tragedy to occur in order to understand how much of a deep impact she had on so many people, organizations, and places that she came across.
That concept of place - and love of place (topophilia) - is something that Pava held dear.
She loved Baltimore, the place she called home for the last 8 years.
She loved Tucson, Arizona and Westerly, Rhode Island - two places that helped to raise her.
She loved the chance to visit new places, whether for a conference, Ecosystem Tech Tour, or the ever-rare vacation.
And she loved when people would illustrate their love of place by putting in time and effort to make that place even better.
So as our team has been thinking through ways to keep Pava’s prolific legacy alive, we knew that place had to be at the heart of it.
That is why today we are proud to announce the inaugural EcoMap PLACE (Pava LaPere Award for Cultivating Ecosystems) Builder Fellowship program to honor our forever Chief Ecosystem Officer and the values that she embodied so well.
Pava firmly believed that business ownership is a proven pathway to individual wealth attainment - as well as to economic prosperity for communities; yet Black, Hispanic, and indigenous entrepreneurs are underrepresented in communities across America - leading to significant disparities.
Across the country, there are a handful of Individuals committed to supporting and empowering these entrepreneurs in the places where they live. Equitable entrepreneurial ecosystem builders play a unique and vital role - helping to ensure that every entrepreneur has an opportunity to launch and grow a business that creates wealth for themselves, their families, and/or their communities. This work is often complex, requires a distinctive set of skills - as well as a long-term commitment. These builders often take on the work as committed volunteers or in addition to a full-time job or business.
Built in partnership with Forward Cities, PLACE Builders will be an intensive, 4-month fellowship program empowering these change-makers to catalyze more equitable entrepreneurial ecosystems. Eight builders representing regions across the country will have an opportunity to build their capacity through training, peer support, and community pilots. Fellows will have access to professional mentorship, a digital toolkit, community, funding, and a platform to tell the stories about the places they love to a broader audience. By the end of the fellowship, each builder will also have identified, developed, and launched a pilot project to either address an ecosystem gap or scale something that’s working well.
The ultimate goal of the EcoMap PLACE Builder Fellowship is to support, mentor, and fund ecosystem builders across the country in developing and promoting their ecosystems, especially in underrepresented or underinvested communities, as a tribute to Pava’s legacy of fighting for equal access to opportunity.
Many people have reached out to our team about ways they can make a contribution in Pava’s honor. If you feel so inclined, this is the place we ask you to direct your financial support. While we will also be fundraising from foundations/larger institutions, we know that it will take a village of grassroots support to get this program off the ground. Forward Cities is our fiscal sponsor for this initiative and all donations will be tax deductible.
As we start to embark on this life journey without Pava by our side, our aspiration is to keep her legacy alive through initiatives like this. Pava’s love of place was infectious and our aim is to use this fellowship as a way to put the spotlight on ecosystem builders who embody those same values.
More info about the EcoMap PLACE Builder Fellowship will be rolling out in partnership with Forward Cities in the coming months.
And in the meantime, our charge to you … everyday, work to make your place a better place, too.