Seattle Foundation Blog

Starman, Innovation and the Eastside Civic Incubator

The Eastside Civic Incubator is convening business, nonprofit and public sector leaders to develop innovative solutions to community challenges

February 26, 2018

Guest blog post by James Whitfield, President & CEO of Leadership Eastside

Note: Leadership Eastside convenes leadership for the greater good in East King County through leadership development, community development and services to our leadership network.

Earlier this month, SpaceX launched a convertible Tesla Roadster on a billion-year orbit around Mars to test its Falcon Heavy rocket. Sitting behind the wheel, top-down, listening to David Bowie is “Starman,” a mannequin in a stylish space suit. When announcing the endeavor, founder Elon Musk promised the effort would be playful, saying, “anything boring is terrible…”

SpaceX, with satellite operations based on Seattle’s Eastside, is one of the companies contributing to the gravitational pull of the Innovation Triangle. This new partnership by the Cities of Bellevue, Kirkland and Redmond is a collaborative effort to become the foremost innovation and technology center in the world. As the home for breakthrough companies like Microsoft, Costco, Nintendo USA and Oculus virtual reality, the Eastside expects new and different approaches to the world. And that doesn’t only apply to the business sector; we also expect innovation and progress as we address civic challenges.

That is why Leadership Eastside and Seattle Foundation are proud lead partners in the Eastside Civic Incubator.

The Civic Incubator’s purpose is to convene business, nonprofit and public sector leaders to develop and launch innovative solutions to community challenges. This cross-sector approach brings together expertise and diverse perspectives through the innovation cycle, from research and development to launch.

The Civic Incubator officially kicked off in May 2017 with a summit where hundreds of Eastside leaders met in response to a question: How can we work together differently to help address the reality that our economic recovery hasn’t benefitted all Eastsiders?

Following the summit, Community Impact Teams (CITs) formed to look at this question through specific lenses that make up a healthy community. Working diligently since then, participants are preparing to launch a series of sustainable efforts in the following areas:

  • The Arts & Culture CIT is working toward establishing a hyper-local platform that connects traditional and newer audiences to immigrant and ethnically-authentic arts and culture experiences. The first of these is intended for Eastside Welcoming Week, September 14-23, 2018, part of a national movement to build common ground in our communities.
  • The Basic Needs CIT is working to establish an ongoing method of engaging Eastside neighborhoods to develop and deploy creative housing solutions to increase low-cost living options.
  • The Health & Wellness CIT is working to deploy new social-emotional wellness support to students in the Snoqualmie Valley.
  • The Education CIT is working to support the development of a toolkit for Eastside school districts that have not implemented an equity plan.
  • The Civic Incubator Steering Committee is contributing to an Eastside Community Development Framework by outlining who will be included in future Eastside-wide consultation and priorities.

While they may not make the same impression as a convertible traveling through space, these approaches are proceeding in ways that have never been attempted before. We don’t know yet, whether any of these will be groundbreaking, but we do know that innovation requires bringing talented people together and trying something new.

Due to the support of the Seattle Foundation, our efforts on these new initiatives with community partners are nearly ready for launch. And because of the investment of time and talent by a committed set of Eastsiders, the results could be out of this world.

And, to me at least, that’s anything but boring.

T-minus 3, 2, 1.



Community Issues


Basic NeedsArts and CultureHealth and WellnessArts and Cultureeducation

Related Post


N2N Spotlight Spring 2022: New Connections of South King County

June 29, 2022

A fresh start for justice-involved youth, adults, and families.

nyema 2

Our Commitment to Black-led Organizations and Businesses in King County

June 22, 2022

Marking the One-year Anniversary of REPAIR (Racially Equitable Philanthropy Aimed at Initiating Reparations)


Healing and Celebrating

May 25, 2022

Uplifting Mental Health Challenges and Resources in AA-NHPI Communities