May, 2011; Source: Fast Company (Subscription Required) | The May issue of Fast Company hails Houston as its City of the Year and identifies 51 “bold ideas and brilliant urbanites” in every state in America. Although some of the highlighted ideas are for-profit business ventures, many are nonprofits that have gained recognition through their innovative approaches to meeting local needs and incorporating private and government support. While some of these concepts might be familiar to those in the nonprofit sector, we were interested to see the kinds of things that made this business publication stop and take notice.

Some of the highlighted ideas include:

AS220 is a community arts space in Providence that bills itself as “part incubator and part bazaar” and aims to provide an unjuried and uncensored forum for the arts to stimulate the city’s “cultural mulch.”

The Baltimore Free School is a grassroots, volunteer-run and community-funded project built on a long tradition of “horizontal organizing, collaborative learning and participatory education” that aims to create an exchange of ideas without an exchange of money.

Startup Corps helps high school students in the Philadelphia area to leverage their passions to launch their own for-profit ventures, nonprofit social enterprises and social movements. Among the student successes the organization now takes pride in are: a hip hop label with a focus on peace, an organization that assists students with the costs of prom, and a bicycle re-use program that benefits low income individuals.

Urbanbuild is a partnership between Tulane University and Neighborhood Housing Services of New Orleans that provides architecture students with opportunities to participate in the design and construction of new home building in New Orleans. is an independent online news service that covers issues that impact San Diego and aims to increase civic participation. Through a new collaboration with NBC called “San Diego Explained” the publication brings residents up to speed on important issues using “whatever tools we have at hand.”

West End Neighborhood House aims to assist Delawareans attain self-sufficiency through economic independence by providing financial education and counseling and low income loans. With a 125-year history in Wilmington, the organization expanded services during the recent recession. – Anne Eigeman