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Innovation Ecosystem

The value of experience

A few noteworthy transitions within the Rhode Island innovation ecosystem

Photo courtesty of Facebook page post by Olga's Cup and Saucer

Olga's Cup and Saucer on Point Street in Providence has been sold to new owners.

By Richard Asinof
Posted 1/8/18
A number of important transitions within Rhode Island’s innovation ecosystem deserve to be acknowledged.
Will the history of United Way of Rhode Island be told, warts and all? How has the creation of a hospital-wide accountable care organization, Integra, changed the way that care is delivered at Care New England? As Brown’s influence in the state’s innovation ecosystem grows, how will access be managed? How do you measure the importance of a nodal point such as Olga’s in creating a culture of innovation and collaboration?
One of the employment statistics under reported, it seems, is the way in which older Rhode Islanders are making up a larger percentage of the workforce, even after retirement. In developing plans for the future Rhode Island workforce, what kind of value is being placed on the wisdom and experience of older residents to be participants within the innovation ecosystem?

PROVIDENCE – The startling rush of news, like inhaling on a bitterly cold day, can take your breath away, and make it difficult to focus on what is truly important and what is a distraction.

Here some things that are noteworthy of our attention that have happened recently in the innovation ecosystem we inhabit:

Olga’s Cup and Saucer has been sold to new owners as of Dec. 1, 2017. The café, restaurant, garden oasis and innovation hub in Providence, had been the passionate enterprise of Olga Bravo and Becky Wagner. Olga’s had migrated from Little Compton in the space adjoining Walker’s Farm more than two decades ago. Since it began publication in 2013, the preferred “office space” to conduct interviews, engage in conversations, and practice the art of convergence had been Olga’s.

ConvergenceRI wishes to congratulate Olga and Becky on their future endeavors, and to thank them for creating such a welcoming space. The new owners are expected to continue the establishment, making some improvements in how the space is used, according to staff. And ConvergenceRI will continue to conduct conversations at Olga’s.

The person behind the curtain of Brown University’s life sciences communications efforts and social media presence, David Orenstein, has taken a new position at MIT. ConvergenceRI always found Orenstein to be skillful in the art of facilitating the timely flow of information and contacts within Brown’s innovation ecosystem, not always an easy task, given the complexity of the topics and the people involved.

The professionalism exhibited by Orenstein in his role as the go-to person for reporters is to be commended, something that doesn’t get put into the credits at the end of stories. Good luck, David.

When Dennis Keefe retired on Dec. 31, 2017, as president and CEO of Care New England, amidst the tumultuous negotiations to merge with Partners Healthcare in Boston, Mass., and the closing down of Memorial Hospital, it marked in many ways the transition to the next era health care delivery chapter in Rhode Island.

In the last seven years, during which ConvergenceRI had numerous opportunities to interview Keefe, the outgoing Care New England executive was always willing to engage in conversations and to answer questions. That kind of access is one of the qualities that makes Rhode Island such a unique place to do business.

ConvergenceRI always found Keefe to be direct, to be honest in his responses, to have a willingness to agree to disagree – and perhaps most importantly, to be interested in listening, learning, and when appropriate, pushing back. We frequently disagreed, but that did not stop the conversation or the dialogue.

Anthony Maione, the president and CEO of United Way of Rhode Island for more than 20 years, recently announced that he would be retiring in 2018.

In what seems like a previous lifetime [when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth and ConvergenceRI worked at United Way], we had the opportunity to interact when he was the executive director of the Samaritans. The most recent interaction occurred on Monday, Dec. 11, 2017, at a news conference called to draw attention to how the new tax law enacted by Congress would diminish the flow of charitable contributions going toward United Way. Sen. Jack Reed and Rhode Island Foundation President and CEO Neil Steinberg also spoke at the news conference.

The capability of United Way to serve as the financial backstop for many human and social services agencies promises to be diminished under the tax law, a double burden for those that need a safety net, particularly in a time of restrained revenues and diminished budgets.


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