Innovators on the Grid

Maya Wallace
Maya Wallace

By Maya Wallace (Guest Contributor)

Everyone, everywhere, it seems, is moving downtown to live, work, and play. We’ve heard the expression, “location, location, location,” but these days it has become more than a marketing credo, it’s a way of life and a path to a brighter future.

Experts on just what that means are converging on Sacramento in October to have a conversation about “Innovation Districts” – the downtown clustering of business, homes, and recreational, civic, and academic activities, all within sustainable hubs of transit-oriented mixed-used vertical growth.

As a longtime civic booster and avid proponent of Sacramento’s grid, I am especially excited about the upcoming “What’s Possible” panel discussion, entitled “How to Co-Build an Innovation District” (10/19 at 12pm. RSVP here.)


“What’s Possible” is a speaker series that convenes pioneers and practitioners from throughout the United States to introduce imaginative (sometimes radical) ideas about public management and policy for discussion with California and Sacramento politicos.

Innovation districts create a nexus of converging policy areas – economic development, sustainability, education and workforce development, and quality of life- as a framework for communities to use to ensure their viability now and into the future. And Sacramento, with its unique complement of human capital, natural and working lands, and proximity to government, is well-positioned for a catalytic enterprise like an innovation district. “How to Co-Build an Innovation District” will tackle something at the heart of what living and working on the grid is all about. More than a “paint-by-numbers” guide, this panel discussion will be uniquely Sacramento because innovation districts each capitalize on it’s own community’s distinct assets, it’s market niche – whether it stems from that particular community’s workforce, investors, universities, or even climate, geography, or topology.

So what’s Sacramento’s niche? What unique characteristics will our Innovation District capitalize on?

Over the last decade, there’s been no shortage of analysis of these questions for the Sacramento region. But, true to today’s demographic and socioeconomic trends advantaging urban lifestyles and investment, “What’s Possible” will place those questions pointedly in the brick-and-mortar context of location, location, location.

The question isn’t only what, but also where. And we’re going to drill down for answers.

Admission to our next event is free, but registration is required. Please take a look at our registration page for details. We hope you and all grid innovators can attend, but remember admission is based on first come-first serve so please register soon.

“What’s Possible” is produced by a partnership between Hornets Policy & Politics Alumni, California Forward, the League of California Cities, and Sacramento State University.

Our next topic is especially interesting for Sac State, given its recent announcement to open a Downtown School of Public Affairs within walking distance of the State Capitol. Sacramento has historically led the nation in compact, climate-conscious sustainable growth, from an environmental planning viewpoint.

Now, Sacramento is exploring the business side of “smart growth” as Sac State is aiming to bring its public policy graduate studies and consulting programs downtown, where faculty and students can cross-pollinate in a more dynamic setting with the world’s largest subnational government.

Sac State has always been intricately connected to the nerve centers of California politics and policy – Now it’s only enhancing that connection through localization.

Hornets Policy & Politics Alumni is an organization of Sac State alumni with careers in politics, government, or legislation. We’ve been producing “What’s Possible” for three years to help disrupt the entrenched warfare of political policymaking with new and apolitical ideas, discussed and deliberated in a collaborative environment. We hope you can attend!

By day, guest blogger Maya Wallace is External Affairs Director for Sacramento Steps Forward, working to end homelessness in Sacramento. You can find her out on the grid when she’s not working – a Mansion Flats resident and civic catalyst (or aggressive do-gooder), and she’s always supportive of everyone’s efforts to make Sacramento an awesome place to live, work and play.  

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