MIT SOLVE US Equity Summit in Tulsa: Authentically Embracing Diversity

The 2023 MIT Solve US Equity Summit was held at the Osage Casino and Hotel on March 23 and 24. As the MIT Solve team introduced the two days, they specifically called out some of the non-session related ways that the organization was uplifting equity. MIT Solve not only made a conscious decision to host the Summit at the Osage Event Center – a conference space in the Casino owned and operated by the Osage Nation, but also to acquire its other goods and services from BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) vendors.

To cultivate learning across the Solve network, MIT Solve hosted a US Equity Summit in Tulsa, Oklahoma bringing together communities, leveraging the intelligence of the community, encouraging specific and sustainable action, and offering motivation to the many tech-enabled innovators addressing equity in their communities. The Summit provided a space for real-time collaboration, relationship building, and problem-solving to uplift entrepreneurs. The current cohort of Indigenous Communities Fellows and Black and Brown Innovators were highlighted and celebrated throughout the two-day event. Attendees had the opportunity to learn more about the Solvers’ solutions, and spaces to contribute to specific offers of concrete support to further their work. This summit is open exclusively to the Solve community and experts with a focus on uplifting Indigenous, Black, and Brown innovators. In order to attend you needed to be a member of the SOLVE community or personally invited after initially being asked what problem do you solve. Their future challenges and summits are held quarterly.

The first day started off with acknowledgement of the host location, Tulsa, Oklahoma, including the work of the many entities that strive to achieve a brighter, more inclusive future for its communities. Speakers included movers and shakers from Tulsa Innovation Labs, PartnerTulsa, Build In Tulsa, TechStars Tulsa, Black Tech Street, ImpactTulsa, Atento Capital, and the Oklahoma Indian Child Welfare Association. Sharing their take on how to leverage partnership to go further faster, speakers shared very real insights into their challenges, but also what continues to give them hope. The day ended in community, by getting a glimpse into the history of The Real Black Wall Street through the eyes of Chief Egunwale Amusan, a descendant of Tulsa Race Massacre survivors, and breaking bread together. An emotional roller coaster of a day, there was barely a dry eye at dinner at The Vista at 21 as poetry and song and reflection reminded us all of how interconnected we were through shared history, but also through hope. It was a beautiful, communal way to close the day.

The second day reminded us of the role that arts and culture play both as the object of innovation, as well as part of the solution. Speakers shared new understandings and approaches to cultural empowerment from the Cherokee Nation Film Office, to Harvard’s blackbox Labs to Sony Music Group. The day highlighted the power of a quote shared by one of the previous day’s panelists – “What you do for me, without me, you do to me”. The speakers, the innovators and the attendees taking part in day two and the conference as a whole were ensuring their communities were at the center of defining their path. The day had a fun, upbeat, beats driven end when artists from Spark! Creative Lab gave the attendees a taste of how they dive into questions of equity, inclusion, culture and innovation through interactive artistic co-creation. By integrating hip-hop, spoken word and thought-provoking audience participation, the artists gave us a reason to leave the conference with whole hearts and a smile, ready to continue innovating in our respective communities across the country.

Written by Nicole J. Richardson

MIT Solve is a marketplace for social impact innovation. Through open innovation Challenges, Solve finds incredible tech-based social entrepreneurs all around the world. Solve then brings together MIT’s innovation ecosystem and community of supporters to fund and support these entrepreneurs to help them drive lasting transformational impact.


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