The Keystone Community Corporation Launches Keystone Labs

Keystone Labs logo

Oct. 8, 2020

Keystone Community Corporation has announced another important step in its long-term mission to address gaps in economic opportunity, community development and regional collaboration in Kansas City. Today, the organization unveiled Keystone Labs.

For decades, corporations have searched for innovative solutions and market opportunities. Typically, these efforts were driven internally, in confidential “skunk-works” projects or innovation teams. But recently, as industries have begun to recognize the complexity of business and social challenges, companies are looking outside their own walls for fresh thinking and new ideas.

“As a company that serves some of the best companies from around the world, we’ve seen first-hand the benefit of how creativity and cross-industry collaboration drive opportunity and growth. It’s time for this to happen in KC,” said Jeff Geheb, Chief Experience Officer at VMLY&R. “As a founding partner in Keystone Labs we’re committing our experience, our teams and our proven brand of design-driven problem solving to help KC become a global center of Transformation Design.”

As the first of its kind in the region, Keystone Labs will give corporate members access to cross-industry expertise and some of the city’s leading transformation toolkits. Beyond that, Keystone Labs will create a unique access point for both the Keystone community and its surrounding neighborhoods to access corporate resources and new opportunities for innovation at the community level.

Keystone Labs has made a particular commitment to the Kansas City community. As an essential part of the Keystone Innovation District, Keystone Labs will work to establish principles of inclusive prosperity within Kansas City's urban core. This approach brings diverse voices and perspectives into the planning process, facilitating more deliberate economic involvement and business leadership for now and generations to come.

Programming like Keystone Labs is important to successful activation of the Keystone Innovation District and clustering of innovation is important to our community,” said Sheri Gonzalez, VP and Director of KC Rising at The Civic Council of Greater Kansas City. “Keystone will further the design industry’s distinct advantage in KC. More importantly, by bringing business activity into parts of the city that have been overlooked by other development efforts, we can create the opportunity to unlock potential in existing firms and residents for a shared economic benefit.”

Cross Industry Collaboration

When a client partner, or member, brings a challenge to Keystone Labs, they will now have access to more than ten regional universities, colleges and educational institutions, plus KC’s growing entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Bringing together a founding cohort of over a dozen of the most innovative companies in the region and powered by the world-class teams at VMLY&R, Keystone Labs will be the single access point to an entire ecosystem of collaborators and intellectual capital.

“In cities with large numbers of rapidly growing companies, it’s less about each company, and more about a web of connections that join companies, universities, entrepreneurs and their communities,” says Kevin McGinnis, Founder and CEO of the Keystone Community Corporation. “Here in KC, we have a lot of talent, but that talent has been disconnected for too long. With Labs, we will have a network where people can collaborate on design challenges across industries to generate ideas and drive exponential benefit to our region.”

Founding Client Partners and Studios

A number of high-profile Kansas City companies, including Black & Veatch, Children’s Mercy, and several leading firms involved in KC Global Design, have already committed to growing the Keystone Labs’ collective.

"In light of the health and wellness challenges we've all experienced this year, we couldn't be more enthusiastic about the opportunity to participate in cross-industry collaboration with Keystone Labs," said Laurie Ellison, SVP-Chief Marketing Officer, Children’s Mercy.  

The program will include three core studios which have been modeled to tackle the biggest problems facing universities, startups, corporations in our community:

  1. The Ideation Studio will connect corporations to entrepreneurs and startups as well as help them bring their own ideas into viable concepts.
  2. The Collaboration Studio will foster development of innovation concepts by connecting members to each other in project- or challenge-based initiatives.
  3. The Growth Studio will provide ongoing support for growth-stage opportunities and learnings.

Dan Smith, a Member of the Keystone Community Corporation Community Development Subcommittee and Co-Founder of The Porter House KC, is enthusiastic about the Labs program. “For years, we have been talking about the role corporations can and should play in ecosystem building ­– providing access and resources. We are excited to see this project’s impact on the community we come from and serve.”

As the momentum launching Labs builds, city and region-wide membership outreach to elicit corporate participation will continue.

“Just one example of the kinds of challenges we face is how can we design healthier and more sustainable cities. This is not a challenge that is limited to soley a public, private or corporate solution,” says McGinnis. “To design truly great solutions, we need collaboration across corporate, civic, educational, non-profit and governmental agencies. Keystone Labs reaches into each of these areas to develop and execute ideas that can have transformational effects. Without this approach, it’s hard to achieve the regional goals of shared prosperity, and accelerate economic opportunities for all.”

Beyond Labs, the Keystone Community Corporation is well underway with additional programming and capacity building efforts, namely finalizing a Standing Committee for Research and Advanced Studies, a Real Estate & Planning Subcommittee, and a Community Development Subcommittee. Each committee is comprised of a diverse range of leaders with unique backgrounds and skillsets to help ensure Keystone’s long-term strategic imperatives are met: an emphasis on programming and placemaking, achieving collaborative regional scale and creating positive, equitable and inclusive impact.  

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About Black & Veatch

Black & Veatch is an employee-owned engineering, procurement, consulting and construction company with a 100-year legacy of innovations in sustainable infrastructure. With locations around the world, Black & Veatch is an innovator, collaborator and future maker, characterized by curiosity, a trait that helps them find solutions to complex challenges. See more at www.bv.com

About Children’s Mercy

Founded in 1897, Children’s Mercy is one of the nation’s top pediatric medical centers. With not-for-profit hospitals in Missouri and Kansas, and numerous specialty clinics in both states, Children’s Mercy provides the highest level of care for children from birth through the age of 21. U.S. News & World Report has repeatedly ranked Children’s Mercy as one of “America's Best Children's Hospitals.” For the fourth time in a row, Children’s Mercy has achieved Magnet nursing designation, awarded to only about eight percent of all hospitals nationally, for excellence in quality care. Its faculty of more than 800 pediatric subspecialists and researchers across more than 40 subspecialties are actively involved in clinical care, pediatric research, and educating the next generation of pediatric subspecialists. Thanks to generous philanthropic and volunteer support, Children’s Mercy provides medical care to every child who passes through its doors, regardless of a family’s ability to pay. For more information about Children’s Mercy and its research, visit childrensmercy.org. For breaking news and videos, follow us on TwitterYouTube and Facebook.

About VMLY&R

VMLY&R is a global brand and customer experience agency that harnesses design, technology, and creativity to transform brands and businesses. The agency is made up of nearly 7,000 employees worldwide with principal offices in Kansas City, New York, London, São Paulo, Shanghai, Singapore and Sydney. VMLY&R works with client partners, including Colgate-Palmolive, Danone, Dell, Ford, New Balance, Pfizer and Wendy’s. For more information, visit www.vmlyr.com. VMLY&R is a WPP company (NYSE: WPP).

About Keystone Innovation District

The Keystone Innovation District is the front door to innovation in Kansas City.

From healthcare to high tech, from agriculture to architecture, Keystone will be focused on using design as the unifying idea across programming, partnerships and initiatives. Whether it’s designing smarter cities, building better products, shaping the future of work, or any other challenge the community commits to attack, Keystone aims to advance the regional goals of shared prosperity, and accelerate economic opportunities for all in the KC-area.

Centered at 18th and Troost, between the Historic 18th and Vine Cultural District to the east, the Crossroads Arts District to the west, Hospital Hill to the south and Downtown to the north, the Keystone Innovation District will be more than just a “place,” rather it will be the home to a community where all are welcome to join with universities, corporate partners and philanthropic organizations to design the future.

The Keystone Innovation District is established by the Keystone Community Corporation, an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to planning, developing and operating a thriving, diverse and globally-relevant innovation community in Kansas City.

See more at www.keystonedistrict.org