In a Brookings Institution brief, Bruce Katz identified global cities as the drivers of economic growth. The research found that to grow and lead, cities need to be “globally fluent” and be able to fully engage the world. Another study by the Brookings Institution pegs Pittsburgh’s immigration growth as slower than other metropolitan areas but recent initiatives aim to change that.

Mayor Bill Peduto’s Welcoming Pittsburgh initiative seeks to make Pittsburgh a more welcoming city for immigrants. Other organizations such as the World Affairs Council, Global Pittsburgh and Vibrant Pittsburgh are working to create networks for immigrants, attract a global workforce and foster greater understanding of world issues.

Census data already shows increasing momentum in immigration and the growing number of international organizations in the city is indicative of that. Brandon Blache-Cohen and Nathan Darity of Amizade—a global service learning nonprofit–saw the need to catalyze the same connections and networks between organizations. This spurred the launch of The Global Switchboard – a coworking space in Lawrenceville specifically for globally-focused organizations in Pittsburgh.

The Global Switchboard launched in beta last May and testament to the emergent need, quickly filled its spaces to capacity. There are currently 12 member organizations ranging from Armada Global, a risk management firm for overseas projects to Building New Hope, a worker-owned coffee cooperative to the Somali Bantu Community Association, a nonprofit that supports the Somali community in the region.

The goal of the Global Switchboard is not only to provide space but also to provide active programming and coalition building to enable the organizations to expand and build capacity.

Aweys Mwaliya of the Somali Bantu Community Association recently joined The Global Switchboard and has already benefited from co-location with other globally-minded organizations, “We have only been here for a month and a member, Janet Smith, has already expressed interest in working with us to give ESL classes to our community. Another organization, Global Solutions, has plans to help with educational programs.”

Nathan Darity sees this as an example of the deep potential for organizational collaboration. “Every organization has a mission and vision. This is about creating a space where we run up into each other, where we collaborate. We are at the cross-hairs of great cross-sectoral collaboration within our city.”

The Global Switchboard officially launched last weekend and in November will launch full operations of its coworking space in Lawrenceville.

Leah Lizarondo

Leah Lizarondo is a food advocate, writer and speaker. She is also the co-founder of 412 Food Rescue, an organization that seeks to eliminate food waste to make an impact on hunger and the environment....