Metro Ideas Project is working on solutions for mid-sized cities

Executive director Joda Thongnopnua had a much different high school job compared to most people. It was a project he and a friend started on Twitter.

"We started what is essentially an early prototype version of the news wire service," Mr. Thongnopnua said. "It was acquired by MSNBC after we kinda ramped up to one and a half million followers."

Joda is twenty-four now. He graduated college at twenty-one and went to work for an ad agency.

"It's kind of an odd path from there to running a policy organization, but I've always had a real strong interest in politics," Mr. Thongnopnua said.

Metro Ideas Project launched in late 2015. It's a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank. They're a group of people who do research projects for mid-sized cities. Now Joda and the rest of the small but growing staff here is working to solve problems for cities with fewer than a million people.

"(The) specific focus for us is really on urban policy," Mr. Thongnopnua said.

The research firm's first major project was a look at school funding.

"We did an education project where we deconstructed a four hundred million dollar education or school system budget," Mr. Thongnopnua said. "We were really trying to figure out was how much money goes to each school."

One study they are working on now is a look at the benefit of innovation districts

"You'll have a very specialized group of people and institutions and organizations that are working on perhaps completely separate things, but are able to bounce off of each other to produce higher concentrations of innovative and productive work," Mr. Thongnopnua said. "I think beyond that it's a little unclear as to what they actually do, and that is the purpose of this research."

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