Robert Donnan is an independent community and economic development consultant who focuses upon small business coaching, downtown revitalization, entrepreneurial ecosystem development and the creative economy.
Robert helps startup entrepreneurs, small businesses and nonprofit organizations, including philanthropic investors, translate strategic opportunities into action and accomplishment. He also conducts local and regional economic assessments, develops strategic frameworks and policy advisories, facilitates community-based initiatives, advises regional network-building, and leads strategic planning efforts.
Seven years ago, Robert was a researcher and co-author for the Kentucky Arts Council’s report and slate of recommendations focusing on the commonwealth’s creative industry, released in December 2014. In Winter 2019, he completed a two-year study called Prelude to Prosperity: 12 Priority Investments for the Revitalization of Downtown Hazard. In fall 2021 he completed a feasibility study for the City of Pikeville that addresses entrepreneurial opportunities to develop the local creative economy in Pikeville’s downtown.
He also has worked with arts organizations in N.C. regarding their development and implementation of strategies to support equity, diversity and inclusion regarding their governance and programming.
Throughout much of 2021, he collaborated with a four-person team of economic and community development professionals to develop a Catalytic Playbook and related tools that will help guide anticipated investments in rural downtown revitalization by a coalition of partners including the Central Appalachian Network, the Appalachian Funders Network, Invest Appalachia, and the Downtown Appalachia Center (W.V.).
In 2009-2010, Robert conducted a creative economy assessment, facilitated community meetings, and helped develop strategic recommendations for the creative and tourism-based economy in Letcher County, Ky., as part of a long-term effort to develop alternatives to the regional coal economy in that distressed area of Appalachia. Other places where he has been part of creative placemaking initiatives include Hazard, Ky.; Elizabeth City, N.C.; the Triad Region (Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and High Point) in N.C.; Charleston, S.C.; Wilson, N.C.; and Martinsville/Henry County, Va.
From 2010 to 2012, Robert was a cofounder and principal with Innovation Orchestra, a small “design thinking” consulting firm that worked closely with private sector firms and community-based organizations to help them better understand and resolve emerging challenges and persistent problems. In this role, he collaborated in 2011 with the N.C. Office of State Personnel to design and implement Shift2011, a three-month statewide training program in creativity and design thinking for senior-level division leaders and program managers throughout N.C. state government.