Who we are
Where we started
Inner City Innovators started out as a movement of individuals who grew up in the hood, still lived in the hood, and grew tired of the conditions plaguing their hood. After experiencing one of the deadliest summers on record for West Palm Beach, Ricky Aiken and Terryon Chapman began organizing their peers and stepping up to the plate in order to advocate for their community. After losing a dear friend and mentee in Johnny Davis that very year, we realized advocacy wouldn’t be enough. Johnny’s death was the seed planted to birth our focus on mentoring, community engagement, anti-violence workshops, and various other initiatives aimed at breaking the cycles of violence which have plagued our communities for far too long.
The following year, as a result of Johnny’s death we stepped up our community engagement efforts, worked with city leaders to create jobs programs specifically for the young men most likely to be victimized by gun violence during the summer months, and began our hybrid mentoring efforts. As a result of our efforts we delivered the inaugural Summer of Peace to our community, the most violent community in our city: Watch Video
Our goal is to plant a self-sustaining Hope Dealer® Clique in every major community of concentrated violence in America. We believe the same difference we’re made in our community can be made by like-minded individuals in theirs. We believe that our Hope Dealer™ Mentoring Cliques are the key to eradicating youth delinquency and gun violence in communities like ours.
What are Hope Dealer® Cliques? Hope Dealer Cliques are young people from the target communities who are focused on embodying the changes so desperately needed in their communities. These Cliques meet on a weekly basis for mentoring, leadership development, and community service. It is our conviction that real change happens when those who need it lead. No one has more incentive to eradicate youth delinquency and gun violence more than the people who call these communities home. Our youth are going to gravitate towards cliques and gangs for a sense of belonging, why not give them something great to belong to.
Our Ambitious Goals: Someday Goal: Establish Hope Dealer Clique in every major community of concentrated violence in North America.
5-year Goal: Establish Hope Dealer Clique in every major community of concentrated violence in South Florida.
1-year Goal: Establish Hope Dealer Clique in every major community of concentrated violence in Palm Beach County.
Monthly: Identify, recruit, and empower new Hope Dealers.
Weekly: Facilitate weekly Hope Dealer Mentoring sessions.
If you are aware of individuals you feel would be a great fit for leading a Hope Dealer Mentoring Clique in their community, please don’t hesitate to reach out!
Where we are going
Founder & Executive Director
Founder and Executive Director of Inner City Innovators, Ricky Aiken has made it his life’s mission to inspire and empower inner city youth to embody the change so desperately needed in their communities. Ricky is a boots-on-the-ground, “all-in”, agent of change who believes that real change happens when the people who need it, lead it. As a child raised in the inner city of West Palm Beach, Ricky has seen firsthand the plights associated with growing up in communities of concentrated disadvantage. He has suffered homelessness, witnessed familial addiction, lost friends to gun violence, and was expected to be another statistic; in fact he admits to being well on his way to fulfilling that destiny until he vowed to change the trajectory of his life.
Well known in West Palm Beach for his community activism, Aiken has found a way to use his life experiences and social capital to bring hope to his neighborhood and promote the value of resilience. A celebrated speaker and mentor, he has big plans for the inner city and is working hard to change the image and climate of inner city neighborhoods throughout Palm Beach County.
Born Norman J. Austin on March 4th, 1987 in Pahokee, Florida then later moved to West Palm Beach, Fl. where I grew up in Pleasant City and Tamarind area. I was raised by a single mother and two older brothers. With limited opportunities in my community, I grew up with a passion for sports like basketball, football and track, and field. I eventually obtained an Athletic Scholarship in Track & Field to attend Troy University in Troy, Alabama.
As a student-athlete I developed structure and skills that I carry with me every day. I developed a passion for Sport and was able to practice Sports Science and Sport Management. After four years as a student-athlete, I graduated from Troy University with a degree in Sport and Fitness Management B.S.