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Center for Financial Markets

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Conducts research and constructs programs designed to facilitate the smooth and efficient operation of financial markets

Small Business Policy and Innovation Initiative

Small Business Policy and Innovation

Our Mission

Small businesses, employing half of all private-sector workers and contributing nearly half of the US economic output, face challenges in formation and sustainability, posing risks to economic growth, job creation, and innovation over the past 25 years.

The Milken Institute Small Business Policy and Innovation Initiative conducts research and analysis on macroeconomic trends and policies impacting small businesses and start-ups. Our aim is to offer policy recommendations and program solutions for fostering an entrepreneurial environment that promotes inclusive prosperity across regions and demographics.

Our research and programming focus on understanding the factors and trends influencing the launch, competition, and success of small businesses and start-ups in the modern economy. We focus on the following key areas:

  • Innovative Finance & Equitable Access to Capital

  • Technology & the Internet

  • Workforce Development

By the Numbers


of all businesses in the US are small businesses.


of all new jobs were created by small businesses.


Our innovation rate could quadruple given more equitable access to capital.

How We Implement Our Mission

  • Conducting research and analysis to identify the key challenges small businesses face with a focus on driving change to benefit both traditional small businesses and start-ups

  • Connecting programs, publications, and convenings to policy, regulatory changes, and economic trends that impact the entrepreneurial community

  • Convening founders, investors, business leaders, academic experts, policymakers, government officials, and other key stakeholders to contribute ideas that drive action and benefit the entire entrepreneurial ecosystem

Our Vision and Policy Goals
The evolving landscape of community banking, technology, globalization, and policy changes disproportionately affect small businesses and start-ups, key drivers of job creation and innovation. The Milken Institute Small Business Policy and Innovation Initiative aims to address these challenges with innovative solutions.
More Information
To learn more about this initiative, contact Associate Director of Small Business Policy and Innovation, Kristen Fanarakis.
Contact Kristen

Geo-Economics Initiative

Public Finance
Geo-Economics Initiative


The Milken Institute’s Geo-Economics Initiative helps policy, business, and civil society leaders navigate the rapidly evolving global economic landscape. NGI focuses on three priority areas: harnessing innovation, catalyzing climate finance, and rewiring globalization. The Initiative leverages the Milken Institute’s expertise, global reach and networks of private investors and community partners to create pro-active strategies for the new era of disruptions and advance sustainable and equitable market-based solutions to pressing US and global challenges. 

Priority Areas

The Geo-Economics Initiative is uniquely positioned to help business, government, philanthropy, and community leaders navigate global transformations. The Initiative works with resilience-minded leaders to develop the insights, tools, and mechanisms required to make sound investment and policy decisions. It helps governments unlock private sector capital, investors navigate the emerging landscape, and communities attract investment to advance sustainable solutions.

Geo-Economics Initiative focus areas include:

Innovating the Future
Global prosperity is increasing through technology and globalization, but many communities have been left behind while some civic institutions have weakened. Emerging technologies like AI could either accelerate inequality and polarization or they could be a key tool to unlock societal advancement and individual opportunity. The Initiative is focused on necessary innovation for future growth and competitiveness that will help usher in a new era of human development that leads to breakthroughs in tailored education, gov-tech, and civic engagement.

Bolstering Climate Resilience
The race to decarbonize the global economy depends on the success of efforts to unlock and mobilize trillions of dollars to finance climate mitigation and adaptation, especially for the countries and populations most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The Initiative is partnering with stakeholders at the local, national, and global levels to build innovative mechanisms to accelerate public, private and philanthropic climate investment at scale.

Rewiring Trade and Supply Chains
Geopolitics, technology, and climate change are among the forces rewiring globalization across regions and industries. These dynamics are disrupting established relationships and creating new opportunities for integration. The Initiative works with public and private sector leaders to understand these trends, build resilience and competitiveness in critical sectors, and advance reforms to the international economic system to meet contemporary challenges.

Contact Us

To learn more about the initiative, email Rachel Fox Smothermon at [email protected].

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Better Bonds and Best Practices

Public Finance
Better Bonds and Best Practices


Launched in January 2021, the Public Finance Program (PFIN) aims to accelerate cross-sectoral outcomes through events, trainings, and technical assistance, and advance policy and financial innovation to address key challenges facing the $4 trillion public finance field. Our Advisory Council is composed of executive-level leadership who provide strategic program guidance on key emerging issues.  

Public Finance Forum

The Public Finance Forum is designed to foster cross-sectoral dialogue and collaboration. Through this forum, professionals from diverse backgrounds converge to address the multifaceted challenges that public finance faces. It serves as a hub for the exchange of innovative ideas, best practices, and experiences, creating a space where participants can explore new avenues for tackling complex financial issues and driving positive change.

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CFO Forum

The CFO Forum provides an exclusive arena for in-depth discussions concerning financial strategies and trends that impact cities. Addressing the distinctive challenges that major city CFOs face, this peer-to-peer forum delves into topics ranging from municipal budgeting and urban investment to localized risk assessment and resource allocation. By fostering a community of city CFOs and offering a platform for networking and knowledge exchange, the City CFO Forum empowers financial leaders to navigate their roles with heightened confidence and foresight, directly contributing to the financial health and growth of urban areas.

Learn More
Comment Letter
ESG and Public Finance

Read the ESG letter from our Public Finance Advisory Council to the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board.

Read Comment Letter

Risk Management

We recognize the paramount importance of identifying, assessing, and mitigating financial risks. Our Enterprise Risk Management initiative focuses on equipping practitioners with the tools and strategies necessary to effectively manage uncertainties that can impact public finance decisions and avoid costs. By cultivating a comprehensive understanding of risk dynamics and offering insights into practical risk management approaches, we aim to bolster overall financial resilience and promote stability within the public finance arena.

Upcoming Product Launch: Fall 2023 

Stories from the Field
In this Stories from the Field series, Natalie Cohen, senior fellow, Milken Institute Center for Financial Markets, interviews leaders in the field of public finance to trace their career paths and identify innovative accomplishments from which others can learn. We hope our readers and listeners—whether new to the field or experienced and seeking to advance their public finance careers—will learn more about the area and find inspiration from their innovation.

PFIN Fellows

We are proud to develop events, research and technical assistance products with the help of top-flight MI Finance and Public Finance Fellows: 

Rachel Reilly 
Natalie Cohen

Advisory Council
The Public Finance Advisory Council plays a pivotal role in our initiative, bringing together a distinguished group of executive-level and cross-sectoral leaders who offer strategic guidance and direction for our program's development. These experts provide invaluable insights into emerging issues within the public finance landscape, contributing their wealth of experience to shape the program's focus and priorities. Their counsel ensures that our efforts remain aligned with the evolving needs of the field.
Meet The Advisory Council