CivicCon speaker events were never intended to be entertaining. But after 37 events over the past three years, it is safe to say they almost always are. How else can you explain virtual crowds consistently in the range of 9,000 to 15,000 during the second half of 2020?
CivicCon brings some of the top experts from around the nation – and sometimes from other countries – to share best practices and “what great looks like” in other communities. The goal is to encourage educated public dialogue and civic engagement that leads to positive change in our community.
We sometimes refer to the impact of these speaker events as raising “the Civic IQ.”
This year’s topics and speakers promise once again to lift our thinking about how civic engagement can result in dialogue in the community and within local government that leads to positive change. Seven speakers have already committed to coming to our community in scheduled virtual events — or with live events once pandemic conditions dissipate to the point it is permissible.
In 2021, speakers are scheduled to share best practices and ideas about improving schools for our kids, strategies to drive the local economy, understanding the importance of creating plans for communities, and learning strategies from other communities that are ultimately taking the homeless off the streets and changing lives.
Other speaker events include an urban planner known for his focus on neighborhood improvements, hearing practical advice from an expert on helping companies and communities learn how to effectively diversify the workplace and a national leader who will describe the roles of citizens and law enforcement in assuring public safety.
Scheduled for the first three months of 2021:
- Jan. 26: Dr. Timothy Smith, the new Escambia County Schools superintendent, will present on the topic “We Must Reach All Students” and share his impressions after his initial weeks on the job.
- Feb. 4: Andrew Davis, one of the most popular keynote speakers on marketing on the business convention circuit, will talk about how our community can use its improved quality of life ratings by U.S. News and World Report and other sources that rank communities and drive our economy.
- March date TBD: Tim Keane, planning commissioner in Atlanta and former planning director in Charleston, S.C., on the importance of plans and then executing on the plans. He came to Atlanta five years ago and will detail how planning during that time is already paying dividends to residents. And he will show how plans were integral to Charleston flowering into one of the nation’s most desirable cities to live.
Other committed speakers for the April through June period include:
- Rachel Solotaroff is president and CEO of Central City Concern and is a physician and a national voice on services for the homeless. Her non-profit in Portland has partnerships with the city, the county and state governments to provide and coordinate not only housing for the homeless but helping with health and job search needs. It has been touted as a national model for helping communities solve the homeless issue.
- Vincent Brown, CEO and president, V. Randolph Brown Consulting, shares stories of 30 years of experience creating diverse workplaces and the positive impact of this intentional act on lives and communities.
- Raymond Gindroz is co-founder and principal emeritus of Urban Design Associates in Pittsburgh. He recently was awarded the Seaside Prize for Innovation and Revitalizing Inner City Neighborhoods and Transforming Public Housing Projects into Mixed Income Neighborhoods. He taught urban design at Yale University for two decades. Gindroz speaks at events throughout the world and is principal author of The Urban Design Handbook and The Architectural Pattern book.
- Dr. Cedric Alexander spoke at a CivicCon event in August 2020 about the need for police reform that creates a culture of guardians rather than warriors. He returns to share thoughts about the role of citizens and law enforcement working together to create a safer community.
Negotiations are underway with other speakers on more topics in 2021, including a second speaker from another non-profit that has a proven track record with a different approach to help solve the homeless problem.
If you have not attended a CivicCon event either virtually or live, then you should mark the dates of these events on your calendar. The events are free and open to everyone. You can also watch video of every past CivicCon speaker event at pnj.com/civiccon.
We are aiming to raise your Civic IQ by sharing the messages of these experts. But we can also safely say you will find it entertaining and a diversion worthy of a “night out.” And you will be part of the civic conversation that is changing our community for the better.
Terry Horne is the executive director of CivicCon and the former publisher of the Pensacola News Journal. CivicCon is a partnership of the News Journal and the Studer Community Institute to make our community a better place to live, grow, work and invest through smart planning and civic conversations.