From June 14-17, magic was in the air in Cleveland. In addition to the Cavaliers winning the game that would put them on track to the city’s first national championship in 52 years, over 200 leaders from across the country gathered in Cleveland, aligned in purpose and passion, to advance inclusive innovation under the banner of Forward Cities. Just look at this 3 minute recap video which captures the spirit of this gathering and the bio link which introduces you some of the amazing talent that came together to learn, share and work with each other.
The Cleveland convening marked a watershed moment for our four participating cities: New Orleans, Detroit, Durham and Cleveland. Gone were the general abstractions about the obvious importance of this work, and generalities were replaced by honest conversations and tangible examples of programs that are working to grow the number of locally owned, minority led enterprises in our cities. This two-year project brought all of us together in ways that we had never been connected before while connecting these four participating cities like never before. This final Cleveland convening has also left all of us feeling energized and validated.
As Ed Boyd, one of the founding partners of iNvictus in Durham, wrote a few days after the Cleveland convening had ended, “I have literally spent my entire life as an entrepreneur and volunteer attempting to positively affect change in urban minority communities…After a while in this work, you begin to feel like you've exhausted all your energies and told your story to all within your reach. Forward Cities has changed that. It's re-energized our efforts. It's allowed us to collaborate across cities and allowed us to see the issues from different perspectives and see how the solutions have been and are being addressed from differing perspectives.”
And though this was the last official Forward Cities convening, the clear consensus was that this couldn’t be the end of the conversation.
Deborah Hoover President and CEO of the Burton D. Morgan Foundation stated it best when she said, " We have peeled the onion back and we've gotten into some conversations that we haven't had in our region before. That's been for me – and I think for my colleagues – one of the most valuable things about Forward Cities. We can now talk about these things in ways we were not able to before. We cannot lose this. We must remember what we learned here."
Fortunately for all of us, national funders like the Case Foundation, as well as Forward Cities local donors in each of the cities, have made inclusive innovation and entrepreneurship a central strategy in their philanthropy. And thanks to our national partners, the Aspen Institute and the Urban Institute, our web site learning platform developed by Issue Media Group, and the pr/media campaign that we launched in Cleveland with HEY NOW! MEDIA, awareness of the efforts that are working in these four cities to make our innovation ecosystems more inclusive are being noticed nationally like never before. So, very much like the children's story book "The Little Engine that Could," we feel that this little project called Forward Cities has had positive ripple effects that go beyond our four participating cities.
While the nature and form of Forward Cities will change as we look to the future, we remain committed to supporting these efforts and getting others to the table to share in tangible, real, and helpful ways that moves our collective work forward.
In the meantime, we are deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to bring such a remarkable group of committed leaders and funders together to share and participate in this journey. It has been truly magical.
Thank you and goodbye everyone!
Christopher Gergen, co-founder of Forward Cities
Denise Byrne, co-founder of Forward Cities