Last week I was humbled to be part of a really amazing group of people- Next American City gathered 40 of the best and brightest people under 40 who are making a significant impact on the future of their city for a two day leadership summit. I was floored when I got accepted into this group at first and during my time in St. Louis I had several realizations.
Firstly, the chance for like minded professionals working in diverse urban environments really need more opportunities to connect and share, to learn from each others success and failures and to be encouraged to excel even more. Much of the work this group is involved in is hard, changes are slow and rewards are few and far between. If we are wanting to raise new leaders across our cities to replace the aging boomers currently in control then we must invest in the younger generations wisely. Exposure to other young leaders is humbling and inspiring and we need both! Without inspiration it’s hard to expect these leaders will sustain their efforts in these important roles and sectors. Without continued humility we risk developing egos that blur our vision of what we are trying to achieve- time with others like these Vanguard should be humbling- 40 people all doing work that we couldn’t really do ourselves, certainly not alone. This is a valuable experience. It’s easy to be big in your own little pond. Humility renders us balanced and fuels the desire to do more great things. Or to start to!
Secondly I realized that this sharing and learning is important to our growth, understanding and thinking. I’ve been part of the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership for 6 years and am about to end my three year term on it’s executive committee. In this network of 37 cities across the USA we often proclaim our value as being a network of professionals with rich data and experience and suggest that this fact is our strength. I disagree- the twice yearly conferences of under 100 people working on urban issues like the folks in the Vanguard are in fact are the two highlights of my year and have been for at least four years. This drives home the importance of forums to share and learn from our work. A place to be challenged and inspired, and chance to learn new methods and tools, to be forced to share our own work and thus forced to question what is important or impacting in our own work. The short time at Vanguard gave us all rich opportunities to share our work, our passions and our frustrations. Being required to do so is an important process that many of us don’t get pushed to do in our home towns. Or cities.
I’m excited to continue to develop relationships amongst the 2012 Vanguard peeps. These networks are very powerful in our future- although I’m concerned about network overload personally I see such value in them. Being able to reach out to a colleague in a city in a different state who has worked through the same issue, being able to jointly develop tools and applications and being able to talk through struggles is an invaluable gift. For me the NNIP, Code for America and now the Vanguard are perhaps the most valuable things I possess professionally.
Here’s my interview on Next American City on my work in Oakland with Urban Strategies Council and OpenOakland: http://americancity.org/daily/entry/meet-our-vanguard-stephen-spiker
Below are a few pics from the St. Louis Vanguard summit, for more check my photography site:
Welcome to St. Louis?
Our welcoming session in the absolutely incredible City Museum
Pre-event hangout at Bridge. Don’t ask how many beers they had on tap…
Approaching City Museum- some appropriate confusion and excitement
Inside the wonders of City Museum
Exploring City Museum
The Nebula- awesome co-working space on Cherokee St.
Excellent redevelopment work in Old North St. Louis
And finally being regaled by stories from the owner of Blueberry Hill
View the whole set on Flickr