Reconnect to Community: Agenda


Welcome and Overview  |  8:30 a.m. 

Trust in government and each other has been waning for decades and people have been slowly stepping away from community life. However, we have reason to be optimistic: communities are working together, in new and innovative ways, to engage residents and address critical community challenges.

Speakers:  Leslie Boney, Institute for Emerging Issues  |  Read Bio  • Jack Cecil, Biltmore Farms  |  Read Bio

Unprecedented Times  |  8:45 a.m. 

How We Got Here: The State of Our Disconnection 

Where are we failing and why does it matter? With trust in each other and in our institutions waning, where do we go from here?

Keynote Speaker:  David Brooks, New York Times columnist  |  Read Bio


A Look Back: The History of Civic Engagement in North Carolina 

A historic perspective of community involvement in America, with an emphasis on North Carolina. Based on North Carolina’s history, what are barriers and opportunities when reconnecting to community?

Speaker:  Darin Waters, PhD, UNC Asheville  | Read Bio


Civil Dialogue  |  9:50 a.m. 

Why Can’t We Talk to Each Other? 

In a world filled with so many communication tools, it can often become more difficult to communicate with one another, which only creates more disconnection. How can we have more meaningful and impactful discussions with those who are different than us?

Speaker:  Mary Lou Addor, North Carolina State University  |  Read Bio


Civil Dialogue as a Solution to Problem-Solving

Re-enactment of a real life disagreement where civil dialogue and discourse worked. What were obstacles faced and how were they overcome? What has happened since this occurred?

Speakers: Julie Mayfield, Asheville City Council & Mountain True  |  Read Bio  • Jason Walls, Duke Energy   |  Read Bio

Break | 10:40 a.m.

Moving to Solutions  |  11 a.m. 

What Civic Engagement Looks Like

Some communities have a strong culture of engagement where residents, organizations, government and others recognize and value engagement and community decision making. They encourage participation and make engagement more accessible. This section will highlight innovations in civic engagement in a series of short, inspiring Ted Talks.


Introducing Innovation in Civic Engagement

What are ‘on-ramps’ into civic life and how are people innovating to make engagement more accessible.

Speaker: Tracey Greene-Washington and Kate B. Reynolds Foundation & CoThinkk  |  Read Bio


Human-Centered Tech and Data

The Sunlight Foundation created Open Cities, a project that is improving civic engagement and helping communities solve problems.

Speaker:  Katya Abazajian, Sunlight Foundation  |  Read Bio


Using Arts and Music to Create Inclusive Community Spaces

Several national and international movements use arts and music to create community and increase community involvement.

Speaker: Jennifer Pickering and Ehren Cruz, LEAF  |  Read Bio


Unleashing the Power of National Service

How can a year of service be an onramp into civic life? What could having a cadre of young passionate people do to support your community? How can service years be leveraged to solve community challenges and bridge divides?

Speaker: Parc Smith, American YouthWorks and ServeAustin  |  Read Bio


Emerging Success: The Story of Five NC Communities  |  11:40 a.m. 

Communities look very different now than they did 10, 20 or 50 years ago. We need to create new ways to engage residents across North Carolina. Addressing big community challenges requires new skills (as well as honing old skills), strategies and experience in talking to and working with each other. Five North Carolina communities actively working on successful or promising initiatives to increase civic engagement and address critical community challenges share their stories, challenges, and accomplishments, and answer questions from the audience.


The Five Community Initiatives are:

  • Choosing Equity Series (Asheville)
    (Partners include: Asheville City Schools Foundation, Asheville City Schools, University of North Carolina Asheville)

  • Rural Opportunity Institute (Edgecombe County)
    (Partners include: Rural Opportunity Institute, Edgecombe County School District, Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Department, Mental Health America, Community Enrichment Organization, Eastern Star Baptist Church, Vidant Hospital & Rural Health Network, Boys & Girls Club of Tar River Region,  Michael’s Angels Girls Club)

  • One Team. One Goal. One Community. (Elizabeth City)
    (Partners include: Elizabeth City State University, City of Elizabeth City, Pasquotank County)

  • Explore Elkin (Elkin)
    (Partners include: Town of Elkin, Explore Elkin, CAVU Marketing)

  • Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts (Winston-Salem)
    (Partners include: Kenan Institute for the Arts, Emc Arts, Mary’s Mavens, Mixxer, Hustle Winston-Salem, Happy Hill Arts)


Diving Deeper: Building a Successful Community Initiative  |  12:10 p.m. 

Community teams engage with audience members to share learnings and feedback.

Lunch | 12:20 p.m.

Key Conversation on Civic Reconnection—The Political Perspective (Video)  |  1:35 p.m. 

Two members of the North Carolina General Assembly—a Democrat and a Republican—discuss what brought them to public service and the role the General Assembly plays in engaging residents.

Speakers:  Senator Terry Van Duyn  |  Read Bio  • Representative Chuck McGrady  |  Read Bio


The Imperative of Engagement  |  2 p.m. 

Speaker:  Lt. Governor Dan Forest discusses the need to come together, no matter our differences, to create more productive North Carolina communities.  |  Read Bio


Key Conversations on Civic Reconnection—The Higher Ed Perspective  |  2:25 p.m. 

Discussion of the importance of having a university that is responsive to and engaged with its surrounding communities. How can students contribute and what do they receive from engagement efforts?

Speakers:  Hope Williams, North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities  |  Read Bio  • Bettylenah Njaramba, President, UNC Association of Student Governments  |  Read Bio


Key Conversations on Civic Reconnection—The Media Perspective  |  3:05 p.m. 

The Media Perspective

New and old media discuss the role media plays in community engagement and how to rebuild trust in the media.

Speakers: Travis Mitchell,UNC TV  |  Read Bio  • Angie Newsome, Carolina Public Press  |  Read Bio  • Allen Johnson, Greensboro News and Record  |  Read Bio


Closing Keynote: Moving Ideas to Action  |  3:45 p.m. 

The story of how our closing keynote speaker initiated a series of courageous conversations with local Law Enforcement Professionals on the issue of race relations and tensions between the police and communities of color, and how those conversations led to the process of building bridges of trust & legitimacy through an entire community.

Speakers: Tru Pettigrew, Tru Access  |  Read Bio  • Chief Tony Godwin, Town of Cary  |  Read Bio


Moving to Action/Closing:  |  4:20 p.m. 

Speakers: Leslie Boney, Director Institute for Emerging Issues  |  Read Bio  • Caroline Farmer, NC Commission on Volunteerism and Service  |  Read Bio