A Review of the 2017 NUSA Conference
Every year I try to attend a conference that explores one of my passions or teaches me something new. In 2015 I went to the Power Networking Conference in Dallas, TX focusing on leadership development. The next year I went to Chicago to dive into creative entrepreneurship. This year I attended the NUSA (Neighborhood USA) Conference in Omaha, Neb. I definitely got my monies worth at all three occasions, getting a chance to build relationships and develop my passions on a deeper level.
One thing is evident about the NUSA conference that stands out above all the others: it is about the celebration of passionate leaders from across the country – it is all about the people doing the real work of community engagement, strengthening our cities. These leaders are the local heroes/heroines who advocate for safer neighborhoods. They are responsible for curating and maintaining the culture of their own hometowns. I learned the true value of community activism from these neighborhood associations and the leaders that represent them.
It seems that now I have found a conference that married my love for the celebration of heritage with an entrepreneurial mindset – preserving the joy of our communities. As a review of this conference, it’s important to note that while the structure was very organized and “conferencey” (think large rooms, powerpoint presentations and surveys after every session), the people who attended were not your typical conference goers. I rarely saw an exchange of business cards. I could count on one hand how many people I saw wearing suits. This 3-day gathering was full of everyday people. The ones who don’t give a damn about how you feel about your suit and tie. They wanna know your mission and how you plan to build up not only the neighborhoods, but the people who live in it too. They don’t care about your master city plans, especially if they don’t reflect what residents wants. This conference was truly about inspiring and empowering the people.
While there is no time to share all of my notes with you, I will at least mention some of the highlights. And when you’re done reading this, be sure to take a look at all of the great work being implemented by these residential chargers and champions.
NUSA Conference Highlights
- Go to where the people are; don’t expect them to come to you.
- The secret to building a strong Community is to create partnerships, show up and listen.
- Awards luncheon: recognizing leadership with more than just a plaque. Each year, the conference recognizes a neighborhood leader and gives awards to multiple groups for collaborative community development efforts. Find more photos on their facebook page.
- Empowering communities from the top down. The Master City Plan is not important if it doesn’t involve the residents who live there. How Houston and Fort Worth, Texas got it right. The city officials depend on the leadership of local neighborhoods and respect their feedback.
- Historic “Black and Brown” neighborhoods should only be promoted by the City’s Tourism offices if the people still live there and are fully supported to stay. There should be businesses owned by “Black and Brown” residents, AND community centers AND municipal support for public services (parks, education, housing, etc).
- View more photos of the conference below: