Applications for the 2012 Vanguard conference are now open.
Ever since Next American City began publishing a magazine in 2003, we’ve attracted people in their twenties and thirties who are working to improve their communities — because that’s the demographic that founded and still runs this organization. We’ve built this network over the years through events in cities around the country, like our recent panel on affordable housing, the Tactical Urbanism Salon at the Storefront for Urban Innovation or a conversation about community benefits districts in San Francisco. And then in 2009, we decided to bring together some of the amazing people we’ve met in cities around the country for an annual conference we call Next American Vanguard.
Next American Vanguard gathers the country’s best and brightest urban advocates for a two-day conference. Our attendees are high-level, creative and ambitious people 39 years old or younger who seek to improve their cities and work for local non-profit organizations, in city government, as social entrepreneurs, artists and in other related fields. Each year, we select 40 people who have demonstrated their ability to have an impact on their city or the national dialogue about urban issues and bring them together for an inspiring series of presentations, workshops, tours and other activities. To learn more about this year’s conference in St. Louis, Mo., and to apply, please visit americancity.org/vanguard.
What happens at the Vanguard conference? At our last convening held in Philadelphia, we heard from the 2010 Vanguard class, which included people like Bethany Henderson, founder of City Hall Fellows; Dominic Robinson, who works at an influential organization in Syracuse called Centerstate CEO; Gary Gaston, who runs the Nashville Civic Design Center; and James Wright, who manages commercial corridor development for People’s Emergency Center here in Philly. Click here for a full list of Vanguard members and other information about Vanguard’s impact.
In addition to hearing about the amazing work these people are doing in their hometowns, we took a tour led by Pennsylvania Horticultural Society of urban agriculture projects and a tour of the Delaware River waterfront with PennPraxis. We also held a public discussion about the role of public art in cities, with panelists such as Gary Steuer, the City’s Chief Cultural Officer and artist Janet Echelman. On top of that, we had time to participate in small workshops on practical skills development — and also socialize over cocktails and dinner. We are excited to have new conversations, local experiences and public events in St. Louis with our growing network.
The Vanguard conference has consistently been the highlight of my year, and I think for everyone involved it reaffirms why we do the tough work we do and inspires us to do better. This year’s convening will gather dozens of new members and many alumni who are still very active in Next American City’s work. Indeed, we were brought to St. Louis at the encouragement of three former Vanguard members — Michael Allen, Jeff Vines and Randy Vines — who helped build a coalition including the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis, HOK, the City of St. Louis and many others. Next American City is also grateful for the support of Living Cities, which has made this event possible.
If this sounds like the kind of experience you or someone you know would be interested in, please don’t delay in applying — the deadline is July 31 at 5pm EST. And feel free to field questions in the comments below.