Lexington, Kentucky, Is the Host City for Next City’s National 2024 Vanguard Conference

Next City announces our newest Vanguard convening, happening September 23rd-26th, 2024, in Lexington, Kentucky. The conference will be organized in partnership with a local host committee and partners CivicLex and VisitLEX.

Applications for the next cohort are open from February 26th at 12 p.m. Eastern. Early bird applications cost $25 to submit before April 1st at 11:59 p.m. Eastern. Afterward, the application cost increases to $35 and the applications will close on May 6th at 11:59 p.m. Eastern. [UPDATE: WE HAVE EXTENDED THE DEADLINE TO MAY 31. Apply now!]

With a population of over 320,000, Lexington is a mid-sized city in Central Kentucky that serves as the main population center for much of Central and Appalachian Kentucky. Popularly known for its bourbon distilling and identity as the Horse Capital of the World, Lexington has more recently become known for its booming healthcare and agricultural industries, innovative planning practices, vibrant music, literary, and culinary communities, and its prominent LGBTQ culture. It is a city that blurs the lines between rural and urban.

“CivicLex and VisitLEX are honored to serve as the co-hosts for Next City’s 2024 Vanguard Conference,” says Richard Young, founder and executive director of CivicLex, and Mary Quinn Ramer, president of VisitLEX. “We look forward to a robust week of programming, panel discussions and exploration of the connection between Lexington and our neighbors in our surrounding rural region. We believe Lexington is an excellent backdrop for tackling some of the country’s most pressing challenges, and are excited to introduce innovators across the country to our community.” 

2024 is an important year for Lexington. The city is expanding its Urban Services Boundary for the first time in a generation. The first-in-the-nation boundary, a planning tool that separates urban and rural spaces in the city, will be one of the many touchpoints during Vanguard Lexington. A key focus for this year’s discussions will be on breaking down rural/urban binaries within Lexington – and the city’s nuanced relationship with rural Kentucky. Vanguard Lexington will also explore the city’s significant housing challenges, its complicated histories with race, its focus on civic innovation and democracy, and its work to build climate resilience.

“This year, which provides an opportunity for deep polarization, feels like the perfect time for Vanguard to take place in Lexington,” says Next City Editorial Director Deonna Anderson. “I look forward to learning about the interdependence of the region’s urban and rural communities and sharing their stories with Vanguards and Next City readers.”

In an election year where there will be many national conversations about the rural-urban divide, Vanguard Lexington will work to deconstruct preconceived narratives about how cities interact with rural people and places. Vanguard will demonstrate how Kentuckians are coming together across race, class, and geography to build a more equitable future.

“Lexington exemplifies the importance of cross-sector collaboration and the essential harmony between urban and rural communities. So, I’m eager for our Vanguards and the broader Next City audience to take the conference as a jumping-off point for learning and exchange,” says Next City Executive Director Lucas Grindley.

Next City’s annual Vanguard program brings together 40 rising urban professionals working to improve cities. Solving urban problems means working across divides and breaking silos, so Vanguard convenes professionals across borders and across sectors, including architecture, art, civic technology, community development, entrepreneurship, government, transportation and urban planning. Each year, Next City selects applicants whose smart ideas for cities, experience in the field and ambition for the future all show great promise. The conference is free.

With more than 600 Vanguards participating over the last 14 years (as first-year cohort members and subsequently as alumni), Next City has created a program that advances the nonprofit’s mission to inspire social, economic and environmental change in cities through media and events around the world.

The four-day Lexington conference will include workshops, tours and conversations about the newest innovations and most pressing questions in rural and urban development, community, culture, and public policy.

(Image Courtesy VisitLEX)

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