Meet the 2018 Vanguard Class Headed for New Orleans

Next City and the New Orleans Business Alliance today announced the class of 2018 Vanguards who will convene in New Orleans for the next Vanguard conference, September 12-15, 2018.

Vanguard is an annual experiential urban leadership gathering of the best and brightest, working to improve cities across sectors such as urban planning, community development, entrepreneurship, government, transportation, sustainability, design, art and media.

This year our Vanguard co-host is the New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA), a public-private partnership that is the official economic development organization for the city.  

The 2018 Vanguard fellows include philanthropic changemakers, academics, policymakers and planners working for influential organizations such as the Urban League and National Trust for Historic Preservation, as well as the Kresge and Ford foundations.

Among this cohort of impressive and dedicated leaders are: a Cincinnati community organizer who grew an initial $2,000 grant for black and brown entrepreneurs into a robust board-approved budget of $511,000, alongside $300,000 in a micro-loan fund; a NOLA preservationist working to raise awareness about New Orleans’ modernist, 20th-century architecture; and a Mumbai planner educating school-age children about urban design through workshops and play. From Hong Kong to Austin, this class of innovators demonstrates ingenuity and resilience to tackle the global challenges of our delicate urban landscape. View the entire Vanguard group here.

“We are excited to bring urban leaders from around the world to New Orleans,” said Next City Board Chair and Vanguard alumnus Eric D. Shaw. “I know from my time living in Louisiana that New Orleans residents are full of big ideas. We’re happy to have our Vanguards be part of this tradition.”

The Vanguard initiative was launched by Next City, a journalism nonprofit with a mission to inspire social, economic and environmental change in cities through reporting and events around the world. This year we chose 44 Vanguards from a pool of more than 500 applicants, in a highly selective process. Applications came from across the U.S., as well as Canada, India, Hong Kong and the U.K.  

“It’s an honor to represent a community picked by Next City for the Vanguard conference,” said Quentin L. Messer, president and CEO of the New Orleans Business Alliance. “New Orleans benefits from a strong portfolio of success stories that other cities can learn from, but we also have our challenges. While progress has been made, like other cities, New Orleans continues to grapple with the challenges of bringing greater economic security to more of our friends and neighbors and ensuring that our economic growth portrait reflects all of the faces on our local color palette.  Having a collection of the world’s best thinkers and urban experts in town can only contribute to developing solutions for creating a more inclusive economy in New Orleans.”

In addition to NOLABA, several local partners are engaged in supporting the leadership gathering, including: Downtown Development District, The Port of New Orleans, Blue Bikes, Liberty’s Kitchen, Limousine Livery, Palmisano, Pepperoni’s Café, Tulane School of Architecture, Sonder and the Pythian Market. Among our national partners are The Solutions Journal, KS Group, Lyft and Eric D. Shaw.

The conference will unfold as a three-day series of presentations, workshops and neighborhood tours tied to the theme “Equity as a Growth Strategy.” Initially, the Vanguards will immerse themselves in New Orleans. Guest speakers will provide a firsthand cultural, economic, and social-equity perspective on the city, which this year celebrates its 300th anniversary. Interactive panel discussions will address topics such as affordable housing and food insecurity, showcasing the leaders who are shaping the future of the city. River and bike tours will put our cohort on the streets (and on the water) to see up close the innovations and the challenges that NOLA celebrates and grapples with every day

The conference culminates in the “Next City Big Idea Workshop,” a design-focused collaboration with community members, where teams of Vanguards use their own expertise and the knowledge gained through neighborhood explorations to address a challenge facing the city as it works toward a vision of social and economic equity. This workshop is an opportunity to create a long-term bond between the Vanguard network and the New Orleans community. It ends with local experts reviewing the proposed projects with an eye toward how this group can recommend concrete steps to amplify the thought leadership already powering this kinetic city.

About Next City

Next City’s mission is to inspire social, economic and environmental change in cities through journalism and events around the world. Our vision is for a world in which cities are not in crisis and are instead, leading the way toward a more sustainable, equitable future.

Next City provides daily online coverage of the leaders, policies and innovations driving progress in metropolitan regions across the world. In an age when original, on-the-ground reporting is increasingly rare, we send our writers into urban communities to produce our award-winning long-form content. In addition to our online journalism, we produce events including the annual urban leadership conference, Vanguard. Next City is an independent, nonpartisan nonprofit that adheres to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. We are dedicated to producing journalism that is accurate, transparent, fair and impactful.

About the New Orleans Business Alliance

A public-private partnership between the business community and city government, the New Orleans Business Alliance is the official economic development organization for New Orleans. Formed in 2010, NOLABA’s goal is to position the city as the ideal intersection of commerce and culture. Focused on holistic economic development, NOLABA works to attract new business investment to New Orleans and assist incumbent businesses with growth, while offering New Orleans citizens comprehensive talent development programs beneficial for job seekers and employees alike. Economic development matters only because people matter. By pursuing an inclusive economic development strategy, all New Orleanians will have enhanced economic security.

NOLABA is an Accredited Economic Development Organization from the International Economic Development Council, the largest economic development membership organization. Only 70 economic development organizations globally and four in Louisiana have earned accreditation. Visit for more information.

For questions or press inquiries, please contact Sara Schuenemann by email or phone at 267-239-0762.

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