The Vanguard conference is a gathering of rising urban innovators working to make change in cities. Designed to bring together professionals working across disciplines and sectors, each Vanguard class includes policymakers and politicians, architects and urban planners, artists and mediamakers, all selected through a competitive application process. After more than a decade of Vanguard conferences, the Vanguards number more than 400. Learn more about Vanguards past and present on this page, where you can search for Vanguards and Vanguard alumni by discipline, geographic area and more. Find your next collaborator or just learn about these rising leaders.
Saladin Allah is the third-great grandson of famed underground railroad freedom seeker Josiah Henson. He is an Educator, Author, Director of Community Engagement at the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center and Founder of the Atlantis School For Gifted Youngsters.
Social and Arts worker, Facilitator, Journalist, Community and Urban Design.
I try to make the malleability of the built environment as fun as possible for my community through history, art, and authentic engagement.
Rachel is Founder and Managing Partner of Strategy and Innovation at NEXT, an organizational consulting firm. The mission at NEXT is to equip & empower organizations to transform communities so that people from every background can be fully resourced & equipped to thrive.
Christian Bennett is a Director of Strategic Initiatives that focuses on Healthy Food Access, Vacant Land Use, GIS, and Transportation Projects. She works for Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership in Warren, Ohio. She holds a BA in Geography from Youngstown State University and a Certification in GIS from UC Davis.
As the Deputy Director at the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, I connect research to equitable policy outcomes. I identify and advance collaborations and partnerships to bridge the divide between academia, government, and community. I research the potential of government interventions to improve people’s transportation access to opportunities.
Change Making Community Engagement Professional and Social Architect / Focused on Bridging Gaps, Creating Connections and Building Opportunities.
Elijah is a community economic development practitioner, researcher and consultant. He is the cofounder of HAANDS, a growing national network of Historic Black Main Streets. Elijah holds a B.S. in Economics from UAB’s Collat School of Business was named Top 40 Under 40 by the Birmingham Business Journal in 2022.
Sam combines community organizing, policy and legal research and advocacy, and program administration to work with people to make the best version of their home for now and the future. Sam is passionate about land use planning and community development efforts to help set communities up for long-term success.
Chris has a decade of experience in community engagement, facilitation, and project management. Chris started his career as a community organizer and spent many years building social enterprises.
Chris got a BA from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and a MA in Community Development from Loyola University of Chicago.
Ethan Ellestad is a founding member of the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans, a non-profit that works at the intersection of culture, policy, and social justice, and has served as executive director since 2014. He has a Masters degree in Urban Planning from the University of New Orleans.
Edward W. Elmore, Jr. (Ted) is passionate about design, urban spaces, celebrating the richness of Richmond, and bringing people together. After 15 years of practicing law, he now leads the ambitious BridgePark project, a community effort to bring a unique gathering, connective, and educational space to downtown Richmond.
Brianne Fisher (JD, MURP) is the Applied Practices Director with the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, responsible for the design and delivery of programming that focuses on developing the capacity of local government sustainability practitioners. Brianne’s previous experience includes the City of Richmond VA Office of Sustainability and Yale University.
Namon Freeman is passionate about the equitable and sustainable development of cities. At Bloomberg Associates, Namon is the global lead on Housing Affordability, supporting cities in the development of comprehensive housing strategies and implementing specific programs such as Emergency Rental Assistance or Inclusionary Housing.
Ubax is the Director of Fund Development for the Cultural Space Agency. With extensive experience in equitable development, she moved $100M to community organizations, leveraged $300M from Seattle City Departments, and was instrumental in transferring City property to Black-led organizations. She prioritizes social justice, community engagement, and inclusive vision-building.
Bernard is a principal at Lynx Ventures, a real estate development and investment firm based in Richmond, Virginia, where he is primarily responsible for development management and project execution. He also co-founded Hatch Richmond, a consortium of companies that enables growth or food and beverage entrepreneurs in Central Virginia.
Tram Hoang supports PolicyLink’s work to create new housing futures through policy analysis, research and advocacy, narrative change, and building the capacity of grassroots partners in movement spaces. Her work focuses on anti-displacement and equitable acquisition policies, including tenant protections and community ownership at the local, state and federal level.
Mrill Ingram is a geographer and writer with a passion for creating welcoming and ecologically diverse public spaces accessible to everyone. Her work is focused on empowering communities with appropriate knowledge and technologies to build relationships to Earth, reckoning with the past and imagining vibrant, generative, and more equitable futures.
Dr. Alaina Jackson’s experience spans the areas of businesses development, workforce development, and homeownership modeling. She has functioned as a Program Manager, Community Engagement Lead, Grant Manger, Researcher and, most recently, Managing Director. Whatever the role, her work remains rooted in improving the quality of life for historically disenfranchised communities.
I serve to build bridges of upward mobility for our most vulnerable populations. I am motivated by the belief that access to safe, affordable housing is the requisite for building resilient and sustainable communities. For 10 years, I have worked at the intersections of housing, education, community development, and equity.
Hannah LeGris has served 3rd District Councilmember in Lexington, Kentucky since January, 2021. Hannah has worked professionally in the higher education, private, and nonprofit sectors. She holds a B.A. in English from the College of Wooster and an M.A. in English from the University of Kentucky.
Betsy Loring, principal of expLoring exhibits & engagement, develops interactive science exhibits for multigenerational audiences. She trains professionals in using evaluation-driven iterative prototyping to create effective learning experiences. She is fostering a Community of Practice of museums partnering with urban planners to promote inclusive, educational community engagement in planning.
Ra’Shann Martin, MBA is the Executive Director of St. John Center, a homeless service agency in Louisville, Ky. Ra’Shann is a passionate advocate for housing, education, and economic impowerment. Ra’shann serves on several boards as aligned with her passion for service enabling her to take a comprehensive approach to advocacy.
Amanda is an experienced program manager and licensed architect committed to equitable communities who works on the curation and design of spaces for convening, shared learning and connection. Amanda’s architectural experience directly informs her current work through a deepened understanding of the impact of the built environment on lived experience.
Mallory Rukhsana Nezam is a cross-sector cultural strategist and artist who loves cities and believes that we have the tools to make them more just and joyful. She engages stakeholders across sectors to de-silo the way we run cities and build new models of creative, interdisciplinary collaboration.
Prince is an experienced economic development policy researcher and advocate. Prince specializes in small business development, financial services, and community development policy. He is a collaborative team player with expertise in cross-sector coalition management, mixed-methods research, and policy analysis. Prince holds a Master’s in City & Regional Planning from UCLA.
Gus is a firefighter/paramedic with Albuquerque Fire Rescue and is studying statistics at the University of New Mexico. Before joining his local 9-1-1 system, Gus worked at the Santa Fe Institute and Lavendr the Agency. In his free time, Gus works on civic literacy and garage science projects.
James is an editor and producer. He leads strategy and partnerships for Trinity Arts. He was Arts Editor at The Tenth, a global independent media company that documents the history and aesthetics of the African diaspora through an LGBTQ lens. He is based between Richmond, VA and the Hudson, NY.
Laura enjoys learning about the built environment, and the people that make up those places. Some spaces can be harmful and for that reason she support efforts of organizations that are working towards celebrating the intersectionality of community identities that work towards creating spaces that are radically inclusive.
Jasmine Rangel conducts research, builds resources, and supports community leaders, organizers, and policymakers across the nation to create a more just and equitable housing system. Jasmine holds a master of public policy from the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at the University of Virginia.
Britt Redd is a certified city planner who is committed to ensuring neighbors have power and influence over the places they value and the decisions that affect them. Britt has collaborated with neighbors on regional and neighborhood plans, public space designs, and economic development strategies.
Ryan works for the City of Richmond in Parks and Recreation. His career has spanned from organizing to planning and community design to government. He has degrees in Political Science and Rhetoric and Communication Studies from the University of Richmond and a Masters of Urban and Regional Planning from VCU.
Brett is an economic developer committed to building an equitable downtown Memphis. Currently, he works as Senior Vice President at the Downtown Memphis Commission, where he manages an economic empowerment toolkit that is growing the small developer ecosystem and is unapologetically focused on supporting women and minority-owned businesses.
For 20 years Matthew Slaats has worked at the intersection of democracy, creativity, community development, and alternative economics to support grassroots, community lead decision-making, resilience, and liberation. Matthew is a co-founding member of the Virginia Solidarity Economy Network and consulting with the City of Richmond on a participatory budgeting initiative.
Sam Storey is an Economic Development professional from Baltimore, MD, dedicated to leading equitable community growth. As Sr Director of Economic Development at Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, Sam leads all commercial revitalization and community grants in Downtown Baltimore. Sam studied Public Policy at Stanford University and UT Austin.
Adina Tatum is the Executive Director of Northside Common Market. Since being at NCM she has had 15 businesses open brick and mortar, expand within the market, or wholesale. A leader in economic development, she has sat on panels sharing knowledge on women in leadership, business development and building communities.
Brendan Trewella, with nearly two decades of experience enhancing the field of community and economic development in his home of Cleveland, Ohio and across the world. His professional journey, encompassing arts, healthcare, community development, education, and sustainability, demonstrates a commitment to fostering community growth.
Lark Washington is COO at Maggie Walker Community Land Trust where she leads fund development. She previously worked at Dept. of Housing & Community Development and PlanRVA. She holds a Master of Urban & Regional Planning (MURP) degree from VCU and B.S. in Civil Engineering from the Univ. of Virginia.
Taylor E. Watson is a community organizer who represents San Antonio’s Eastside as its District 2 Zoning Commissioner, advocating for equitable development through land use policy. Her firm The Alcachofa Agency transforms the national security ecosystem through civic engagement and innovative projects in the defense and military-aligned space. She is also a Political Partner at Truman National Security Project and currently serves as the Institute Team Lead on the board of New Leaders Council – San Antonio.
Charles Yang is a housing advocate and the founder of RVA YIMBY, a YIMBY chapter in Richmond, VA focused on abundant and affordable housing for all. He also works on climate and tech policy at the federal level.