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Affordable Housing , Community Development

The Importance of Connection and Conversation in Fulfilling Mission-Driven Work

19 July 2016
Emerging Leaders Network

Marcus Smith focuses on sustainability and outreach initiatives for the Planning, Research and Evaluation team at the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority and serves as steering committee chair of the Emerging Leaders Network.  

Someone had an empty conference room and could validate parking, and that's really all we needed. There was no agenda, no one taking minutes, no Roberts Rules of Order. Not at first, anyway. It was just a small group -- seven, sometimes eight. A couple of people dropped off, a handful of others jumped in. We didn't know where to start or where we wanted to go, but we knew we needed to keep meeting. We needed to keep the conversation going.

That was three years ago.

Since then, the Emerging Leaders Network has organized over a dozen events, from fireside chats to volunteer days, each with the intention of sharing perspectives and connecting with other young professionals looking to expand their knowledge of housing and community development. We have met with folks from the foothills of Litchfield County to downtown Bridgeport. We have held panel discussions and walking tours and workshops. And each time, we have heard the same thing: now, perhaps more than ever, we need to stay connected. Now, more than ever, we need each other to accomplish this important work.

Teacher and internet enthusiast Clay Shirky once wrote, "We systematically overestimate the value of access to information and underestimate the value of access to each other."

In a sense, this captures the importance of the Emerging Leaders Network and sums up the goal of our latest endeavor, the Lunch + Learn series. It's a simple recipe: one hour, one speaker, one topic. That's it. One hour is just enough time to make a difference, to plant the seed for a broader conversation. (And let's face it- one hour is just about all the time most of us have in a day!) Limiting it to one speaker allows for a stronger connection, both with that day's expert, and among fellow attendees. And one topic keeps the conversation focused and the lesson on point.

Next week, the Emerging Leaders Network is hosting its third Lunch + Learn, this time on Historic Preservation in Affordable Housing. We are fortunate to have Nina Caruso of Crosskey Architects take us inside the historic tax credit process and guide us through the seemingly complex world of historic preservation in Connecticut. Whether you are a developer, advocate, town planner or a history buff, the event will be a great opportunity to share different perspectives. And to keep the conversation going.

Click here to learn more about the upcoming Lunch + Learn event.

Click here to read previous blogs.