Last month was a great example of one of the ways in which the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation fuels its mission to educate and inspire our business community. Every year, the Foundation takes 150 private, nonprofit and public-sector leaders on a Leadership Exchange trip (LEX) to another city to learn best practices and examine challenges from a different perspective. This learning sparks ideas back at home, renews our energy to tackle community challenges and builds strong relationships across sectors and industries in our community.
This year we traveled to San Diego, a city that shares with the Denver metro region strengths like our robust research and development sector, small business eco-system, public-private partnerships and, of course, a lot of sunshine. We share challenges too – rising housing prices (though their median price is significantly higher), educational attainment and an increasing wealth gap. It’s in those shared strengths and challenges that the magic of LEX happens.
As a group, we were inspired by what we saw in San Diego, including the Monarch School, a K-12 school co-managed by the county and a nonprofit that is dedicated solely to serving homeless youth, of which there are 23,000 in the San Diego area. They provide parent education, wraparound resources and, most importantly, stability and hope to their students and families. Since our trip, we’ve already been in touch to understand if the model can be replicated in the metro region.
We saw San Diego’s economic development corporation focus on equity and inclusive economic development that helps ensure more people benefit from the prosperity in their region and the local talent pipeline is growing – something we’re looking at here in the metro area too. The Brookings Institution shared with us its framework for building inclusive cities; our group was energized by the challenge to create more equitable opportunity in our region.
LEX participants also went to Balboa Park, home to 29 nonprofit arts organizations – all with a single vision for sustainability, shared marketing, community outreach and even a park access pass. The concept of shared access to cultural institutions is certainly something we could explore in our region as well.
And we toured JLABS, a shared laboratory funded by Johnson & Johnson that provides space, capital and resources to small startups working on the life-changing health care products of the future. It’s a great lesson in how large companies can support a small business and startup economy.
There’s so much from San Diego that we can bring back to Denver from their unique partnerships to the way they tell their story. We are so grateful that our Foundation exposes us to the very best ideas from around the nation and globe. They pack an incredible amount of learning and experience into just a few days and we are so thankful for the hard work they put into curating a valuable experience – thank you, team!
Save the Dates: Next year we head to Dallas, October 24-26!
Kelly Brough is the president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber.