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30 Years of Leadership Exchange Trips

Last week marked the 30th Leadership Exchange trip, led by our Leadership Foundation. That means 30 years of “borrowing” really good ideas from other communities and bringing new solutions to take on challenges that we face at home.

This year, we visited Dallas. They’re home to 20 Fortune 500 headquarters, and we saw how their companies are investing in the region and focusing on building more diverse, inclusive teams at organizations like Southwest Airlines and the Dallas Mavericks, how Jacobs has committed to supporting the mental and emotional health needs of their workforce and how AT&T is working to address homelessness in the downtown area through its Believe Dallas initiative.

We also met grassroots leaders, like Daron Babock. He runs Bonton Farms, an urban farm in south Dallas. He reminded us that some of the most meaningful solutions can be the simplest, and that one person can have enormous impact. His work has created jobs for 40 people in the community, offers fresh food, provides a gathering place for the neighborhood, fills transportation needs by financing used cars to help support success at work, brings health care services closer to those who need them and is working to address housing needs. His efforts focus on supporting those who have served time in jail, been in abusive relationships or struggled with addiction, and with this more systemic approach they are having huge success supporting the Bonton community, changing an environment that hasn’t allowed them to thrive. It was inspiring!

The regions we have visited on LEX truly open themselves up for our delegates to learn, and it has resulted in many of our biggest successes here at home, including FasTracks, the Denver Schools of Science and Technology, and most recently, The Other Side Academy. This program comes out of Salt Lake City, and a group of delegates worked on making it a reality in Colorado since our visit three years ago. Those delegates raised nearly $3 million to provide an additional alternative to incarceration focused on peer mentorship, strong accountability and providing the dignity of work — the students in the program run The Other Side Moving Company, a self-sustaining social enterprise. You can support this organization in a number of ways:

  • Use The Other Side Moving Company and tell your friends about them.
  • Sponsor an angel tree for a student. These are people who are working to rebuild their lives, and providing holiday gifts is just one way to show there is a community here cheering them on.
  • Donate here, or help them by providing items they need, like gift cards (to places like Home Depot, Target or grocery stores), clothing and toiletries.

What makes our LEX program work is that 160 civic leaders take the time to learn together and then exhibit the leadership to implement those ideas. Thank you to all those who have joined us over these past 30 years.

Kelly Brough is the president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber.