Shaping The Future Today

updayton organization prepares second annual Young Creatives Summit

Many of us are familiar with this scenario: puttering around at home, looking for something to do, but not quite knowing what that something is. As we putter, we may think, “I have something to offer. I am talented. I want to get involved. I want to meet new people.” And as we think these thoughts we may also wonder “But where do I go?” The answer is simple enough: updayton.

What is updayton? Scott Murphy, one of the co-chairs of updayton, explained the organization’s inception and mission. “A little over two years ago several Dayton area resources worked together to bring Dr. Richard Florida, author of the book The Rise of the Creative Class, and the Creative Class Group’s ‘Creative Communities Leadership Project’ to the greater Dayton area.” During the two day seminar, 32 “catalysts” were recruited in five teams committed to revitalize the region’s economic competitiveness using Dr. Florida’s theories, existing strengths, and open source planning with the community. Murphy said, “During the seminar we learned more about the region and more about how to create a creative environment where people want to live.” There is a wealth of young creative talent in the Dayton area, especially from the nearby colleges and universities, and updayton works to keep that creative talent in the city after students graduate. Murphy noted that part of updaton’s mission is “young talent attraction, retention and engagement in the region.”

updayton focuses on the “Young Creative,” and Murphy explained, “We use Young Creative somewhat interchangeably with young professional, aged 18-40, and the reason we do is particularly because young people (especially in their twenties) in terms of selecting a city and finding a job are more mobile than in any time in their life. We want the region to better serve those young people so they live in Dayton and develop roots, so then later in life they are more likely to stay.” Further, updayton’s Web site reports that a Young Creative is a person who creates for a living. The site provides statistics saying that the current creative class accounts for 30 percent of the population and over 50 percent of all wages and salaries.

To encourage Young Creatives to become more involved in their city, updayton has created the annual Young Creatives Summit. The Summit allows Dayton’s young talent a place to act as a sounding board and provide their voice and opinions about what should be happening in the region. The first Summit, held in April 2009, offered Young Creatives a chance to voice their ideas to create a better Dayton. As Murphy put it, “(the) power of the summit is to provide the community inertia to make projects happen.” updayton helps facilitate the projects that came out of the Summit, but those projects are run independently. In the past year four projects were created after the Summit. One particular project, Dayton MostMetro, was created as online volunteer project that gets people involved by communicating what is going on in the region, from music, to culture, to nightlife. They have an online calendar that can be syndicated on other websites within the region. Dayton MostMetro provides a single source of information regarding events in the region. Additionally, the Wayne Avenue Corridor project was created to by a group committed to reviving the Wayne corridor that connects the Oregon and the Cannery Districts. This project has had clean-up days as well as a mural project, which has painted a series of murals under the train overpass at the Fourth Street and Wayne Avenue intersection. Further the Grow Downtown Dayton project is encouraging young professionals to think about the downtown Dayton area in a new way. Their first focus is a “Why I Love Dayton” video competition. Finally, the Community Programs for Youth project works to engage the youth of the city. This project collects and distributes information to Dayton’s youth to get them involved in activities in the area.

updayton looks to build upon those projects, ideas, and action plans from last year’s Summit at this year’s second annual Young Creatives Summit, which will be held on April 16, 2010 at the Dayton Convention Center.  This year the Summit begins at noon and is kicked off with lunch and a resource fair, which will offer attendees an initial place to begin networking before moving into Breakouts, Workshops and the Summit Town Hall. The Summit will culminate with a Summit After-Party that will be held at the Historic Armory.

Megan Cooper, updayton’s communication coordinator, discussed the workshop aspect of the Summit as it is a new feature added this year. Cooper said, “The Skills Workshops provide Summit participants with a ‘crash course’ in the tools they’ll need to make a difference in their community.” She explained that when discussing the format and agenda for this year’s Summit they realized that last year people had great information and ideas about projects, but may not have known exactly how to lead such a community endeavor. “We have diverse groups of students, Creatives and professionals together to brainstorm ideas, but because they come from such different educational and professional background, they don’t all have the skills they need to lead a project at a community level. Someone might be a fantastic computer programmer, but not have any experience writing a press release. Another person could be a strong project manager, but they might not have ever managed volunteers on a community level. How you work in business world doesn’t always translate directly to community projects. So, we wanted to give Summit participants a few hints and tips that will better prepare them for work in the community.”

The Skills Workshops will help participants prepare for work in the community by hosting six different panel discussions with experts in the fields of communication, entrepreneurship, leadership, event planning, fundraising and demystifying local government. Cooper explained, “These topics were chosen based on feedback from people in the action plan groups from last year’s Summit. They have expressed that ‘they wish they’d know then what they know now’ about some of these areas. So, we decided that we’d provide the information from the beginning and give our participants the foundation they’ll need to move forward.”

In addition, Cooper pointed out that another important aspect of the Skills Workshops is the focus on professional development. The areas which the workshops will address are specific enough to relate to upcoming projects, but also broad enough that they can be connected to a person’s professional life as well. Those participating in the Skills Workshops will benefit by learning from the panelists and moderators who are volunteering at the Summit as these people are leaders in their fields: CEOs, executive directors, vice presidents and more. Cooper noted, “The professional development comes not only from sitting back and getting the information, but also from meeting the people who are out in the business, educational and community arenas making a serious difference. Getting ahead is about what you know and who you know – we’re providing Summit participants the opportunity to advance in both.”

Along with Murphy and Cooper and the team of Young Creatives involved in planning a successful Summit, updayton has also partnered with Fitz Center for Leadership in Community at the University of Dayton. Aaron Moores and Anna Hurley are two graduate students engaged with both the Fitz Center and updayton.

Moores is a graduate assistant with the Fitz Center acting as the director of the “Rubicon House,” which is located at 1056 Brown Street. Moores noted, “Historically the mission of the Rubicon House was as a community center for the Fairgrounds Neighborhood located directly across the street… Dick Ferguson (executive director of the Fitz Center) believed the mission of updayton is something that the Fitz Center should support. Since updayton didn’t have a physical ‘home’ he believed that Rubicon House would fit that role perfectly, giving them a physical mailing address, meeting space, and storage capacity.”

Hurley is the graduate assistant for the Dayton Civic Scholars, which is one of several civic engagement programs offered through the Fitz Center. “The Civic Scholars program bridges what our students are learning in the classroom about community building and civic responsibility, and applies that into getting involved in Dayton.” Hurley acts as an administrative coordinator for updayton since the Fitz Center has formed a partnership with them.

Moores said, “Both Anna and I are working together to support the updayton team in any way that we can, from helping to plan the Young Creatives Summit, to helping with mailings and other administrative tasks.” Additionally Hurley noted she will be helping orchestrate the registration process at the Summit.

As graduate students, both Moores and Hurley believe in updayton’s mission and the importance of the Young Creatives Summit. Hurley said, “It has always been my belief that in order to have a successful, healthy, and vibrant community you have to take an active role… updayon is striving to help young professionals have a forum and the resources to make their visions of Dayton known. updayton’s Young Creatives Summit is such a great event and a real venue for ideas and projects. updayton strives to connect young professionals to the resources they need to remain in Dayton and help (the city) flourish.”

Moores believes, “As a young professional I think the only reason not to get involved with a group like updayton is if you’re truly disinterested in the Dayton region and happy with the status quo. updayton allows young people a chance to make their mark and address issues in the Dayton that affect them… The Young Creatives Summit allows for young individuals to connect with the region, and network with a variety of individuals from across the region.”

In just two years updayton is making strides to improve the city and engage young professionals to take initiative and become active in the Dayton community. Scott Murphy noted, “The message we’re trying to get across is that if young people stay or go is extremely important to the economic future for the region.” updayton is working to help build a better and more thriving city in which people want to live, work, and participate. As Megan Cooper said, “(updayton’s) about listening to people, understanding their needs, empowering them to make changes they want to see, and helping along the way. We want to be the catalyst for making the region a place Young Creatives are proud to call home.”

The Young Creatives Summit will be held on Friday, April 16 at the Dayton Convention Center, 22 E. Fifth St. The event begins at noon. Registration fee is $15 ($5 for students). To find out more about updayton, visit their web site at http://updayton.com/ or look for them on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

Reach DCP freelance writer Linda Turk at contactus@daytoncitypaper.com

Photos by Andy Snow

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