One moment...

Home / Learning / BIG Ideas

BIG Ideas Meeting



Transportation & tours



  Past Big IDeas

2017 BIG Ideas: The Future of Local Government will take place October 6-8 in Raleigh, NC.

Register Now

Join your colleagues for a lively discussion at the 9th annual BIG Ideas meeting in Raleigh, NC October 6-8, 2017. Attendees will join Provocateurs in large and small group conversations to discuss, “The Emerging and Uncertain Role of Local Governments in Social Minefields.” Roughly 100 leaders from across North America will join together and think through the question, "What should guide local government as it treads upon disputed social territory?"

  • How much authority does and should local government have in these issues?
  • What should guide local government administrators: their personal core values, or the majority values in their communities, or minority values in their communities, or the values of their elected body?
  • How should local government act in these issues? Do they choose regulation, educate/legislate/advocacy? Or, is the best path to take a support role to other community players?
  • Is this an issue that local government ought to be able to act on behalf of their community, or should the state act on it?
  • What are the places where local governments can be effective?

Hosted by the Alliance for Innovation, BIG Ideas is an invitation-only event that gathers progressive leaders to explore critical issues for the future of communities. The Alliance for Innovation is inspiring innovation to advance communities. As the premier resource for emerging practices in local government, the Alliance is building cultures of innovation and connecting thought leaders in the profession.

White Papers

Program Schedule

Friday, October 6, 2017

3:15 pm           Check-in Opens (Hannover I Room, Sheraton Raleigh Hotel)

4:00 pm           BIG Ideas Program Overview and Introductions

  • Opening Panel Session: Bill Pound, Executive Director, National Conference of State Legislatures and Brooks Rainwater, Senior Executive & Director, Center for City Solutions, NLC
  • Group Discussion

6:30 pm           Reception and Dinner at North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (Transportation Provided)

Saturday, October 7, 2017

8:15 am           Breakfast

9:00 am           Program Begins: Overview of the Day (Hannover I Room, Sheraton Raleigh Hotel)

9:10 am           White Paper Overview:

  • Carl StenbergJames E. Holshouser Jr. Distinguished Professor, School of Government, University of North Carolina,
  • David Swindell, Center Director and Associate Professor, School of Public Affairs, Arizona State University, and
  • James Svara, Retired, Center Director and Professor, School of Public Affairs, Arizona State University

9:45 am           Provocateur Panel: Environment and Health (Lifestyle Issues)

  • Janice Baker, City Manager and Chief Administrative Officer, City of Mississauga, ON
  • Becki Gray, Senior Vice President, John Locke Foundation, and
  • Mike Rankin, City Attorney in Tucson

10:15 am         Small Group Discussions

11:00 am         BREAK

11:15 am         Report out/Large Group Discussion

11:45 am         LUNCH

12:30 pm         Provocateur Panel: Social and Economic

1:00 pm           Small Group Discussions

1:45 pm           Report Out/Large Group Discussion

2:15 pm           Case Study – Self Selection

3:00 pm           Raleigh Tours or Dream, Think, Play, Relax!

6:30 pm           Reception and Dinner at Red Hat Amphitheater (walking distance)

Sunday, October 8, 2017

8:15 am           Breakfast

9:00 am           Program Begins: Roleplay Panel Session (Hannover I Room, Sheraton Raleigh Hotel)

10:00 am         BREAK

10:15 am         What’s Next? What Are You Taking Home?

11:00 am         Dismiss



BIG Ideas 2017 will take place at the Sheraton Raleigh Hotel, 421 South Salisbury Street, NC 27601. The recently redesigned hotel brings a fresh, new energy and is located downtown within walking distance of the hottest attractions, restaurants, nightlife, and shopping.

Make your Sheraton Raleigh Hotel reservation for BIG Ideas 2017.

Make Your Reservation


Attendees can fly into the Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) at just 15 miles away from the Sheraton Raleigh Hotel. Getting to and from the airport is approximately a 20-minute drive and there are many transportation options for attendees to take including Uber/Lyft, car rental, taxi, or one of the many public transportation options available. 

Once you check in at BIG Ideas, all transportation for offsite dinners and tours will be provided.

The Sheraton Raleigh Hotel is in a prime position for guests to visit many restaurants, museums, and nightlife options within walking distance of the hotel. There are also transportation services and taxis on standby at the hotel should you need to travel outside of the local downtown area.  

Hotel Parking Information:

  • Self Parking - 18 USD/day
  • Valet Parking - 28 USD/day

View information About Parking at Sheraton Raleigh Hotel 


The City of Raleigh staff have created four tours for attendees to get out of the hotel and explore some of what puts Raleigh on the map! All tours will take place Saturday during the afternoon break and the Alliance will provide transportation where needed. All tours take place on Saturday, October 7, from 3:15 to 5:45 pm.

Tour 1: Dix Park History and Development

Join City of Raleigh Staff on a tour of Dorothea Dix Park. On July 24, 2015, the City of Raleigh purchased the 308-acre Dorothea Dix Campus from the State of North Carolina for $52 Million for the purpose of developing a destination park. The planning and development of Dorothea Dix Park represents one of the most exciting and ambitious new park projects in America.

The tour will cover the history of the land and the legacy of Dorothea Dix, the current use of the area as the headquarters of the Department of Health and Human Services and the steps the City will take in planning a future park. As you wrap up the tour, you will be invited to join City of Raleigh Staff for an ice cream to enjoy the unique view of downtown Raleigh. (Limited to 35 participants)

Tour 2: Raleigh Union Station Sneak Peak Tour

Raleigh Union Station is the first phase of multi-modal investments in the City’s Warehouse District. The project has been an important partnership between the City of Raleigh, the North Carolina Department of Transportation and Go Triangle. The station, which will open in early 2018, will house Amtrak Rail Service, will accommodate planned commuter rail service, and sets the stage for bus facility next door. A signature outdoor plaza, a grand hall and restaurant, commercial and retail spaces will ensure that it is an amenity for the community.

While in the area, you’ll also hear about other past and future development in the Warehouse District including an intriguing mix of restaurants, specialty shops, and antique stores; Contemporary Art Museum; and the Dillon, a project of Kane Realty, that both makes a mixed-use investment that will offer rich living and commercial opportunities, but also retains the area’s unique character. (Limited to 15 participants)

Tour 3: Downtown Retail and Maker Tour

In the past decade, there have been incredible investments in downtown Raleigh including a variety of retailers that span beverage, clothing and textiles, gifts, boutiques, and home décor. Among the retail opportunities are a number of local makers. Join Jennifer Martin, the Executive Director of Shop Local Raleigh to hear about the investments that are making downtown a vibrant shopping destination and visit a number of the City’s unique downtown retailers. (Limited to 10 participants)

Tour 4: Large Scale Suburban Retrofit in Raleigh's Midtown

Kane Realty purchased an outdated enclosed mall and demolished it in 2003. Since that time, significant redevelopment has occurred in the area, now known as Midtown. Kane’s original development, North Hills, has since been expanded and includes housing, four-star hotel rooms, class A office space, green and park space, recreation/entertainment venues, restaurants, high-end boutiques, national retail, and coffee shops. Development interest continues to be high in the area. While the area is a great example of transformational urban infill and mixed-use development, it has also brought pressure to adjacent neighborhoods and strain on the transportation systems in the area.

Before being invited to explore the great retail amenities in North Hills, you will learn a bit about the history of the area, current development and future plans and strategies to accommodate growth.

 (Limited to 15 participants)


Attendees ​will ​join ​provocateurs ​in ​large ​and ​small ​group ​conversations ​to ​discuss ​“The ​Emerging ​and ​Uncertain ​Role ​of ​Local ​Governments ​in ​Social ​Minefields.” ​ ​Leaders ​from ​across ​North ​America ​will ​join ​together ​and ​think ​through the question, "​What ​should ​guide ​local ​government ​as ​it ​treads ​upon ​disputed ​social ​territory?" Register today to attend this conference. Be prepared to make selections on guest dinner tickets, offsite tour selection, 

Register Now


Robert J. O’Neill, Jr. Scholarship

Robert J. O’Neill Jr. was Executive Director of the International City/County Management

Association (ICMA) from 2002 – 2016 and Alliance for Innovation Board of Director’s member from 2006 - 2016. As a founding board member of the Alliance for Innovation, he played an instrumental role in the creation of the partnership of the Alliance, ICMA and ASU. He was among the visionary Board of Director members that saw a need to create a safe place for local government leaders to come together and discuss the larger issues impacting local governments – and thus BIG Ideas was created.

Prior to joining ICMA, O’Neill served as president of the National Academy of Public Administration from 2000 to 2002. He was elected as a NAPA Fellow in 1997.

From 1997 to 2000, O’Neill served as Fairfax County, Va., executive, where he was credited with developing a series of strategies aimed at revitalizing older residential communities and commercial areas as well as launching a series of initiatives focused on performance and results management.

O’Neill’s “reinvention” of the government of Hampton, Va., as city manager from 1984 to 1997 was widely recognized; his many accomplishments include downtown- and waterfront-revitalization initiatives as well as development of a nationally recognized youth-at-risk program.

Upon retirement from ICMA and the Alliance Board, the Robert J. O’Neill, Jr. Scholarship to the BIG Ideas seminar was created. It will be awarded to one early to mid-career local government professional. The scholarship, partially underwritten by SAFEbuilt, will be $1,000 to cover event registration and assist with travel expenses. To apply, write an essay answering the below questions and submit to by Friday, August 4.

  1. How does attending BIG Ideas fit into your career development?
  2. How would you use the experience of attending BIG Ideas in your home organization?


BIG Ideas: The Future of Local Government is generously sponsored by HR Green, SAFEbuilt and Siemens.


Past Big Ideas Conferences

BIG IDEAs 2016 - Dublin, Ohio


Just as water is the driving force of all life, access to technology is quickly becoming the driving force of our local, national and global landscape. Without access, our community services and economies will struggle to be sustainable into the future.

Attendees will join provocateurs in large and small group conversations to discuss, “Reframing Digital Disruption.” Provocateurs spoke on trends around topics such as fiber as the 4th utility, communities modifying policies, and what governance and philosophical issues does this bring up. Over the weekend attendees evaluated their greatest opportunities and vulnerabilities in the rapidly changing digital age.

Some of the discussed include: 

  • How do we plan, fund and deploy these services to meet the existing and future needs of our communities?
  • How do we educate our communities about this imperative to make technologies deployment and equitable access a priority?
  • How do we change the political landscape to address the industries and regulations standing in our way?

The following White Papers helped to frame the discussion:

2015 BIG Ideas - Milwuakee, WI

Community Trust: The BIG Conversation

Last year's discussions lead attendees through the timely topic of Community Trust: The BIG Conversation, taking our gaze forward to the future of our communities. As current headlines continue highlighting the polarization among the governing and the governed, BIG Ideas attendees will dive into the future of collaborative, transformative leadership. Thought leaders from across the US will facilitate provocative conversation on polarization, civility, and trust in the future of our communities.

2014 BIG IDEAS - Fort Lauderdale, Fl


This is perhaps the most important takeaway from the provocative discussion on building resilient communities at 2014 BIG Ideas. Resiliency is the ability to bounce back from adversity. It is more than recovering; adapting better for future challenges. Acknowledging the bleak reality often facing communities across the globe, leaders convened in beautiful Fort Lauderdale, FL for three days and focused their discussion on how to prepare and bounce forward stronger no matter the circumstances.

Several key themes emerged through the various discussions from the weekend:

Prepare and Plan Today: Conduct a risk and impact assessment, acknowledge your vulnerabilities and prioritize and integrate strategies.

Institutionalize Resiliency: It is a continuous process and it should be integrated into the day to day.

Collaborative Process: Connect with others. Empower, engage and build relationships with staff, citizens, nonprofits, business leaders and the region.

Communication is Critical: Establish trust and transparency.

This document is filled with information that can help jump-start your discussion. Seize the opportunity today to become a resilient community that isn’t defined by adversity, but by your response when faced with challenges and your ability to rebuild better and stronger.

2013 BIG IDEAS - Santa Monica & West Hollywood, CA

BIG Ideas 2013 looked at the future of local government, assessing the impact our decisions now will have on the landscape of local government tomorrow. 

2012 BIG IDEAS - Williamsburg, VA

BIG Ideas 2013 offers a timely contrast to the 2012 BIG Ideas: Revolutionary Ideas, held in Williamsburg.  This year’s discussions will take the lead from our historical setting. Attendees had conversations around the theme -- “BIG Ideas, Revolutionary Ideas”: A New Founding for Local Government within the American Commonwealth. BIG Ideas 2012 discussed the future of local government as seen through the lens of the ideas which gave birth to the American experiment in republican and democratic self-government; the ideas which continue to inspire and to challenge as “we the people” struggle to achieve a free, just and inclusive society.View the BIG Ideas 2012 Conference Materials

2011 BIG Ideas - Fort Collins, CO

The 2011 BIG Ideas Conference was held in Fort Collins, CO. The format was highly interactive, with attendees bridging the roles of provocateurs and being a participant.  Participants left Colorado feeling energized and inspired by the conversation that took place.

Over the course of two and a half days, attendees discussed

  1. What will the future of local government look like?
  2. Who should work there? 
  3. What work will they be doing?
  4. How will they do their work? and
  5. How will we create a place for community?

You will find below the links to the white papers that were generated to help participants prepare for the conversation:

During these events, sessions are live scribed. Below is the link to the 2011 BIG Ideas Notes that were taken during the event: