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BIG Ideas



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Past Big IDeas

 2015 BIG Ideas: The Future of Our Communities is taking place October 9-11.  Mark your calendar now! This year’s discussions will 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.

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. We serve as the platform for local governments who are passionate about nurturing an innovative culture and building the future of local government today.


Friday, October 9, Pfister Hotel, Imperial Ballroom


Registration Opens



Panel Session: Collaborative, Transformative Leadership.


  • Patricia Martel, City Manager, City of Daly City, CA
  • Michael Wilkes, City Manager, City of Olathe, KS
  • Jim Keene, City Manager, City of Palo Alto, CA


  • Rebecca Ryan, Next Generation Consulting


Reception at hotel


Dinner at Hotel

Saturday, October 10, Pfister Hotel, Imperial Ballroom





Polarization: The Great Divide - Collaborative Leadership in a polarized, charged, divisive time.


  • Pam Hylton, Assistant City Manager, City of Richmond Heights, MO
  • Mordecai Lee, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Professor of Urban Planning and Graduate Faculty, Department of Political Science

Courage:  Leadership, Instantaneous Communications and Discussing the Undiscussable


  • Jamie Verbrugge, City Manager, City of Bloomington
  • Chris Abele, Milwaukee County Executive


Lunch at Hotel

Trust:  How do you establish trust in a noisy room? 


  • David Eyman, Eyman Creative
  • Rob Henken, Executive Director, Public Policy Forum


Dream, Think, Relax, Play!


Reception and Dinner Offsite (Transportation Provided)

Sunday, October 11, Pfister Hotel, Imperial Ballroom




Panel Session: White Paper Authors


  • TR Carr, Southern Illinois University, retired professor
  • Irina Fursman, HueLife LLC
  • Richard Fursman, HueLife LLC

Participant Reflection and Comments: What did you hear? What does it mean? What do you do with it?


Closing Comments and Adjourn



BIG Ideas 2015 will take place at the historic Pfister Hotel in Downtown Milwaukee. Built in 1893, the Pfister Hotel has been a Milwaukee hotel icon for over a century. As one of the Midwest’s premier luxury hotels, it continues to celebrate a grand tradition of gracious service and impeccable style. From the moment guests arrive they’ll notice the extraordinary architecture inside and out punctuated by a welcoming ambiance from staff and fellow guests alike. Reserve your hotel room HERE by Sept 17 to access the discounted group price of $165.00.



Nestled in the heart of downtown Milwaukee, the majestically restored Pfister Hotel is located just over 10 miles from the airport (MKE) and easy walking distance to many dining and shopping options.

Transportation to all conference events is included in registration. Attendees can choose from the below airport transportations options below, or rent a car if preferred.

Option 1: Go Riteway – Shared Ride Van Service

Downtown Fee $15 per person

Option 2: MCTS

Buses to Downtown: MetroXpress Green Line Route 80

Downtown Fee $2.25 

Option 3: Taxicabs

Downtown Fee $28-$30



Registration is $435 for the two and one half day meeting. All event transportation and meals are provided for the duration of the event. Your guests are welcome to attend dinners each night with the purchase of a ticket. Attendees can purchase a guest dinner ticket during the registration process.

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



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: