11-1 - Registration

Check in and get your swag bag!

1:00 - Welcome and Introductions

Learn about what to expect over the course of the conference and meet your guides. You might meet a few of your fellow attendees as well!

1:25 - Jeremy Holmes


Roanoke at a Human Scale


In 2016, starting with CityWorks (X)po, RIDE Solutions ran a series of street-level, roleplaying based explorations of several of Roanoke’s neighborhoods.  The treasure-hunt-style adventures revealed some interesting things about what it takes to navigate the community without a car.


1:35 - Nexus Partners


Building more Engaged and Powerful Communities of Color:


Throughout its 13-year history, Nexus Community Partners has been dedicated to building more engaged and powerful communities of color in the Twin Cities and beyond. The key to this work lies in the interconnectedness between authorship, leadership and ownership. Come learn how Nexus is engaging communities to ensure they have authorship of their lives and their future; how they are strengthening the leadership of individuals to represent their communities at multiple tables; and how they are building an infrastructure to support alternative economic development models so people can own the wealth they have helped to generate.

2:00 - Ted Jutras




Whether your goal is showcasing a neighborhood’s existing community and cultural assets, or seeking to establish a new identity for an emerging neighborhood, finding ways to combine public art with activation can be a particularly effective way to bring people together.

During this session, Ted Jutras, a planning and activation professional from People Make Place in Washington DC, will explore how public art (permanent or temporary) can be paired with a wide variety of activations – pointing to examples from his own projects as well as innovative projects from around the country.

The session will also touch briefly on creative strategies for funding these types of projects leveraging a broad range of funding sources.

2:15 - Tim Lampkin
The Power of Social Entrepreneurship: Transforming Your Obstacles Into Opportunities
Communities across the country are utilizing strategies to save the places they love, engage the broader community, and create inclusive economic opportunities. This presentation will discuss best practices to improve your community from nationally recognized social entrepreneur Tim Lampkin. Learn about his journey to transform the Mississippi Delta into a thriving place. Participants will learn how to engage multiple stakeholders to gain community support related to community based projects and learn how to address silos and race.
2:40 - Vanessa Guerra


Beyond Informality: A new approach to inclusive cities


As cities deal with the effects of climate change and population growth, informal practices have become more common over the years. Although these practices are often stereotyped as urban mistakes, acknowledging the potential of the informal sector, and paying attention to what we can learn from it, could lead to the start of a new approach to alleviate poverty, empower isolated communities, and promote sustainable development.

2:55 - Doug Jackson


Where the heck is BOOK CITY?


From the storied creative writing program at Hollins University to Star City Reads’ nationally recognized Campaign for Grade Level Reading, a wide range of assets contribute to the city’s bookish vibe.  But who pulls it all together and to what effect? The emerging BOOK CITY Roanoke experiment is exploring if community identity might be strengthened from the essentially solitary activities of reading and writing, and if local models of publishing, bookselling, and placemaking might evolve in a BOOK CITY.

3:05 - Akilah Watkins-Butler


Inclusive Neighborhoods, Thriving Places and People: Strategies for Building Equitable Communities


There is growing consensus among policymakers, public systems leaders, community-based organizations, and community residents that inequality of income, wealth, and access to opportunity, accentuated along racial lines, is the key social issue of our time. Children and families of color experience many disadvantages, including disparities in family income, health care, and access to quality education– which can potentially extend into subsequent generations – by vast inequities in neighborhoods, schools, and labor markets.

This Talk will explore how low-income, vulnerable communities of color are integrating land use and economic development strategies to renew their neighborhoods and build community and residents’ skills and wealth. I will share national models of best practices from community-based organizations, local and regional planners, economic developers, and businesses on how they’re working together to address health and environmental concerns, provide more housing and transportation options, promote wellness, increase access to opportunities, train workers, support local businesses, build on community assets, and develop strategies for growth that uplifts all residents. My Talk will conclude with a call to action by leaders on how their organizations will support equitable development in their respective communities in the year ahead.

3:25 - Mary Miller


RAMP: The Regional Accelerator and Mentoring Program


A peek inside the door of a new business accelerator as we close in on finishing our first cohort.

This short presentation will address how’s it going, where’s going and why it will keep going.   As Harry Turman said, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

Business accelerators are a popular strategy to increase the likelihood that a business will be successful. These cohort-based programs provide the mentoring and educational support to give startups the tools to deal with business growth and the visibility to attract the funding support that may be needed, resulting in the golden egg, job growth. ​

3:45 - Maureen Best


Why does local food matter?


Our school systems and holidays still nod to our agrarian past. But for most us, our lives are not structured around soil preparation, planting time, harvest schedules, or feeding livestock. And, if at all, we only spend a couple minutes a day thinking about where our food comes—and that time is probably focused on the logistics of purchasing food from a retailer and/or consuming a prepared meal. In a
complex, industrialized society— we specialize. And in that sense, the food industry is no different. But at what cost? This talk will explore what we can do as individuals, organizations, and communities to shift power dynamics and create more equitable food systems.

3:55 - Valerie Warren


Participatory Budgeting: Community Capacity Building for Change


Participatory Budgeting (PB) is a  democratic process that gives ordinary people direct control over a portion of a public budget.  It empowers residents, engages them in finding solutions, and knits communities together. Since first implemented in Porto Alegre Brazil in 1989, PB has spread to over 3,000 cities around the world, and has been used in counties, states, housing authorities, schools, universities and other institutions. The Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP) has worked with elected officials and community partners in 17 cities to support PB processes that engage over 300,000 people in deciding how to spend $238,000,000 on projects that benefit their communities.

PBP’s Valerie Warren will speak to how participatory budgeting processes can act as capacity generators in communities and the critical potential for PB in this moment to support emergent leadership.

4:10 - Sarah Obenauer


Building Communities with Design


Design captures attention, evokes emotion and tells a story. It also bridges communities, builds new connections and expands worldviews. Sarah will discuss what she has learned about community engagement and design equity from founding Make a Mark, an organization that brings together humanitarian causes and nonprofits with designers, developers and other creatives for the greater good of a community.

“Graphic design shouldn’t just be for those that can afford it.” -Aaron Draplin

4:25 - Caroline Macdonell


Crafted for Community


How Deschutes Brewery grew from a small Oregon brewpub to a top ten craft brewery and kept community at the core of their business every step of the way.

5:00 - Happy Hour

We are excited to partner with our parent organization, the CoLab, to put on a happy hour for all of our attendees!

Enjoy some free adult beverages and meet some of your fellow fascinating attendees.

Choose Your Own Adventure: Thursday Night Activities

We have four great options for attendees to take part in. Choose your own adventure!

7:00 - Soul Sessions Presents: The Poetry Gods

7:00 - House Concert w/ Kevin Chambers

7:00 - Little Shop of Horrors @ Mill Mountain Theatre

7:00 - Finding Roanoke w/ Book City Roanoke


7:50 - Doors Open
8:00 - Claire Hitchins


Claire Hitchins weaves a musical fabric that is at once spacious and intimate, enfolding and holding listeners in the warp and weft of her sincere, soulful folk melodies. Her homespun musical sensibility was fashioned among the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, formed as much by the deciduous forests and swimming holes of her home state as by the traditional songs of the American South. Since the release of her 2016 album These Bodies, Claire has enchanted audiences all over the country. Her nuanced voice glimmers among currents of guitar and banjo, illuminating the depth and clarity of her generous songwriting.

8:30 - Morning Announcements

Learn what to expect for the day and meet some more of our special attendees!

8:50 - Stephanie Fallon


“But I’m Not Creative” & Other Myths Busted at the Museum School


Stephanie Fallon wants to set the record straight: there is no magical, innate prerequisite needed for getting to hold a pair of scissors. Children do it all the time! But sit an adult down in front of a table set with a watercolor palette and watch them squirm. Even if it’s shiny! Even if it’s new! Even if it’s got their favorite colors and you provide candy and a glass of wine and the whole thing is free! There’s an entire contingency of adults who would rather relive high school debate or do mental math for a crowd. Over smushing around some paint!

What happens between Kindergarten and a professional life that convinces someone they need to be qualified to muck around with some clay? Determined that this is a surmountable barrier, Stephanie began a series of afternoon art workshops at the Taubman Museum of Art with the sole objective to create an environment where adults would feel comfortable playing. Believing whole heartedly that creativity isn’t a characteristic you’ve got or not, she began to build intentional spaces that encourage adults to play and discover creativity through artmaking.

After nearly a year, she was able to build the workshops out into a full museum school, offering classes that cover arts foundations & crafts all based on the fundamental belief that anyone can learn to be creative.

9:00 - Rev. William Lee


The Intersection of Temple and Town


I have been reflecting on our vacation two years ago in Tuscany, Italy. In my notes I reference how the church was the center of all the towns and cities we visited. One guide informed us that the church was built first and the town was built around it. I would imagine that configuration help the citizen’s to some degree maintain a moral compass as they went about their daily lives.

My friend and colleague, Rev. Dr. William Barber is calling the nation to regain her moral compass. In my presentation, I hope to engage participants to once again find the intersection of Temple and Town. An entrepreneur spirit, a world moving at warp speed with technology needs the intersection of Temple and Town more than ever.

9:15 - Ben Kittelson

For the Love of Local Government
Think about your favorite city, whether it’s where you grew up, where you live now or where you go to escape. Think about what makes that city special, what makes you think back with fondness? More likely than not, local government played a roll in what makes that city unique. Local governments can and do inspire love for their community. The built environment and quality of life that local governments create impact how people live their lives and experience their community. This talk will be about why your City, County and even that local soil and water district have such an important role to play in creating community and making places.
9:30 - Bob Cowell


Bob Cowell is the City Manager for the City of Roanoke.  He has served in local governments throughout the Midwest and Texas prior to joining Roanoke.  His education as an urban planner and 20-plus years of experience in city building has developed in, Bob a firm belief that a well-planned, well-governed city is the best physical place for one to realize their greatest potential. He is especially interested in urban design and neighborhood development.  Bob has worked in all facets of city development and is a student of the history of city planning—its good and bad aspects!  He holds a master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Tennessee, is a member American Institute of Certified Planners, an Accredited Member of the Congress for the New Urbanism, a Credentialed Manager with the International City and County Managers Association, and is an Adjunct Professor in the School of Architecture at Texas A&M University.  When not at work in cities, Bob enjoys hiking, photography, and spending time with his wife, Ellen.

9:40 - Ian Fortier


The Grandin Theatre Film Lab – Community Connectivity through Experiential Student Filmmaking


Join Grandin Theatre Executive Director Ian Fortier as he shares the process, pitfalls, and positive outcomes of developing the Grandin Theatre Film Lab, a unique model for experiential student Filmmaking in the Roanoke Valley.  Learn how this community based program not only works directly to help teenagers find their voice and creativity through the cinematic medium, but also the multiple ways in which the Lab serves the community that supports it.

9:55 - Elvir Berbic & Dadhi Dangal

More Info Soon…

10:05 - Clark Whittington


“You’re art is right smart”


A take on being a conceptual artist in a culture that kinda/sorta/sometimes wants to get it.

10:20 - Ariella Cohen


Why Detroit Just Hired a Chief Storyteller and Other Secrets of Urban Reporting


Narrative powers place and in 2017, that has never been more true.  At a time when local newspapers are floundering, it’s essential that cities like Roanoke have platforms to tell their story  and more importantly, know how to use them.  In an interactive format, we will explore how small and mid-sized cities can use journalism and social media as an economic and cultural development tool.

10:40 - Dr. Bruce Hull


The Anthropocene: Where are We Heading?


We are accelerating towards the future: artificial intelligence, rapid urbanization, supercharged innovation, global connectivity, and billions pulling themselves out of poverty to join the middle class. Real obstacles to sustaining development exist. Between now and 2050 we must almost double food and energy consumption, perhaps more than double urban infrastructure, mitigate and adapt to climate change, transition from a linear to a circular economy, overcome mounting water stress, employ several million new workers a week, and manage widening inequity and the social unrest it causes. Some paths into the future lead to amazing opportunities; others lead to horrendous misery. This talk examines strategies for navigating the challenges and realizing the opportunities.

11:00 - Free Egunfemi


Field Notes from the Front Line


Richmond, Virginia is experiencing a major cultural shift fueled in part by the rapid growth of the creative class and an increasingly competitive nonprofit sector struggling to solve racially complex challenges that are well over 250 years in the making.

Add to this daunting scenario a predatory community engagement model that encourages organizations to host town hall meetings where they unashamedly harvest the bright ideas and experiential observations from under-resourced grassroots subject matter experts without offering any sort of credit, compensation or sustained involvement for their extremely valuable intellectual property.

Field Notes from the Front Line is Free Egunfemi’s social entrepreneurship incubator and historically-based speakers bureau, where bright minded community subject matter experts are being taught to commodify their expertise at ticketed events for gatekeepers and allies eager to leverage their privilege via skill sharing and crowdfunding of authentic grassroots projects.

Free Egunfemi built Field Notes to support the emotional health and wellness of those at the front line experiencing the destabilizing effects of battle fatigue and the very real phenomenon of post traumatic slavery syndrome. In this session, Free will present tangible action items for how you can empower self determination, intersectionality and resistance to legacies of southern disenfranchisement and systemic inequity in your home communities, based on what is working for her in Richmond, Virginia

11:20 - Dr. Liz Ackley


Redrafting the Plot Line: Data as the Protagonist in Placemaking


If your “To-Do” list includes grandiose plans to change the world, it’s important to have a handle on the current state of affairs. Data can provide the essential context needed for developing innovative and impactful projects, establishing cross-sector partnerships, and inciting community-level change. Using the Roanoke Valley Community Healthy Living Index as a platform, we will consider how health disparities can illuminate inequities in neighborhood-level infrastructure and healthy living resources to set the stage for innovative placemaking. In this way, we can consider data as a catalyst rather than a destiny.

11:30 - Dr. Jessie Gehner


From Disaster to Dream Come True


10 years ago I was a 22 year old Appalachian Trail thru hiker, living in the woods for 6 months as I hiked from Maine towards Georgia on the 2200 mile long path that follows the ridge of the Appalachian Mountains. I was living my dream until a devastating injury ended my hike. I’ll be discussing how one event changed the entire path of my life into something better than I could have ever planned for myself.

12:00 - Deep Dive Lunches

An exciting opportunity to engage more with our speakers over a box lunch!

1:30 - Regather & Audience Introductions

Come back from lunch and prepare for a great afternoon of presentations!

1:45 - The Poetry Gods
The Poetry Gods: Making Art, Making Community
Aziza Barnes, Jon Sands, and José Olivarez realized many of the poetry podcasts they listened to were wildly dull. Hyper self-serious, self-agrandizing, and totally exclusive to high academic circles. That’s not the way they know or love poetry. It’s also not the way any of their homies and idols dig into this craft. Poets are fucking hilarious. Joyful and absurd, with stories for days. They hear them at the bar, during their banter at the reading. They wanted to hear it in a podcast. So they made one.
Two years later, The Poetry Gods is over 25 episodes deep and a source of inspiration for poetry lovers, poetry beginners, and poetry haters. During this CityWorks (X)po exclusive, The Poetry Gods read poems and discuss how to make art and how to make community. and how to laugh a whole lot in the process.
2:15 - Dr. Elda Stanco Downey


Pass Education Forward: The Hispanic College Institute


What would you have done if when you were 16 you were offered the opportunity to participate in a 4-day residential pre-college program for FREE? This is what The Hispanic College Institute (HCI) offers Latinx students across the Commonwealth of Virginia – the rare opportunity to learn about and prepare for college, with college faculty, students and higher ed professionals, for FREE. The program is based on research and input from Hispanic educators and community leaders, and much of the content is delivered by Hispanics who can relate to the students’ experiences and challenges. What’s the cool factor about the HCI? It’s run by college student volunteers who themselves participated in the HCI before enrolling in college. The HCI is about opening doors really wide and passing it forward – helping the next generation of Latinx college students in the same way we were helped on by our own previous generations.

2:25 - Maureen Brondyke


Housing2Home – Exploring A Collaborative Approach to the Arts and Housing


Over 25% of the residents of Charlottesville live in poverty and over 500 families and individuals experience homelessness every year. Despite increased government support for housing and rental subsidies, many newly-housed members of our community express feelings of social isolation in their new homes and find it difficult to adjust to their new communities. This talk explores how the arts have been integrated into housing first initiatives with the hope of creating more stable housing situations through a creative placemaking collaboration between a community arts organization and The Haven, a multi-resource day shelter for those experiencing homelessness in Charlottesville, VA.

2:40 - Jeff Julian


Libraries: Transforming Your Community


The American Library Association’s Libraries Transform public awareness and advocacy campaign effectively conveys the transformative nature of today’s libraries and the critical role they play in the digital age. Since 2015, more than 7,100 libraries and supporters have joined the effort using the campaign in a variety of ways, including to support a referendum campaign, advocate for state funding, and make an impact with students. Jeff Julian, director of the ALA’s public awareness office, will talk about how the Libraries Transform campaign’s messaging, strategy, and tools are resonating with libraries and the public on a local and national level.

3:00 - Dr. Wornie Reed


A Framework for Addressing Pervasive Racial Disparities


This presentation will critique the dominant consensus on race and how it gives rise to social and institutional dynamics that lead to racial disparities. It will then present systemic racism framework as an analytic tool to address issues of racial discrimination.

3:20 - Dr. Gregory Rosenthal


Building Community through LGBTQ+ History


The Southwest Virginia LGBTQ+ History Project, founded in 2015, is a community-based history initiative committed to researching and telling the stories of LGBTQ+ individuals and organizations in our region. In this talk, Dr. Gregory Rosenthal describes how the work of the History Project creates new spaces for LGBTQ+ people in the Roanoke Valley to come together and cultivate multigenerational community around a shared past. The History Project additionally asserts, to a broad audience, the rightful place of LGBTQ+ peoples and our stories in the history of this city and region.

3:30 - Dr. Todd Schenk


From Land Use Disputes to Policy Challenges: More Meaningful Public Participation Deliberation

3:50 - Alex Johnston

Local Government: America’s newest startup.
One of the most powerful teams an urban city can have is a fearless entrepreneur paired with a long tenured government employee who knows the system in and out. Private sector entrepreneurs are measured by their ability to sprint, climb, and outpace their competition while public sector employees are rewarded for their knowledge of systems that rarely change.
When city leaders leverage the energy of an entrepreneur and the knowledge of an experienced public servant, they have a force to be reckoned with. After all, you’ve got to know how a system works before you can break it.
4:15 - Dr. Katherine Loflin


The Power of Place: The Most Transformational Idea You’ve Probably Never Heard


Nothing affects every aspect of our lives more than where we live.  In fact, finding the right place to live is as important (and quite similar) to the journey of finding our perfect partner.  Innovative place science is providing key new insights, while being supportive of long-standing research that we as humans need certain connections with our environment to reach our true potential.  In turn, places are inherently dependent on the people within them to survive. We now know the key ingredients of the Great Place and how to harness the Power of Place to help people and places thrive.  Yet, that information is not widely known and certainly not applied in our work and personal lives. This session will change all that and probably forever change the way you think about your work, and your life.

5:30 - StreetFest (in Partnership with the Taubman)


8:30 - Gather & Breakfast

Come together and enjoy a light breakfast before heading out on our field trips!

9:00 - Field Trips

Choose one of the five exciting field trips to engage more deeply with a specific concept. This year’s trips can include…

Option 1: From Traintown to Braintown: Balancing Community Identity and Resident Well-being with Outside Investment and Revitalization Initiatives

Option 2: Making the Invisible Visible

Option 3: Get Out! How More Outdoor Recreation Leads to Thriving Cities

Option 4: Libraries Reflecting Communities

Option 5: Looking Beyond the Horizon: Exploring Key Influencers of Community Health

11:30 - Wrap-Up w/ Josh McManus


Turning Ideas into Accountable Action


(X)po friend and city nerd Josh McManus will walk participants through his personal ideas to action process and then lead the group through developing concise and actionable takeaways from the past two days.

12:00 - The Bitter End

Unfortunately, all things must end. (X)po is no different. But, we will be back next year!