the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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Conference on Next Generation Leadership

Howard W. Buffett, Policy Advisor for the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, discusses the Administration’s recent efforts to inspire the country’s next generation of leadership to create, elevate, and sustain community solutions.

The Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation focuses on doing business differently by promoting service as a solution and a way to develop community leadership.  Solutions to America's challenges are being developed every day at the grass roots - and government should not be supplanting those efforts, it should be supporting those efforts.  President Barack Obama has recognized that “the challenges we face today are simply too big for government to solve alone, and we need all hands on deck”.  

It is a priority of the Administration to find new ways for the government to work with individuals and organizations to solve national problems.  Given the scale of challenges we face, people are increasingly looking for leadership to emerge within their communities.  Innovation, service, and volunteerism are on the rise, and new resources and models of partnership are needed.  The Administration recognizes that the success of our nation’s future rests in the hands of the country’s next generation of leaders, as well as their ability to successfully empower communities and create, elevate, and sustain community solutions.

In partnership with the Office of Public Engagement, this Office has taken an all-hands-on-deck approach to develop collaborative responses to America's complex problems by convening a group of accomplished young leaders from across the country. The meeting was organized by young leaders, for young leaders, and featured senior administration officials who discussed innovative White House public-private partnership initiatives such as Educate to Innovate, the Recovery Act, and the Let's Move Partnership for a Healthier America.

The afternoon consisted of highly interactive working sessions covering a broad range of leadership and collaboration challenges.  The structure of these discussions was built around the principles of the White House cross-sector partnerships strategy, which outlines three basic roles when organizing leadership:  convening of diverse stakeholders around an issue or within a community, catalyzing action to address challenges on a local, regional, or national scale, and coordinating leaders in order to address shared objectives.  Participants provided practical, substantive, and creative contributions for the group to consider, which stemmed from key challenges they themselves identified during the conference.  Arranged by engagement methodology, these big pictures questions included:

--How do we re-create the public square?  Or create public square 2.0?
--How do we foster impactful conversation in the era of 140 characters?

--What is the government's role in influencing the social agenda, through policy or through education?
--How do we dramatically increase capital flow to mission-driven investors, entrepreneurs, and historically marginalized communities? 

--How do we measure and encourage risk-taking among foundations?
--What are the best metrics of impact, how do we measure engagement, and how do we know when we are done?

The conference concluded with participants announcing that they had begun planning subsequent convenings in their respective regions in order to galvanize support, build momentum, and address local challenges based on the engagement models developed during the day.  They determined that only through collaborative leadership could communities across the country empower themselves by unlocking the energy, ingenuity, and skills of the next generation in order to discover new solutions to old problems.