The following is a transcript of ULI Chairman Lynn Thurber’s remarks made on October 21 at the 2014 Fall Meeting in New York City.
It’s great to be back in New York! This is our first try at the new Fall Meeting format, and I hope that all of you are finding it to be a success.
By devoting each day to a specific topic area, we are aiming to provide you with more flexibility and more opportunities to take advantage of what matters most to you.
I want to extend special thanks to the extraordinary work of the Program Committee and chair Mary Ludgin; our Steering Committee, co-chaired by Jeff Blau and Rob Speyer; and our Host Committee, chaired by Cia Buckley Marakovits and Marty Burger.
And, I’d like to thank all of you for being here, actively participating in this week’s discussions and for supporting the Institute.
For generations of ULI members, the Fall Meeting serves as a unique and broad-spectrum window on our industry. It is the Institute’s best platform for optimizing educational and networking opportunities. It offers value to those seeking to gain knowledge and learn from other’s lessons. It offers value to those seeking to give back, to share their knowledge and lessons learned.
Perhaps most important, the Fall Meeting spotlights leadership by members at all stages of their careers. In fact, today’s topic for the Fall Meeting is leadership.
We got a jumpstart on this theme last night, when we honored Mike Fascitelli at a fundraising gala. I would conjecture almost all of the 7,000 of you know Mike, and certainly if you’ve been to any of our major meetings in past years—you’ve heard from Mike. He’s an accomplished ULI leader whose wit and wisdom have livened up countless real estate sessions.
And today, on Leadership Day of the Fall Meeting, It is my distinct pleasure to recognize the next generation of people like Mike—distinguished real estate leaders.
This impressive group is Urban Land magazine’s first-ever “40 Under 40.” They are younger professionals who are already making an impact on the industry. They are demonstrating outstanding leadership in all areas of our industry—design, development, finance, planning, sustainability, public policy, and academia.
Please join me in congratulating these 40 Under 40! When you see them this week, please introduce yourselves and welcome them as leaders of our industry.
Now, I’d like to spend a few minutes on the exciting progress we are making to improve ULI’s knowledge sharing. Knowledge sharing is what connects our members to each other; it’s what forges bonds between the most experienced and the rising stars. It’s what ensures a strong future for our organization.
During my first Fall Meeting address last year in Chicago, I highlighted enhanced knowledge sharing as one of my top priorities as ULI Chairman. I came into the chairmanship believing that ULI needs to extend the give-and-take that occurs during our meetings—that we need to build this incredible knowledge sharing experience into a year-round, 24-7 benefit. And in the past year, I have heard that expressed by many of you.
To figure out the most effective way to do this, ULI assembled a knowledge sharing team of members and staff, and engaged the services of IDEO, an award-winning design firm that helps organizations in the public and private sectors innovate and grow. IDEO’s clients run the gamut from Target to PNC Bank to the Gates Foundation; IDEO is the firm that came up with the computer mouse.
Initially, we focused on sharing the intellectual content of our product councils. But, the more we explored, it became clear that we should broaden our focus to include the entire spectrum of ULI. IDEO interviewed members at all levels. It reviewed ULI’s various offerings—our website, our meeting structure, our programs, and our research. And, from that, it recommended creating an organizational mindset that places an even greater priority on member contributions and connections.
We listened. We learned. And today, I’m pleased to say that ULI is already taking steps to offer more opportunities for member expertise to be easily shared.
We started last winter with a new addition to ULI’s Education program – the Real Estate Entrepreneur series. These sessions match ULI’s senior leaders with younger members for panel discussions followed by more informal interactions over dinner. So far, more than 100 people have participated to learn from and talk with the experts on topics such as how to structure your best deal, and what makes a successful value-add real estate development.
This past summer, we launched ULI Access. It’s a new mobile app that provides instant updates on all of ULI’s events and activities—right at your fingertips. You can tailor it to get only the information you need or want—whether it’s from your District or National Council, any of ULI’s Centers and Initiatives, or Urban Land online. You can sign up to be alerted when new information appears, or for registration reminders. If you have not downloaded this handy tool, I urge you to do so.
And, this week, at the Fall Meeting, we are continuing to raise the bar for knowledge sharing in new and exciting ways. We’ve added a new opportunity to gain knowledge through networking with our new “dine around” sessions, which are taking place this evening. These are created specifically to encourage full members with similar professional interests to have dinner and talk in an informal setting. You’ll be seated with Trustees, former Trustees and Foundation Governors, who will lead the conversations over great food at some of New York’s best restaurants.
We’ve also improved our ULI Events app for the Fall Meeting by adding a new tool designed to bring people together—both virtually and in-person.
By now, you have seen the giant screen out front with all sorts of pictures and comments on what’s happening this week. That is the new ULI “Member Wall,” and it is displaying posts from ULI’s enhanced Events App. Posts and photos from all of you.
The meeting app itself is not new—we’ve offered it at previous meetings to help you find sessions and events. What’s different about the app is a new social media feature to allow you to share and interact more directly with each other.
It’s a new communications tool to encourage your feedback on what you are seeing and hearing throughout the week—whether you are attending a session here at the Javits Center, or a reception across town. You can customize it to show your areas of interest, contact those with similar interests, facilitate face-to-face meetings, share your opinions, take surveys, and have fun in the process.
It’s still early in the week, and already, more than 2,200 attendees are using the social media feature of the app. If you haven’t done this, now’s a great time to start! I encourage all of you to embrace this new tool as a way to become more engaged in every aspect of the meeting.
All of these activities and tools are building on the tradition of knowledge sharing that started at ULI’s earliest meetings. We’re at the start of many technology and communication advancements that ULI will be making to engage you ‐ to make the Institute more responsive to your needs and preferences.
Each step is moving us toward a highly interactive, online, member-to-member community network, which will be part of a major redesign of uli.org this coming year. This new member directory is all about allowing you to find and tap the know-how of members around the world. You’ll be able to stay in touch with people you’ve met at ULI events and strengthen your relationships. The website redesign will also have a “knowledge finder” to simplify the search for ULI’s research, programs and activities.
The advancements we are making with knowledge sharing reflect how ULI is adapting to new environments without losing sight of its core values. We are revamping ULI to be a truly member-centric organization.
ULI is your organization. Your input, both in-person and virtual, will help ensure that ULI’s future is determined for members by members.
I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas on our knowledge sharing initiatives. Download the ULI Events App and send me a Private Message.
Thank you, and enjoy the rest of the meeting!