1. What was the most valuable aspect about the Midsummer Retreat?
Stephen Coulston – No doubt, networking with peers from across the country is a highlight of this retreat. Sharing experiences, lessons learned, and celebrating the diverse approach and application of ULI’s mission at various district councils across the Americas is invaluable.
Heidi Cisneros – Meeting other district councils. This offered me the opportunity to not only hear the ideas that were happening in other cities, but also a sense of common goals and direction.
Paulette Gibbins – I loved the session with [innovation consultant] Diana Kander! I feel we really had training on how to change the conversation from “What are some great things we should do?” to focusing on ideas for solutions to a given issue.
2. How did your experience at the Midsummer Retreat impact your role within ULI?
Coulston – Seeing so many people from such a variety of backgrounds across the organization, all aligning to advance the mission and shared goals and objectives of the organization, inspires me in the work we are doing right here at home in Austin.
Cisneros – The Midsummer Retreat gave me insight and clarification as to how ULI Americas operates. It allowed me to understand my role better and how I can support the future of the built environment and its initiatives.
Gibbins – What I especially liked about the Midsummer Retreat is that my chair, CMA, and I could spread out and hear even more, but also at the same time we heard the same presented information and have a shared base to go into the coming year.
3. What is one thing from Midsummer Retreat you would like to implement at your district council?
Coulston – Ask more questions! Diana Kander challenged us on this, and I think we should all take it to heart. And we should experiment with new ideas before attempting to roll out unproven, ungrounded, unsubstantiated big, hairy, audacious goals. Ask the questions: Why are we doing this? Whom will it serve? Who will champion this? What problem will it solve? Will it pay for itself?
Cisneros – The understanding I gained from the retreat and the clarification I received in my role allowed me to brainstorm on how I could better support ULI’s DEI [diversity, equity, and inclusion] initiatives. I would especially like to see our DEI chair not only succeed but establish a solid reputation as an active voice and source of knowledge in our community. One thought would be to see more minority firms lead endeavors, utilizing larger firms to backfill and provide support when needed.
Gibbins – I look forward to having a program around the 10 Principles for Embedding Racial Equity in Real Estate Development. I had not yet read the report (and still need to), but I left with a much better understanding of it. I envision that beyond using this report as a single program, ULI Austin can reference the report for future programs related to equitable development.
The Midsummer Retreat has served many different purposes over the years but providing an extended platform of in-person collaboration made this year more valuable than ever. Attending with my incoming chair Sandi Silk, I was able to introduce her to staff in other markets, at HQ, as well as her fellow member leaders. We discussed challenges and successes for programming, initiatives, and events with our district council peers across the network, and it was incredibly valuable. ULI has created an incredible network to allow us to cheer each other’s successes and innovations in tackling common problems.
After this year’s Midsummer Retreat, one idea I look forward to moving forward with is the Pathways to Inclusion Exchange. ULI Boston can work to provide opportunity to Pathways members and build a national network, connecting them with their peers in other markets.
The meeting was a true team effort. The Americas District Councils team was able to accommodate the many priorities of dozens of participating district councils, from the introduction and overview for incoming chairs to the Shark Tank-style workshop with Kander. Time was provided for connecting, learning about ULI and the host city, sharpening initiative planning skills, and strengthening the relationships between staff and members.
The District Councils team will soon be soliciting informal proposals and statements of interest in hosting the 2023 District Council Midsummer Retreat. Being sought are district councils with compelling stories related to ULI’s mission and priorities. Ideal proposals will include downtown hotel accommodations, as well as recommendations for restaurants and potential site visits. Stay tuned for more information on when and how to submit proposals.