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Column: New (co)lab event seeks to inspire regional collaboration

By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on September 6, 2013,

After 40 years of nurturing leaders in Atlanta, Leadership Atlanta believed it needed to harness the opportunities in the region by engaging a broader coalition to participate in a first-of-its-kind event.

That’s how (co)lab, a two-day summit taking place Sept. 22-23 at the Woodruff Arts Center, came to be.

“It’s our belief that Atlanta deserves a place among the truly great cities — not just in America, but in the world,” said Pat Upshaw-Monteith, president and CEO of Leadership Atlanta. “As we study other leading cities around the world — the vibrant and growing economies and cultures — we recognize that they have overcome challenges and achieved breakout performance in a few common areas. At the core, these initiatives center on topics of education, innovation and talent.”

Upshaw-Monteith said the Atlanta region must instill “models of collaborative leadership” — reinforcing its tradition of the “Atlanta Way” — where business, academic, civic and community leaders worked together to benefit the region.

The (co)lab summit will bring some of the top minds — locally, nationally and internationally — to focus on key topic areas of education, innovation, talent and collaborative leadership.

“In each of these areas, we intend to examine the ideas and initiatives that have helped other global cities succeed,” Upshaw-Monteith said. “In putting together this summit, we reached out to renowned experts, authors and leaders in each of the focus areas, challenging them to give brief talks that engage (co)lab participants in exploration and conversation about how we could apply proven ideas to the Atlanta region.”

Among the 60 speakers who will be at the summit are Thomas Friedman, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and columnist for The New York Times; Leigh Gallagher, managing editor of Fortune; Sir Ken Robinson, international adviser in education innovation; Tony Wagner, education expert and founder of the Harvard Change Leadership Group; Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed; Gov. Nathan Deal; Alan Dabbiere, chairman of AirWatch; David Butler, vice president of innovation at The Coca-Cola Co.; Robin Chase, founder of ZipCar and BuzzCar; and Bud Peterson, president of Georgia Tech.

When asked what she hopes will emerge from (co)lab, Upshaw-Monteith said simply change.

“We want (co)lab to bring about an ongoing desire to better our city, region and country that will last well beyond the conclusion of the summit,” she said. “Our goal is to inspire participants to collaborate more actively on ideas and solutions that address our shared 21st century challenges, and beyond.”

Although (co)lab is a two-day summit, Upshaw-Monteith said she expects that people will work to implement recommendations long after the programis over. She also said she expects that (co)lab will become an annual event.

Early childhood education

Another major summit will be underway in Atlanta during the exact same days as (co)lab. The National Business Leader Summit on Early Childhood Investment will be taking place Sept. 22-23 at the Loews Atlanta Hotel.

Stephanie Blank, chair of the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students (GEEARS); and Gov. Nathan Deal will kick off the summit Sunday evening. Also, James Heckman, 2000 Nobel Laureate and economics professor at the University of Chicago, will present a “New Economic Case for Investing in Young Children.”

A highlight of the Early Education Summit will be Monday morning when U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will provide a federal perspective. That will be followed by a conversation with several business executives, including Paul Amos II, president of Aflac; James Rohr, executive chairman and former CEO of PNC Financial Services Group; Pete Selleck, chairman and president of Michelin North America; and Carol Tomé, chief financial officer of Home Depot.

Atlanta Women’s Foundation

The Atlanta Women’s Foundation has named seven new members to its board, including John Haupert, president and CEO of Grady Health System.

“We are just delighted that John has agreed to join our board — further reinforcing our broadened scope as an organization that is bringing the entire community into the cause of breaking generational poverty for Atlanta’s women and girls,” said Kelly Dolan, the foundation’s executive director.

The other new members are Stephanie Barrell, Bank of America’s market executive of commercial banking for Georgia and Alabama; William Jennings, managing director with Alvarez & Marsal Global Forensic and Dispute Services; Letitia “Tish” McDonald, partner with King & Spalding; Becky Powhatan Kelly, a retired executive vice president of the Weather Channel Cos.; Deborah Goodman, a vice president of business development and account Management for First American Title Insurance Co.; and Lisa Cannon Taylor, a community volunteer.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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