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FullConTech 2019: Emphasizing Trust and Safety

I have heard that FullConTech is different, and being my first time, I approached the day with skeptical optimism. I was introduced to FullConTech as a volunteer researcher. Outside of my fractional contribution, I know there is a full team that worked ardently for thousands of hours developing and out-reaching that brings us this one-day event. On October 15, 2019, 275 diverse changemakers arrived at the Microsoft Visitor Center in Redmond, WA to spark action.  

The speakers, attendees, sessions, and conversation throughout the day supported this year’s theme of “Re-envisioning engagement.” Michael Schutzler, CEO of WTIA, kicked us off by emphasizing WTIA’s differentiating qualities of experimentation and incubation of ideas and connecting people across sectors. He succinctly activated the day by encouraging us all to “do work, connect, and invent!”

And if you read no further, let me say, that unlike most conferences I’ve attended, I walked out of FullConTech 2019 energized, hopeful, and equipped to do more. The attitudes and sensibilities of everyone there provided a deep community of trust and safety among diverse backgrounds and experiences across multiple sectors in WA. 

Summary of the event sessions

Michael then introduced the day’s keynote speaker, Dr. Tiffany Manuel, President and CEO of TheCaseMade. “Dr. T” had us all leaning forward at the get go. Her captivating presence and energy had us all believing in our opportunities to create and implement success. Dr. T presented five takeaways to solving big challenges:

  1. Understand challenges are technical and adaptive
  2. Leverage approaches that are explicitly inclusive with diverse perspectives
  3. Put big rocks first – trust, belonging, stake, understand diverse experience, understand our roles, believe in the power of working together
  4. Stop reminding people how bad it is
  5. Be clear and master the fine art of pulling people forward with storytelling

She re-emphasized these points with a quote from Desmond Tutu, “Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument,” and closed by encouraging us all to be the changemakers, gamechangers, impact investors, risk takers. 

The keynote was followed up by flash talks presented by the leaders who would also moderate and participate in the corresponding invent sessions that happened after lunch. These subject matter experts introduced the themes and ideas to be expounded upon in the afternoon sessions. 

Venus Rekow, Chief Behavioral Strategist at Neural Shifts led invent session 1: The Work Community – Building Inclusive Cultures.

Venus introduced us to the challenge of re-designing an inclusive culture. She stated inclusive cultures being proven to be six times more innovative. Employees want to feel seen, heard, and grow. This can be done by looking at structure (policies and practices), behaviors (values, attitudes, what’s okay/not okay), and communication (framing and channels). The ROI companies can benefit from by implementing an inclusive culture can be representation, retention, and an attractive brand/reputation. Venus reminds us all that culture starts with your teams (the people). 

Lorraine Ralston, Partnership Specialist at the U.S. Census Bureau, led invent session 2: Census-based Community Data – Accessible, Approachable, Usable.

Lorraine reminded us that the Census is coming, and the challenge at-hand is to work with communities to promote and make the Census more accessible, approachable, and usable.  Census data affects us every day for things like funding, population forecasting, emergency planning, transportation, schools, and so much more. While partnerships with business communities are in progress with Microsoft, COIL, Chambers of Commerce, and WTIA, what more can be done to overcome misinformation, fear, and build trust? 

Suzanne Ames, Vice President of Instruction at Lake Washington Institute of Technology led invent session 3: Companies and Schools Unite – Building a a Skilled and Diverse Workforce.

Suzanne presented the challenge of figuring how companies and schools can work better together to build a more skilled and diverse workforce in WA that meets demands. Tech job openings are growing, and there is a gap in graduates available to fill the demand. Non-tech sectors are becoming more technical as well. We need alternatives like applied baccalaureate degrees to keep up with talent demands. How can the companies in need and schools design programs and strategies that can fill this gap?

Bryan Hockaday, NW Public Policy Manager at Lyft led invent session 4: Future of Work – Working in the Gig Economy.

Bryan introduced the challenge of how we can best leverage and support the “gig” worker to keep pace with a changing economy. Platform or app-based work like Lyft drivers provide critical additional income and flexibility to those who need it and do not contribute to traffic congestion. Who are these drivers and other alternative workers that are a growing part of the workforce and what do they need to become a supported member of the economy?

Michelle Guerra and Janet Sowards, Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHC) and Sr. Clinicians at Premera Blue Cross led invent session 5: Community Health Innovation – Creating Access to Behavioral Healthcare.

Michelle and Janet raised our awareness with the challenge of creating programs and access to mental healthcare differently to improve outcomes for the business and person. The economic burden of mental depression is $210 billion. However, it’s not just financial but also impacts humanitarianism and opportunities. Mental healthcare is as critical as physical healthcare. How can programs and access to mental healthcare be improved to remove/reduce stigma and shame?

These topics were tackled in the afternoon invent sessions that happened simultaneously. Each attendee would attend one of these to collaborate, invent, and provide opportunities to implement engaging solutions to these challenges referred to as “plays.” These are all captured in the FullConTech 2019 Playbook in detail. Click here to be notified when the playbook is released.

I would be remiss if I did not call-out the peer consulting part of the day that happened right before lunch and before the deep-dive into these invent sessions. This was a highlight because it’s where we got to explicitly connect more deeply with fellow attendees. Each attendee in random groups of 10 or so had an opportunity to make an ask for something needed to succeed on a project, in your career, or within your organization. As others in the group listened, they had the opportunity to offer solutions. 

Thanks to the FullConTech Presenting Sponsor, Comcast!

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