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What’s better than spending an evening entrenched in thought-provoking conversation with doers, movers, and changers to support each other in being the catalysts for a brighter, efficient, passionate, and better future?

(Trick question, there isn’t anything better!)

I had the wonderful pleasure of attending my second Feast dinner on Sunday March 23rd.  Hosted at The Wooly, an easy to miss historic lounge nestled in the Woolworth building behind a dilapidated black door with only its address number as a marker.  Once inside, the dim lighting and speakeasy ambience set the mood for a relaxed, engaging evening. Sponsors for the night were Launch Lm and Mailchimp.

This dinner’s theme was All Hands On Deck and centered on the question:
How do we get everyone’s voice heard to lead change? The theme was inspired by women’s month but the dinner was not solely focused on women. Why? Because while we certainly need to get more female voices heard, there are other minority groups who need representation. We don’t want to alienate or lose any voices, because it’s the differences in opinion, perspective, skill, and voice that will inspire positive change, innovation, and progress.

The first part of the dinner was a meet and greet where guests mingled by the bar and discussed their jobs, passions, and what brought them to the Feast.  Next, guests piled their plates with an array of delicious sandwiches, salads, and pizzas and gathered to listen to two speakers.  The first speaker was Jennifer Lawrence, Executive Director of NY Tech Meetup, the largest (and growing!) meetup in the world.  Jennifer reiterated the importance of getting more voices heard.  She shared the statistic that only 3% of tech startups are founded by women and encouraged the audience to help change that.  “Half of the population shouldn’t be sitting on the sidelines.  Diversity impacts outcome.”

The second speaker was Courtney Baxter, Chief of Staff of the Op Ed Project, whose mission is to increase the range of voices and quality of ideas we hear in the world.  Prompted by the lack of women submitting op eds, the organization works to break down the institutional, psychological, and social forces that keep some voices from being heard.

As Courtney said, "We aren't just trying to get more women to write op eds. We are an organization trying to change the world."  Their goal is to have all of the decisions being made that impact the world reflect the beautiful and important diversity that comprises it.

Her questions to the group were:

How do we get all hands on deck so that academia, politics, and thought leadership is representative of the many voices and minorities that make up society?

How can the Op Ed project grow and scale up?

How can the Op Ed project break into traditionally non-diverse institutions/careers and encourage diversity of voice, perspective, and ideas?

What partnerships should the Op Ed project make to increase their impact?

Jennifer and Courtney stimulated passionate chatter.  Guests discussed their thoughts on the implications of lack of voice, where and when this lack of voice starts, and how best to overcome traditional and cultural beliefs that reinforce the lack of diversity.

Some of the suggestions spawned by the brainstorming sessions included:

  • Create mentor programs within companies to give women and other minorities the courage and reinforcement to break through male dominated fields
  • Create training sessions to help teach public speaking, writing, and presenting skills necessary to become a thought leader
  • Offer an “idea forming club” similar to a book club that gives people a safe place to voice their ideas and brainstorm with others
  • Develop the Op Ed Project into a publisher that syndicates thought leadership pieces

Conversations and connections continued well into the evening.  The Feast awakens the innate desire within all of us to help others and contribute to a culture of conscious revolution, ardent innovation, and reflective discussions.

Do you have ideas or suggestions for Courtney?  Please email them to The Feast at hello@feastongood.com.

On April 16th The Feast is headed to the incredible Pioneer Works Center for Art + Innovation to explore the theme Gather, asking how we might create and sustain vibrant community spaces. If you're interested, you can register here.  Pioneer Works will also be home to The Feast Annual Conference in October!

The Feast fosters an innovative community dedicated to driving social impact through their annual Conference and The Feast Worldwide.  The Feast Worldwide is a series of independently organized dinner parties focused on a theme that runs parallel with the conference.

Photo credit: Bekka Palmer

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From the Editor
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