So what does a T-Rex skeleton have to do with CRA and community development? Not much, really. Is it a captivating image that sums up my experience at the 2014 National Interagency Community Reinvestment Conference? Absolutely. Everything about this event was new and fascinating to me, while at the same time I was strangely nervous and overwhelmed at certain points. From the first-class amenities to all the diverse and thoughtful presentations and discussions, every detail was carefully planned and executed at the highest level. Overall, the 2014 NICRC marks a significant moment in my life and for the launch of findCRA.
In terms of food and accommodations, the Hyatt Regency was everything you would expect from a AAA Four Diamond hotel located in the heart of downtown Chicago. Gourmet breakfast and lunch was provided each day of the conference and a healthy supply of coffee and refreshments were always on-hand. A networking reception with open bar and hors d’oeuvres was held at the Chicago Field Museum the second night—compliments to T.Rex Sue for posing for such a nice pic!
As far as technology, the conference had its own mobile app. I wasn’t even aware apps were built for events like this, and this app went far beyond anything you would expect. Created by the innovative folks at DoubleDutch and modeled after common social media platforms, it enabled real time interaction between registered attendees, including status updates, photo sharing, “liking”, commentary, private messaging, scheduling and much more. Needless to say, it was a huge hit at the conference. Based on a few show-of-hand surveys, just about everyone downloaded the app and people are continuing to post updates a week after the event. Not only useful for keeping track of presentation materials and your agenda, it was extremely user friendly, fast, and easy on the eyes. Personally, I think it was a brilliant idea and is something I’ll always remember.
In terms of content and lessons learned, it would be difficult to capture in a single post. Some of the take-aways go beyond words. Listening to the final panel discussion in the Grand Ballroom on the last day, as some of the brightest minds in the industry talked about the future of community development, there came a moment where I knew I had changed. My view of the world had become larger. My ideas about CRA, philanthropy, and the industry as a whole had evolved to something closer to the truth. I was beginning to see “the forest through the trees”, and as I was leaving the conference, I was filled with renewed confidence and clarity on how to build findCRA into a useful and valuable service.