What happens when you bring dozens of the country's most promising young urbanists to a city and set them loose to solve its biggest challenges?
Houston is about to find out.
This spring, Houston will welcome the Next City Vanguard conference. Forty young professionals from disciplines such as architecture, urban planning and public policy will come to Houston to learn about the city and develop ways to solve its problems.
Next City, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit, is a widely-read publisher of news about cities. It also runs the Next City Vanguard conference, now in its seventh year.
The Kinder Institute for Urban Research, based in Houston's Rice University, submitted the winning application to host the conference, which will run May 10-13, 2016.
“The Next City Vanguard conference is the leading event for the country’s top young urbanists, and Houston is the country’s hottest urban location,” said Bill Fulton, director of the Kinder Institute. “We’re looking forward to bringing the Vanguards to town and having them apply their skills to Houston’s urban problems.”
The conference convenes in Houston at a time when the region is experiencing unprecedented growth. Greater Houston's population has increased from 4.5 million to 6 million people since 2000 and is expected to grow to 10 million by 2040.
Vanguard fellows will be tasked with figuring out how the region can capitalize on that growth while avoiding traffic congestion and ensuring equitable and inclusive development, among other priorities.
As part of its application, the Kinder Institute assembled a host committee charges with helping to introduce the Vanguard fellows to Houston. That host committee includes representatives of the city of Houston; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Houston Hackathon; the University of Texas School of Public Health, the Houston Parks Board and many others.
“Next City Vanguard conference brings together the best and brightest urban thinkers from across the country,” said Houston Mayor Annise Parker in a statement. “As a place known for being on the cutting edge of innovation, the city of Houston and Rice University cast an ideal setting for these young innovators to explore and create solutions that will inspire the next generation of advancements.”
Past Vanguards have worked for the Obama administration, founded successful city-focused startups such as Ioby and Fundrise, held municipal office and climbed the ranks of influential organizations such as the Brookings Institution, the Urban Institute, Citigroup, Code for America, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Transportation Alternatives, Smart Growth America and the University of Chicago. Many of the more than 250 Vanguard alumni have come back to participate in subsequent conferences.
This year’s three-day conference will include workshops, tours and conversations about the newest innovations and most pressing questions in urban development, infrastructure and public policy.
“Next City is thrilled to select Houston as the site for our Vanguard 2016 conference,” said Tom Dallessio, president, CEO and publisher Next City, in a statement. “We look forward to bringing brilliant and committed young urban leaders to Houston to inspire change in this amazing city and cities around the world.”