DC is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States, gaining nearly 1,000 new residents per month. High-rise condos and new restaurants are everywhere and even the former fringes of the city are now bustling with new business, new communities, new life. However, residents of some older communities that have weathered changing fortunes over decades feel pushed out and excluded from this growth. They’ve seen housing prices and rents skyrocket in some neighborhoods, and opportunities diminish in others.

But we hold the audacious belief that the growth we are experiencing can and must be equitable, that we must be a city that is inclusive of all. We must be a city that embraces our past and our future by tackling our current challenges with intention, purpose and conviction.

As a thriving hub of technology and culture, innovation and creativity – the key expressions of art – we, the founders of DC Ideas Fest, feel that the time is now to use out nation’s current moment of soul searching to come together as local artists and innovators, as well as community, national and international thought leaders in a visionary, solutions-oriented experience to foster new ideas vital to the region’s promising future.

We first began talking to stakeholders from housing and development, from arts and culture, from education, about what they saw as the biggest challenges facing us as a growing, changing city. Many spoke of the frustrations they felt being unable to connect on issues of shared importance with communities outside of their own. Many spoke of a deep desire for a shared space in which local residents from different parts of the city and different life experiences could create a new narrative about where we are going.

This inaugural edition of DC Ideas Fest is meant to be that space. Won’t you join us?

Sue Goodwin & Jacquie Jones, Co-Founders


DC Ideas Fest will be a four-day gathering in the heart of the city. It will feature main stage talks and panel discussions as well as poetry, art and film. There will be presentations from local non-profits, businesses and activists leading the way on issues ranging from affordable housing to high quality after-school activities. There will also be exhibitors of local products and a gathering space where neighbors can share their love of hometown, their experiences and their solutions to a myriad of 21st century challenges.

In our inaugural gathering, DC Ideas Fest will focus on the three following pillars that define, in broad strokes, our aspirations as a community:

Arts and Innovation: Creativity and innovation run deep in every part of our city. Local artists and innovators lead the way in a visionary framing of the opportunities for growth and the challenges of change in our next decade.

The Inclusive City: Yes, Washington is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. But we also have one of the highest percentages of people in both the highest and lowest income brackets. How do we become a city that is inclusive of all?

The Class of 2030 This Fall, close to 7,000 young students began their educational careers in DC public and charter schools. If nothing changes, these children will have vastly different educational outcomes depending , in many cases, on their zip codes. How do we unite as a city that provide opportunities for all of our children to thrive?


None of this amazing work would be possible without the guidance and support of the following civic, cultural and business leaders.

  • Nizam Ali is the owner of Ben’s Chili Bowl and is the chairman of the board for Think Local First, an organization that works with local businesses to help strengthen DC’s economy.

Eric Easter

  • Eric Easter is chairman of the National Black Programming Consortium, which funds, develops and produces black-focused documentary and digital content for PBS. He has held positions in digital leadership of the WashingtonPost.org and EbonyJet.com and is a highly regarded pioneer in digital media. Eric is currently CEO of BLQBOX Digital.

Jeff Franco Square

  • Jeff Franco is Vice President and Executive Director of City Year Washington, DC, a nonprofit organization whose teams of diverse young adults commit to a year of full-time service keeping students in school and on track to graduate. Franco has nearly 25 years of experience in business development and management and has a successful track record of implementing nonprofit strategic growth and corporate business development plans.

Murray Square

  • Murray Horwitz is an American playwright, lyricist, NPR broadcaster, and arts administrator. In 2002, Horwitz became the founding director of the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center and is currently Director of Special Projects at Washington Performing Arts.

Jeff Lee Square

  • Jefferi Lee is general manager of WHUT Howard University Television. Prior to joining WHUT, Lee helped lead Black Entertainment Television as the executive vice president of network operations and programming for 17 years.

Mary Square

  • Mary Lord has served on the State Board of Education since its inception in 2007. She was elected to be the At-Large member in November 2012. An award-winning journalist, Mary’s articles have appeared in local and national publications, including US News & World Report, where she covered K-12 and higher ed. She is currently a reporter and editor for the American Society for Engineering Education.


  • Vincent Napoleon is a partner at the law firm Nixon Peabody which deals with litigation, real estate, corporate law and intellectual property all over the world. Vince focuses his practice on corporate transactions, government contracts, public-private partnerships, mergers and acquisitions and life sciences. Vince counsels clients, both domestically and internationally, on corporate transactions and compliance matters as well as on procurement issues, public-private partnerships (P3) and litigation.

  • Andy Shallal is an Iraqi-American artist, activist and entrepreneur. He is best known as the proprietor of the Washington, DC-area restaurant, bookstore, performance venue Busboys and Poets. He is also a local philanthropist.

Nicole Sims Square

  • Nicole Sims is currently the Director of Partnerships and Development for the DC Department of Parks & Recreation (DPR) where she works diligently to garner innovative, creative and sometimes unconventional support for the districts parks, recreation facilities and programs at the convergence of recreation and education. Before DPR, Nicole worked with the Deputy Mayor’s Office for Planning and Economic Development, implementing the Creative Economy strategy for the city.


  • Traci Slater-Rigaud is the director of the National Arts & Humanities Youth Program Awards at the President’s Commission on the Arts & Humanities. Traci is also on the board of directors of the Sitar Arts Center.

Marta Square

  • Marta Urquilla is the Deputy Director at the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University. Marta served in the Obama Administration as Senior Policy Advisor in the inaugural White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation and as Senior Advisor for Social Innovation at the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).

Donna Square

  • Donna Rattley Washington serves as Vice President of Government & Regulatory Affairs for Comcast’s Beltway Region. In this role, Donna leads government, regulatory and community affairs activities across the Beltway Region. A third generation Washingtonian, Donna maintains a strong commitment to both business and civic organizations in her hometown.

  • Tim Wisniewski is director of strategic initiatives at LINK Strategic Partners, a national strategic communications and stakeholder engagement firm headquartered in Washington, D.C. In this capacity, Tim oversees special projects and partnerships around the country while cultivating LINK’s core mission to engage hyperlocally in everything LINK does. A born storyteller, Tim continually seeks the best opportunities and strategies to share LINK’s work – and that of LINK’s client partners – in creative and dynamic ways.
PHOTOS: Tony Webster (Rainbow Flag at the White House), Nathan Rupert (China Town Gateway), Tim Evanson (FDR Memorial)
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