Arizona’s Future: Arizona Leadership Forum

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The Arizona Leadership Forum was held September 19th. It is designed to bring together leaders from the state’s corporate, philanthropic, and nonprofit sectors to learn how to achieve greater success in their own organizations, their communities and the state. Lattie Coor, Chairman and CEO of the Center for the Future of Arizona, and Darcy Renfro, the director of The Arizona We Want Institute, will discuss the forum and more.

Ted Simons: Tonight's edition of Arizona's future looks at the recently held Arizona leadership form up, designed to bring together leaders from the state's corporate, philanthropic and nonprofit sectors to learn how to reach success in their own organizations and in the state. You are here to discuss the forum. Good to have you here.

Ted Simons: Now Lattie, the Arizona leadership forum. What is this?

Lattie Coor: This is an organization pulled together by national bank of Arizona, Freeport McMoran and the Phoenix philanthropy group. Three years ago they had their first major leadership forum and every year it's built in strength and size. Last year they had Jim Collins here as a feature that really gave everyone that attended it an assignment. This year almost 1,000 people, leadership from corporate and nonprofit sector, focused. We are delighted to say, on the Arizona we want. All of the issues there.

Ted Simons: What was the message that the attendees got? What was the goal here?

Darcy Renfro: I think the goal was to highlight some of the success stories at Arizona around the goals of the Arizona we want. But also to help give leaders in the state at all levels philanthropic, corporate, et cetera, ideas about how to take their passion and translate it into something actionable in tangible ways that Arizona is moving the ball forward and trying to achieve the goals.

Ted Simons: Can you give us some examples?

Darcy Renfro: Some of the great panels talked about the ASU-Starbucks partnership. How do you take public and private and create a partnership that's unique. The stunning video that was shown in advance was really moving and telling about what that is doing for kids not only in Arizona but other places as well.

Ted Simons: And using that as an example, civic engagement, getting young tall end ahead, education, community involvement, that particular enterprise seemed to touch a lot of bases.

Lattie Coor: It was so vivid when they discussed it. The representative from Starbucks really gave all of Arizona a tribute for undertaking that venture.

Ted Simons: For some of these leaders, again, attending the forum, examples of what good comes of it, what did they leave hearing?

Lattie Coor: I think everyone understood that it's a set of goals but they are not static. There are things that can be used no matter what their walk of life is. So leaders can use it within their own organizations. Candidates for office just as we were able to display with all of the candidates during the primary, speaking to the issues of the Arizona we want. That individual citizens can use it in making their judgments about what they do.

Ted Simons: As far as significant challenges facing Arizona and what, again, folks at the forum heard, what are some of those challenges, how were they addressed?

Darcy Renfro: We were just talking about one today in your earlier segment about education. Education foundational to civic health, to a growing economy, that's always a challenge. We have issues around water and supply of water and how we're going to deal with that going forward. We frankly have perception issues. So I think one of the most important things that attendees got out of the forum were there are positive things happening in Arizona. We can't always focus on the negative. We have great challenges but we have solutions popping up all over. If we all rowing in the same direction, and we company less around things that matter for the long term in our state we will be able to make a difference every day in our lives.

Ted Simons: You mentioned business community, philanthropic, nonprofits, all together with leaders here at this event. Are these challenges maybe the ones you just mentioned other challenges are they the same for all sectors?

Lattie Coor: I think each sector has a special role to play. They will vary by sector. The thing that is so interesting as we watch it unfold is that people do see the connection between what their role is, leaders and decision makers, for example, and citizens working in their own community to take those goals and make them something that means an important result for everybody that's involved.

Ted Simons: It sounds like it was -- I won't call it pep rally, almost put with the negative, start with the positive, let's get together. Am I getting that right?

Lattie Coor: The spirit with which people cherish Arizona, talked about who we are, said let's in a sense recapture for the world who we are, and to use the examples of that forum allowed to be displayed, it did have that feeling of a great celebration.

Darcy Renfro: I think this form of the earth has really followed the path that the Arizona we want is following, to really identify, talk to citizens, identify goals, focus on the goals, then understand what's happening in the state. Start to bring -- working toward those goals, start to engage not only leaders but citizens in moving forward in achieving things that we want.

Ted Simons: How do you do that? How do you engage citizens and leaders?

Darcy Renfro: We have been doing that for the last year since we came up with the report. Leaders right now we have spent a lot of time talking to candidates for statewide office saying, these are the things Arizonans say they want. How will you address them? We start to get them to think about their campaign in terms of their future and what they will do in terms of issues that are important to Arizona. We have seen at love of organizations and debates using the goals to structure the conversation. That's been very positive. For the community it's about talking to communities, engaging communities that normally don't engage, just asking them what is their passion and give them some tools to do that.

Ted Simons: And you have been around for quite a while. You have seen Arizona grow. You know what it was like in decades past, what we seem to be like now, what you want the future to look like. How has that changed?

Lattie Coor: I think the spirit of adventure, loving to be here, being here because many people have come here from afar, and want to live here. I think that's endured throughout. I think, however, there's been a little hesitation in the last two years where we have been caricatured nationally, where Arizonans are beginning to say, wait, we are someone else. We're different that than that. I see that beginning to turn into a very positive direction of people saying we know who we are, we know what we want to be. But we all have to work together to make it happen.

Ted Simons: Did everyone, most folks at the forum, did they agree who we are and who we want to be?

Darcy Renfro: I think so. I think people are often surprised when they come to something like this and hear all the great things happening in this state and say, wow, I didn't know. That part of this, Lattie talked at the end of the forum about the makeup of our state. We're essentially two-thirds of our state since the 1900s have come from places other than Arizona, so we have a very small native born population. So we need people who come to the state to understand what we're about and become part of this team.

Ted Simons: But that's an interesting point. Again, you have seen people come to the state over the years and they bring their old home with them, their old ideas with them. Some just don't want to change. Some don't necessarily care about the Arizona future.

Lattie Coor: In time they do. That's the important thing. Why do we have less connection with community and the electoral system here? I think largely because we have so many newcomers. But if they can get the spirit and understand how all of this fits together, I think it will deepen those ties in a very significant way.

Ted Simons: Is this the kind of thing you have to wait it out?

Lattie Coor: I think we can help by getting leaders to understand it and working in community after community after community. Darcy and the whole project now is beginning to focus on community involvement, getting individual citizens to recognize that the things they are doing can contribute to the Arizona we want.

Ted Simons: As far as people attending the event, what did you want them to take from the forum?

Darcy Renfro: One of the things is that there is a future, there's a common set of goals for Arizona. There are things happening that are helping us reach those goals and they can engage. There are ways for them to enter into this conversation and make an impact. I think that's very important.

Ted Simons: As far as -- again, kind of a pep rally thing, go out into the real world and things filter away. How do you keep things from filtering away?

Lattie Coor: Keep connected. We have had people at that event pulling together. We know the sponsors of the forum, national bank of Arizona and the Freeport Mack Moran are reaching out. We want to sound the note that we are all working from now we get out to organize.

Ted Simons: Good to have you here. Congratulations. Good luck on the future of Arizona and with Arizona that we all seem to want.

Lattie Coor:Chairman and CEO, Center for the Future of Arizona; Darcy Renfro:Director, The Arizona We Want Institute;

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