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IOWA IDEAS 2019
OCTOBER 3-4 CEDAR RAPIDS

To provide a nonpartisan, statewide learning experience

designed to explore the key questions and big ideas that will shape the future of Iowa.

Iowa Ideas

Iowa Ideas 2018 Conference - Full Recap

Jun 17, 2019 at 1:25 pm
    Gloria Cotton, inQuest Consulting senior partner, gives opening remarks, before later delivering the Diversity Forum keynote, at the second annual Iowa Ideas conference at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Cedar Rapids Convention Complex on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

    2018 was a spectacular year for Iowa Ideas. We saw the return of our Iowa Ideas Conference in September, which drew hundreds of speakers, thought leaders, and attendees to our two-day conference.

    The Iowa Ideas tracks for 2018 included:

    • Agriculture

    • Education

    • Energy & Environment

    • Workforce

    • Health Care

    • Human & Social Services

    • Policy

    • Regional Development

    The Iowa Ideas team also released 5 magazinesthroughout 2018. Many of the stories they covered became the catalyst for sessions at the conference. A full slate of magazines are set for 2019, and you can subscribe to the magazine to ensure you never miss an issue.

    Subscribe to the Magazine

    Key Moments from the Conference

    If you were not able to make it to the 2018 conference, you can rewatch some major moments here. Leading off the video are the opening remarks from The Gazette's Executive Editor Zack Kucharski, Diversity Forum Keynote Gloria Cotton, among others.

    Following that on the video is the full lunch keynote session on Future Ready Iowa, which included a panel discussion among Ryan Wise, Director of Iowa Department of Education, Debi Durham, Director of Iowa Economic Development Authority, and Beth Townsend, Director of Future Ready Iowa and Iowa Workforce Development.

    Don't have time to watch the video?

    Here are Five Key Takeaways from the 2018 Conference

    1 Direct-care workers need to be a part of the state’s workforce discussion

    As Iowans age, a thriving direct-care workforce will be critical to providing necessary long-term care services. Yet the direct care industry, which includes occupations such as nurses aides and in-home caregivers, consistently experiences high rates of job vacancies and turnover due to low pay, lack of training and difficult working conditions, among other factors.

    With an emerging sentiment that the industry is in crisis, elected leaders in Des Moines should include direct-care occupations when addressing Iowa’s workforce challenges, some participants said.

    From a Health Care panel — “Workforce Challenges and Solutions”

    Panelists were Di Findley, executive director of Iowa Caregivers; John Hale, president of the Hale Group; and Bob Russell, public health dental director and chief of oral and health delivery systems at the Iowa Department of Public Health.

    2 Conversations about college should occur sooner rather than later

    Most college financial aid goes to those with either the highest ability or the greatest need — leaving a large group in the middle the most underserved. For those students, early planning is important to understand their career options, funding sources and actions they can take in high school — such as seeking out college-level credits — that will lessen their costs, some panelists noted.

    From an Education panel — “Keeping College Affordable and Accessible in Iowa”

    Panelists were Brent Gage, associate vice president for enrollment management at the University of Iowa; Dr. Mark Wiederspan, executive research officer for the Iowa College Aid Commission; Rob Miller, president of the Iowa College Access Network; and Chad Olson, assistant director of the Office of Student Financial Aid at Iowa State University.

    3 Vibrant rural communities invite everyone to the table

    People are the key to a community’s economic engine, and the rural communities that survive and thrive are those that have figured out how to tap into the passions and talents of their citizens.

    Leaders can emerge from anywhere. Whether seeking buy-in for a community development project or filling vacancies on city councils, a community must look to all segments of its population — young people, retirees, the disabled and immigrants included.

    From a Regional Development panel — “Leveraging Your Community’s Economic Engine”

    Panelists were Christopher Ball, community development director for the city of Bloomfield; Bill Menner, executive director of the Iowa Rural Development Council; and David Heiar, senior adviser and community coach for Jackson County Economic Development.

    4 Services provided in bundles are more effective than those provided in stovepipes

    While funding and regulation encourages “stovepipes” in which a family’s or individual’s human services needs — housing, health care, education and transportation, among other necessities — are addressed separately, a holistic approach leads to more successful outcomes.

    Through coordinated services and strong collaboration among agencies, families are able to get out of crisis and obtain the training and soft skills needed to earn a living wage, participants noted.

    From a Human and Social Services panel — “Paycheck to Paycheck: The Working Poor”

    Panelists were Alicia Murphy, chief organizational effectiveness officer at Van Meter; Anne Gruenwald, president and chief executive officer at Four Oaks; and Leslie Wright, senior vice president of community building for the United Way of East Central Iowa.

    5 Municipalities can sell their sustainability efforts by focusing on economics

    Sustainability shouldn’t be a political issue, but it can be. A community can break down resistance to its sustainability efforts by communicating the expected benefits of the project in terms that people understand — lower utility bills, the creation of new jobs or a reduced risk of flash flooding.

    From an Energy and Environment panel — “Going Green: Municipal Sustainability Efforts”

    Panelists were Eric Holthaus, sustainability coordinator for the city of Cedar Rapids; Cori Burbach, assistant city manager for the city of Dubuque; Brenda Nations, sustainability coordinator for the city of Iowa City; and Stratis Giannakouros, director of the Office of Sustainability and Environment at the University of Iowa.

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