The Op Ed writer is

Curtiss  Reed

Executive Director of Vermont Partnership

for Fairness and Diversity

Network emerges from the Vermont Vision conference

Brattleboro. A network working to understand the challenges and inherent opportunities of a more multicultural Vermont emerged from a recently held conference in Putney, Vermont.

The Vermont Vision for the Multicultural Future Conference convened an unlikely group of cabinet-level government officials, educators, law enforcement leadership business owners, civic leaders, clergy, human service professionals, social justice activists, change management experts, and philanthropists. In all forty individuals from nine Vermont counties attended the one and a half day conference organized by Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity. Forty percent of those attending came from Vermont’s growing ethnic or racial minority populations.

“The US Census Bureau predicts the United States will become a “minority majority” nation in the year 2042. Seven states have already transitioned to minority majority states. And whilst the demographic shift in Vermont is considerably slower than the rest of the nation, the shift itself is happening in ways that requires everyone’s attention,” according to Curtiss Reed, Jr., executive director for the Vermont Partnership.

Reed believes there is an economic imperative to pay attention to the demographic shift and many at the Vermont Vision conference agreed with him. Commissioner Megan Smith of the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing emphasized, “The future of a successful Tourism economy in Vermont relies on our reaching out and welcoming domestic visitors from all cultures as well as internationals. We will design our marketing strategies to address the demographic shift to include the LGBT community as well as those with disabilities.  This effort will also include working with the business community to increase awareness and provide training to front line staff.”

Attendees engaged themselves in a peer-driven process facilitated by Adrian Segar of Conferences that Work. The process accelerates the circulation of meaningful information amongst attendees, the identification of knowledge gaps attendees seek to fill as well as the identification of on-site expertise to address desired learning.


They identified and conducted ten peer-led sessions ranging from bias free policing to recruiting, hiring and retaining a diverse workforce to parent-youth organizing for educational equity. According to one participant evaluation, “The conference format allows a wide variety of groups and individuals to meet and grapple with substantial issues in a way that currently does not exist.”

Nurturing the relationship among unlikely parties strengthens the sense of community as evidenced by the session on bias free policing. Col. Tom L’Esperance, Director of the Vermont State Police, noted “Law enforcement leaders from throughout Windham County engaged in dialogue with conference attendees, sharing ideas and best practices. This was another step forward in building trust with the communities we serve.”

The conference helped attendees focus effectively on their use of power to influence those within their spheres of influence. Eighty six percent (86%) of participants requested Vermont Partnership monitor progress on issues they intend to address on behalf of the conference theme of a thriving multicultural future

Participants unanimously recommended Vermont Partnership nurture the nascent network and organize the peer-driven Vermont Vision conference as an annual event. Corporate sponsors of this year’s Vermont Vision conference included The National Life Group Insurance, World Learning, The Putney School and the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce. Vermont Partnership proposes to organize the next conference over two and half days in November 2013.


Curtiss Reed, Jr.

Executive Director

January 2012

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