Hi, I am Raven, and I wrote this blog. I write most of our blog posts actually, but this one is from my own perspective, so I thought I should introduce myself. I am in the second picture on the right.
The Downtown Austin Alliance is a member of the International Downtown Association (IDA), an organization that unites and empowers downtown champions around the world when facing urban issues. Fun fact: IDA is actually how I got connected with the Downtown Austin Alliance and moved here from another downtown. According to their website, “IDA provides tools, intelligence and strategies for creating healthy and dynamic centers that anchor the well-being of towns, cities and regions of the world.”
Each year, staff members can attend the annual IDA conference as part of our professional development program. We go, we meet other downtown organizations and we exchange ideas and information. It is a fantastic learning opportunity and networking experience for those in our niche field.
This year’s IDA conference was in Vancouver, BC so approximately half of our office packed up and headed north. I met the CEO and marketing lead from another downtown organization before I was even able to get off the plane in Vancouver. It was an excellent way to set the tone for the conference.
We have several options of how to spend our time once at the conference. Aside from the general sessions for everyone, you create your own schedule. Selecting a healthy mix of networking sessions, discussion forums, panel presentations, tours, an industry marketplace and more tends to yield the best outcome.
We had several staff members speak on panels as experts within their field. One staff member even received a certification they had worked on throughout the year while there.
Here is what a few our of staff had to say when reflecting back on the experience and their key takeaways:
- “Meeting folks from all over North America was the absolute highlight of my first IDA! It’s inspiring to see what’s been done in other cities and how other communicators are using their voices. So thankful for my experience and getting to connect and grow with inspiring minds all working toward making their corner of the world a better place.” – Ashley Rose
- “Cities and downtowns all over North America and Europe are struggling with the same challenges. Idea sharing, communicating successes, failures and trials shows us that we are not alone in these challenges and in the work to improve our downtowns. Some common challenges are: Homelessness, data management, raising money for programs outside of the PID (whether they are branded as a foundation, membership program, or other), re-educating members and downtown patrons on what is acceptable downtown and what is within control of the PID/BID organization.” – Vanessa
- “I was in a session, Urban Acupuncture, and we were asked what placemaking means to us. I shared, “Making space for those whose space has been taken.” Based on my table’s responses to my statement, I realized DAA is on the front line of this work, and doing so through a DEI lens.” – Brandon
I attended panels focused on marketing and small businesses. One of my favorite takeaways from the panels I listened to was how to support minority-owned businesses against the challenges they uniquely face. The tours I attended provided me with insight into how to better connect with the neighborhoods surrounding our downtown, mural art and balancing an area’s history and historical structures with modern function. A big project of mine is to create a business packet to get information to our downtown businesses. At IDA, I was able to pick the brains of people who had created assets for their downtown businesses similar to the one that I am working on.
Overall, IDA 2022 was a successful learning opportunity, and we look forward to applying our new knowledge in 2023.
All images courtesy of IDA.