‘Unconference’ gives young Nebraskans a voice

November 10, 2018

PENDER — There was an open mic — but not the kind one might expect.

These weren’t aspiring stand-up comedians hoping to draw some laughs, or budding musicians wanting to perform a set.

These were men and women from across the state who had important topics they wanted to see discussed at the Connecting Young Nebraskans “unconference” Wednesday at the Pender Community Center.

Organizers said the event’s “unconference” style allowed participants to host tabletop discussions around topics that they brought to the rest of the group. All were invited to get on the open mic, “pitch” their topic to the rest of the group and then participants self-selected the discussions that were meaningful to them.

The topics were vast — including leadership succession, creating a positive rural narrative, regional partnerships and collaboration, immigration (specifically the recent raid in O’Neill) and education.

Those in attendance said they liked the non-traditional format of the event.

“I told my boss I was going to a conference where I’m not going (to be) talked to. I get to talk with,” said Carley Bruning of Holdrege.

Connecting Young Nebraskans (CYN) is a statewide network designed to connect, empower and retain young leaders across Nebraska. Wednesday’s event served as its biennial summit.

Designed around the theme “Community, Collaboration, Change,” the event also featured speakers from communities across the state, including O’Neill, Seward, Kimball and Broken Bow.

“Young leaders are critical to the future our state,” said Jonathan Jank, co-chairman of the CYN Fund Advisory Committee.

Originally housed within the Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska, CYN recently found a new home at Nebraska Community Foundation (NCF).

As an affiliated fund of NCF, CYN joins the ranks of over 200 community-based, organizational, and donor-advised funds across the state that enjoy the financial management, peer-to-peer learning, training and other services provided exclusively to members of the Nebraska Community Foundation network.

NCF followed up the young Nebraskans event during the day Wednesday by hosting its annual celebration in Norfolk on Wednesday evening and Thursday. More than 500 people were expected to attend the evening banquet at the DeVent Center on Thursday.

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