America’s Talent Base Camp for

Courageous Imagination™

First Annual Imaginator Summit

Denver, CO | October 13-14, 2022

Can measuring how different people experience culture help us predict the next wave of innovation? Sure can!

Courageous Imagination is the art and science of stories that shape the future. We are putting creativity, belonging and collaboration research to work in this meeting of the minds summit where policymakers, innovators, researchers, entrepreneurs, creatives, and futurists will co-create a culture algorithm capable of sensing where the next cultural and economic value will appear.

Your hosts

Wendy LeaCEO
Energize Colorado

Theo Edmonds
Directing Co-founder, University of Colorado Denver Imaginator Academy & Research Associate Professor, Master of Humanities/Master of Social Science Program

Deborah Jordy
Executive Director, Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD)

Raymond H. Gonzales
President, Metro Denver EDC & Vice President, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce

Let’s co-create the Denver Algorithm

In Metro Denver, we know culture is measurable. It differentiates our talent from the rest of the nation. In what’s poised to be one of the most transformative economic development gatherings ever, the Imaginator Summit will be a space to co-create the “Denver Algorithm” — a culture analytics action framework focused on creativity, belonging, and collaboration. We are putting art and science to work in securing Metro Denver’s standing as base camp for America’s most “future ready” talent culture.

How to participate

Opportunities for virtual learning

Participate in our hybrid event on October 14th from 9am-1pm MST.

Follow @imaginatorac and stay in touch on all things #imaginatorsummit2022

We’ll soon be announcing a phenomenal line up of Courageous Imaginators at the summit? Follow our Insta to stay in the know.

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Summit Schedule

Day 1 - By invitation & in person only (Thursday, October 13th)

7:30-8am (MST)

Check In

Check in at Jake Jabs Event Center, CU Denver Business School, First Floor 1475 Lawrence St. | Denver CO 80202 | Coffee and light breakfast bites provided by University of Colorado Denver Business School

8-8:45am (MST)

Courageous Imagination Onboarding

This is a working summit. Starting right at the beginning, invited participants will be onboarded to the conference using the science of creativity and belonging in a personalized, participatory experience.

8:45-9am (MST)

University of Colorado Denver Welcome 

We have set in motion a radically new vision for CU Denver that fits the future-focused city with which we share a name. Hear directly from Chancellor Michelle A. Marks about the university’s bold equity-centered work that is shifting what people believe to be possible in higher education.

9-9:30am (MST)

Culture Intelligence: Imaginator Academy Objectives + Workforce Census of Creativity and Wellbeing

Culture Intelligence is our collective capacity to create meaning and value in our lives by working across differences of human experience. In organizations, this is comprised of three measurable areas: Creativity Assets (Head); Workplace Wellbeing (Heart); Cultural Collaboration  (Hands). Theo Edmonds, IA’s Directing Co-founder, will share the vision for how we are using #CourageousImagination to transform the future of working, learning, healing, and exploring.

9:30-10am (MST)

Brain Capital Policy Innovation: Measuring and Forecasting Human Potential through Neuroscience

Imaginator Academy is a core member of the Brain Capital Alliance — a multi-national program focused on neuroscience-inspired investment and public policy innovation as two powerful levers for change. In this session, you will hear from the scientists and economists at the forefront of this movement: Harris A. Eyre MD PhD; Rym Ayadi PhD, Euro-Mediterranean Economists Association and CASS Business School; Andrew S. Nevin DPhil, PWC Nigeria; and, Paweł Świeboda, Director General, Human Brain Project

10-10:15am (MST)

Break

10:15-10:45am (MST)

Culture Shift 1: Aligning Talent Development with Economic Development

Economic development efforts build something bigger than business. They build communities and culture. The Metro Denver EDC – Colorado’s largest, privately-funded economic development authority – is changing the game in economic development with a focus on people, perception and potential. In this session, EDC leader, Raymond Gonzales along with Director of Marketing & Brand Strategy, Amy Guttmann, will share how the business brand, #TheElevationEffect, is rallying the Metro Denver region and inspiring companies and talent alike to consider Colorado for life and work.

10:45-11:00am (MST)

Culture Shift 2: Gender Wage Equality and Firm Performance

According to Academy of Management, teams with even a single woman outperform all-male teams in complex tasks. In this session, Dr. Traci Sitzmann, will deliver practical insights for companies ready to challenge the status quo and grow through gender equality.

11:00-11:15am (MST)

Culture Shift 3: Aligning Human & Economic Growth through Creative Economy

Culture is the soul of an economy, with the power to improve lives, transform industries, and generate jobs. In this session, SCFD‘s Executive Director, Deborah Jordy, we will explore the emerging possibilities for diverse industry sectors, from space exploration to outdoor recreation, to collaborate with the creative industries in order to innovate.SCFD is the only cultural funding model in the nation that serves a region of seven counties. This broad base has allowed SCFD to grow into the second largest cultural funding mechanism in the United States. 

11:15-11:45am (MST)

Culture Shift 4: Paradox of Human Creativity and Machines

What is the relationship between human creativity and our digital futures? For some, creativity may be the ultimate moonshot in digital automation. No doubt that computational technology can help us understand human creativity. But what if AI and machine learning also transform how humans “do creativity” in unexpected ways? In this group session facilitated by Hannah Drake, Sarah Engel (IA Co-founder), and Theo Edmonds, we’ll get active. Together, we will explore how to develop skills for managing through paradox in order to innovate.  

11:45am-Noon (MST)

Break

Noon-12:30pm (MST)

Interactive Panel & Group Discussion: Courageous Imagination at the intersection of science, business, and culture.

In Metro Denver, we know that culture is measurable. It is what differentiates our talent from the rest of the nation. In this session, the summit’s talent development “executives in residence” — Erik Mitisek (Former Chief Innovation Officer for the State of Colorado & Co-Founder Denver Startup Week); Wendy Lea (Energize Colorado); and Raymond Gonzales (Metro Denver EDC) — will outline how the region has built a strong foundation around critical antecedent conditions for innovation: wellbeing and inclusion.

12:30-3pm (MST)

Lunch on your own and attend CU Denver’s Future Fest

In addition to the inspiring talks and research presentations from our community, there will be a festive environment filled with some of Denver’s favorite food trucks and live music. Future Fest is an annual part of CU Denver’s future-focused festivities. This year’s Future Fest coincides with our university’s 50th-anniversary celebration and, for the first time ever, the university will announce its transformational “Grand Challenge” investments.

3-3:30pm (MST)

Reconvene at Business School for Day 1 Final Session

3:30-4:30pm (MST)

Deep Dive: Brain Capital Alliance

Special themes explored: neuroscience, brain health, human wellbeing, creativity as economic multiplier, investment bond structures, Denver as thought leader.

In a post-industrial era, the demand on societies for a highly skilled and knowledgeable workforce is rapidly increasing. Optimizing brain health and investing in building cognitive and brain capital (e.g., by addressing brain health determinants including education, health care and healthy environments) is fundamental to meet these modern societal challenges and to drive innovation. This deep dive session will engage Colorado and global executives, neuroscientists, policy makers and economists in an exploration outlining opportunities for Metro Denver to become the U.S. innovation hub for this global initiative.

4:30-5pm (MST)

Day One Closing Ritual 

Facilitated by Katherine Goodman (IA Co-founder)
& CU Denver Inworks

Evening

No Programming

Dinner on your own.

Friday, October 14th

8-8:30am (MST)

Check In at Jake Jabs Event Center, CU Denver Business School, First Floor 1475 Lawrence St. | Denver CO 80202

Coffee and light breakfast bites provided by University of Colorado Denver Business School

8:30-8:55am (MST)

Recap Highlights from Day One & Creativity Exercise

9:00am (MST) (virtual programming begins)

(10 Min) Welcome to University of Colorado Denver

For CU Denver, change is not something you adapt to; it is something you embrace. As our university turns 50 this year, our north star is clear: Become the nation’s first equity-serving institution. In the opening session, you will hear from Provost Constancio Nakuma and learn about our bold 2030 strategic plan to make education work for all.

OPENING SESSION SPECIAL FEATURE will be a performance by Verena Fuentes. Born and raised in Mexico City, Verena is a senior in the College of Arts & Media’s singer/songwriter program. Verena will be performing an original song based on the science of hope, trust, and belonging, and developed in collaboration with the Imaginator Academy’s research team.

(10 Min) Welcome Denver, Colorado (Economic Development Corporation)

The Metro Denver EDC was the nation’s first regional economic development organization. Founded with a commitment to collaboration and community, the EDC is forging a new path – one that’s powered by a highly skilled and passionate workforce, purpose-driven businesses, and leaders at the forefront of today’s biggest issues and tomorrow’s cutting edge. Hear directly from EDC president, Raymond Gonzales, on how our region is re-imagining the future of economic development.

(15 Min) Provocation: Whose imagination are we living in?

Computer coding. Corporate branding and advertising. Philanthropy. Policies. In ways both big and small, these are just a few examples of how our imagination is being shaped by others. In the process, defining what people perceive to be possible and valuable. In this opening provocation, nationally renowned change maker, poet, and Chief Creative Officer for IDEAS xLab, Hannah Drake, will expand our aperture for how we think about the future of culture in the places we work, learn, heal and explore.

(20 Min) Culture Intelligence: Imaginator Academy Objectives

Culture Intelligence is our collective capacity to create meaning and value in our lives by working across differences of human experience. In organizations, this is comprised of three measurable areas: Creativity Capital (Head); Belonging Capital (Heart); Collaboration Capital (Hands). In this session, Theo Edmonds, IA’s Directing Co-founder, will share the vision for how we are using #CourageousImagination to transform the future of working, learning, healing, and exploring.

(5 Min) United States of an Artist

A short film about the creative states, stages and spaces an artist embodies. Created by Natasha Tsakos for a 2021 creative economy project organized by Theo Edmonds.

Setting the S.T.A.G.E. for courageous imagination

In this series of 10-minute spark talks, two different kinds of innovators will present how they are using Courageous Imagination in their work across our five S.T.A.G.E. pillars for building Collaboration Capital. After each presentation, the two innovators will then have a couple minutes to offer an observation or pose a question to the other.

10:00am (MST)

Social Belonging & Mental Wellbeing

Though mental wellbeing has been underfunded, socially stigmatized, and under-appreciated as a policy priority well before the COVID-19 pandemic, we are now at a critical juncture that has profound implications for economic development. Prompted by US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s talk at the 2022 Concordia America’s Summit on social isolation and loneliness, these spark talks will explore the question: What if Courageous Imagination cultivated connection and wellbeing as innovation differentiators?

SPARK TALKS BY: Josh Miller & Danielle Shoots

10:30am (MST)

Trusted Storytelling & Media

US adults will spend 13 hours and 11 minutes per day with media in 2022. Throughout the world, but especially in the U.S., the fragility of democracy is a highly discussed topic across these media platforms. As the Edleman Trust Barometer notes, “Societal leadership is now a core function of business. Distrust is now society’s default emotion. When distrust is the default – we lack the ability to debate or collaborate.” Prompted by the Edleman report, these spark talks will explore the question: What if Courageous Imagination was a prism through which science, media, and business collaborated to craft more authentic storytelling and to build trust bridges between diverse human experiences?

SPARK TALKS BY: Chris Williams & Linda Kotsaftis/Kim Salvaggio

11:00am (MST)

Analytics People Can Use

Most companies understand the value of data in driving outcomes. The problem is, most employees and managers don’t understand or trust the data they have. In fact, when data contradicts preconceived beliefs—the very time data is most important—people often dismiss the data and go with their “gut” instead. This session will explore the question: What if Courageous Imagination strengthened connections between data and diverse human experiences in order to drive better decision-making?

SPARK TALKS BY: Harris Eyre  & Alex Damianou

11:30am (MST)

Generational Alignment During a time of shifting values

GenZ is 20% of the global workforce by 2025. As Jobs for the Future notes, Gen Z wants to build skills that will lead to a good job and employers believe they should look at skills rather than degrees when hiring. How is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in American history navigating this landscape even while experiencing a wide-spread mental wellbeing crisis? This session will explore the question: What if Courageous Imagination created culturally-responsive approaches to future-proofing generational talent?

SPARK TALKS BY: Diego Montemayor & Monique Snowden

Noon-12:40pm (MST)

Environments that Unlock Creativity

This is not about ping pong tables and Xboxes in the workplace! Research shows high-creativity projects tended to have environments that were more intellectually challenging, offered sufficient resources, had greater degrees of freedom, and encouraged (rather than harshly evaluated) novel thinking and new ideas. This session will explore environmental creativity as a critical differentiator for businesses and economies. We’ll ask the question: What if Courageous Imagination strengthened the connective tissue between science and how we experience culture.

SPARK TALKS BY: Seda Roder & David Byrne/Charlie Miller. Followed with observations by Kristina Newman-Scott.

12:40-12:55pm (MST)

Culture Shifts: Developing Diverse Talent Eco-systems

World Economic Forum notes that biodiversity is critical to human health and economy. What if we adapted a similar approach for how we think about talent development across the lifespan? In this session, the summit’s talent development “executives in residence” — Erik Mitisek (Former Chief Innovation Officer for the State of Colorado & Co-Founder Denver Startup Week) and Raymond Gonzales (Metro Denver EDC) — will offer hot takes from the day’s presentations and facilitate audience engagement.

12:55-1pm (MST)

Closing “Action & Charge”

1-2:30pm (MST)

End of Virtual Session

For in person participants, break and lunch on your own at one of the many restaurants available within a 5 minute walk.

2:30-2:45pm (MST)

Reconvene at Business School

2:45-4:45pm (MST)

Interactive & Expertly Facilitated Breakout Work Groups to Co-Create the Denver Algorithm

In partnership with:

GROUP 1: Future of Working
GROUP 2: Future of Healing
GROUP 3: Future of Learning
GROUP 4: Future of Exploring

4:45-5:30pm (MST)

Report Out, Next Steps and Closing Reflections

Better (& more creative) together

Creativity can’t flourish without collaboration. We’re grateful to our partners who are helping propel this movement to new heights.