Founded in 2011, the Cityworks (X)po has grown in leaps and bounds. As they prepare for their five year anniversary, there are big plans and new ideas in the works.
The conference, held at Charter Hall inside the Historic City Market building downtown, is a national idea exchange and festival conference that focuses on place. While it originally started as a conference to share big ideas for small cities, attendees have found it motivates them to move forward for their communities, no matter the size.
Ariel Lev, CoLab Executive Director, is on the (X)po planning committee. While CoLab has created its own niche for entrepreneurs and community leaders, it's thanks to the (X)po that the organization exists. The CoLab, a coworking space, event venue, and resource hub, just opened its second location in downtown Roanoke. It's actually a spinoff of a previous (X)po, proving to the area that brainstorming can lead to creation and execution.
"We want positive change and Xpo connects us so that we don't feel so isolated in wanting change or support," says Lev. "Even people who don't consider themselves leaders can learn from their successes and failures or from others who've taken the steps already."
With 21 speakers, including United Way of Roanoke Valley President and CEO Afira DeVries, the presentations will cover many different topics. Past subjects include urban planning, food trucks, getting outdoors, and much more. The (X)po "seeks to explore exponential impact on cities and communities across seven major themes, including Capital & Social Entrepreneurship, Leadership & Good Government, Arts & Design, Knowledge & New Media, Outdoors & Recreation, Food & Drink, and Public Health & Social Justice."
The learning doesn't stop once the conference ends, either. The CoLab, now a sponsor of (X)po, has free events each week that cover related topics. They encourage everyone to come connect with one another.
"Look at it like an empty box," says Lev. "We fill it with (X)po energy all year long in hopes that it creates jobs for people to stay in Roanoke, to know there's a place for them here so they don't lose their fire."
(X)po organizers offer interested parties the opportunity to apply for scholarships so they may attend without breaking their bank account. The sliding scale scholarship, a new implementation, is for those who find value in the conference, but cannot afford it. They can offer to pay up to a specific number and if accepted, Cityworks will pick up the rest of the ticket price. Lev says their hope for the scholarship program is that the attendees who receive such help will pay it forward the next year.
In addition to the presentations, there are networking opportunities during the day and well into the evening. Thursday evening puts attendees on Kirk Ave for StreetFest, with food truck, beverages, and live music, while Friday night is the (X)po (X)travaganza at the Taubman, another opportunity to hang with your fellow movers and shakers.
And if you're attending the event, be sure to use their hashtag #bigideasforbetterplaces.
Tickets are still available for the (X)po. For more information, including speakers and photo galleries, or to register your attendance, check out the Cityworks (X)po website.