Purpose Built 2017 Conference Videos and Presentations

The 2017 Purpose Built Conference in Omaha, Nebraska from October 2–4 was the largest turnout ever with 430 registered attendees from 53 cities. Thank you to every speaker, every moderator, every attendee; the conversations were honest, the case studies were inspiring and the tour of the Highlander development in North Omaha, led by community quarterback Seventy Five North, left us all energized and impressed.

Drawn from a wide range of industries and backgrounds, our speakers provided tremendous insights and offered unique and informed perspectives. Select a speaker below to watch their video presentation. * Please note: Additional speaker videos and presentations will soon be added to the this page. Please check back for these updates as we continue to offer highlights of this remarkable event.


Featured Conference Speaker


Warren Buffett, an American businessman and philanthropist, is a co-founder of Purpose Built Communities. In this conversation with CNBC Anchor, Becky Quick, he discusses what lessons he has learned from his successes and failures and why initiatives like Purpose Built Communities give him hope for our country’s future.


2017 Conference Speakers



Hungry, Yet Hesitant: Critical Conversations about Race in the 21st Century with Dr. Beverly Tatum

In the 20th Anniversary Edition of her book, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, Dr. Tatum provides insightful analysis of the social and political context of the last 20 years in communities and work places where we are often “hungry yet hesitant” for a conversation about race in America. The session will explore how people of different ages discuss race — starting with children and the implications for education — and use these insights to shed light on how adults can approach the topic. The conversation, moderated by Purpose Built Communities Senior Vice President Michelle Matthews, explores our problems from different perspectives and challenge us to look in the mirror as we think about who we are and whom we serve.

Why Diversity Matters – Dr. Katherine Phillips

We can learn and innovate more effectively – and understand the value of diversity – by making small changes in ourselves.

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Othello Meadows – Overview of Seventy Five North

Since its founding in 2011, Seventy Five North has made impressive progress moving the needle on education, housing, and community wellness in an area of North Omaha that suffered from decades of disinvestment and racial inequity.

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House Rules: Considerations for Leaders – Larry James

Persistent racial inequality and poverty are especially evident in America’s cities. This speech focuses on effective leadership considerations to sustain a commitment to equality, inclusiveness, and recognition that fighting poverty involves bringing the entire community together in the heart of the city.

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The Case for Mixed Income-Housing

Over the last 25 years, an increasing number of cities have moved away from building affordable housing that concentrates families and children in neighborhoods of poverty. This session explores the evidence to date of how building affordable housing within a mixed-income setting can be more beneficial for people of all income levels, especially low income families and children.

Providing Tools to Grow Your Community’s Workforce and Earning Power

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs. Every community needs them. In economically disadvantaged communities, the jobs and skills necessary to hold them can be in short supply. Learn about workforce development programs that are successfully getting people the skills — and jobs — they need to increase their earning power and improve their lives.

  • Presentation by: Panelist William (“Bill”) Strickland, President and CEO, Manchester Bidwell. View Presentation →


The Rent is Too Damn High! Innovative Approaches to Permanent Housing Affordability

When 2010 New York State gubernatorial candidate Jimmy McMillan branded his campaign with “The Rent is Too Damn High,” the phrase became a viral sensation. In many cities around the country, the rent is, indeed, too high! There is no city in America that a family of four with two adults earning minimum wage can afford an apartment. Our panelists will share their perspectives from years in the housing industry and their innovative approaches to consistently fostering affordable housing solutions for some of America’s most vulnerable families.

Start:ME — Building Neighborhood Vitality through Small Business Development

Most businesses in the U.S. are small (92%), but they deliver a big impact, accounting for 32 million jobs annually. Community organizations in Atlanta, Spartanburg, and Cincinnati have teamed up with local business schools to help 120+ promising entrepreneurs — mechanics, artists, makers, bakers, and fix-it repair people — start and grow businesses in underserved communities through training, mentorship, and financing. When successful, these businesses generate income for entrepreneurs and their families and build neighborhood vitality.

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The Role of Health Care Providers in Building Healthy Neighborhoods

Few hospitals and health systems have worked to systematically address the social determinants of health, despite having mission-related and even regulatory reasons to try. Two visionary leaders who believe this is about to change discuss the emerging role of healthcare providers in community development and neighborhood revitalization.

Creating Effective Partnerships with Public School Districts-Omaha

The national education reform debate often pits charter schools against traditional public schools. Largely absent from the national conversation at this time are the innovations that public school districts are making with other organizations, including charter management organizations, using alternative models of partnerships that bring essential leadership, curricula and community outreach models to communities that need them most. This session explores how new partnerships are changing outcomes for children and families in North Omaha.

Purpose Built Communities Network Member Introductions 2017

An overview of activities, accomplishments, and innovations from across the Purpose Built Communities Network by Carol R. Naughton, President, Purpose Built Communities.

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Main Street: Placemaking and the Heart of the Community

The idea of “Main Street” is a fixture in the narrative of small town and small city America. Actual “Main Streets” – neighborhood serving commercial corridors — can also be engines for neighborhood and community development. This session will look at innovations in neighborhood-level commercial development that can be applied in small cities to catalyze growth, jobs and, community.

Presentations by:

  • Laura Heery, co-founder of Brookwood Group, Inc., and owner and Managing Principal of Brookwood Design Group, LLC. View Presentation →
  • John Norquist, Urban consultant, author, former Mayor of Milwaukee, WI. View Presentation →
  • Buzz Roberts, President and CEO of the National Association of Affordable Housing Lenders (NAAHL). View Presentation →
  • Ed Sharrer, Executive Director, Kendall Whittier Main Street, Tulsa, OK. View Presentation →


Purpose Built Communities — Introduction to the Model

An overview of the Purpose Built Communities Model of holistic neighborhood transformation that creates places where people can thrive by Carol R. Naughton, President, Purpose Built Communities.

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