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As Concordia gears up for its action-packed 2021 agenda, we are excited to welcome newly-appointed Director of Programming, Anna Dawson, who gives us a sneak peek into the key themes for this year’s agenda and the most exciting moments you won’t want to miss. 

How does your background in events at the Brookings Institution equip you for your new role at Concordia? 

During my time at the Brookings Institution, I was in charge of more than 60 events each year, ranging from private roundtables to multi-day conferences, and more recently translating our events into digital formats during 2020. With this large portfolio, I learned how to juggle competing priorities and multiple types of programming at once, while simultaneously working with scholars and other stakeholders to help create the best type of programming based on each session’s goals and desired outcomes. In my current role, I will use that base of experience to work with Concordia’s Members, Partners, and Sponsors to create the best programming that meets individual and organizational goals, while also furthering Concordia’s mission of elevating cross-sector partnerships for social impact.

Which programming themes are you most excited to see explored at this year’s 11th Annual Summit?

I’m most excited about the environmental sustainability theme and the cultural diplomacy & youth advocacy theme. For the environmental sustainability theme, the lineup is already shaping up to be a great intersection of policymakers, businesses, and NGOs, and I’m really excited to see how these conversations play out by fostering common interests and opportunities for collaboration. COVID-19 has really forced our global community to look at how a healthy world is important for a healthy future, so now is a pivotal moment to push so many of these ideas into practice. 

I’m also looking forward to the cultural diplomacy & youth advocacy theme, particularly given that my educational background is in Public Diplomacy from the Annenberg School of Communication at USC. Cultural diplomacy is a great way for people from different cultures to come together and learn more about each other, while also improving long-term relations across cultures.  

Given the pivotal moment we are in and with the 11th Annual Summit being conducted in a hybrid setting, how can we ensure we are providing spaces for dialogue that unite us as a global community, while also furthering Concordia’s mission?

This year poses a great opportunity but also a great challenge. Given the current climate surrounding COVID-19, we want to ensure that all our Members, Partners, and Sponsors around the world have an opportunity to participate either virtually or in-person. Our hybrid programming will enable all participants to connect with each other and ensure that Concordia is still the leader in sparking dialogue and paving the path forward for a more sustainable future.

With your background supporting the Economic Studies program at the Brookings Institution, how do you believe economic issues can be explored at the Annual Summit in a way that supports Concordia’s core belief: going it together is infinitely better than going it alone?

Historically in the United States, minorities have largely been left out of the decision-making process in the economics field, which impacts how trillions of dollars are regulated and how capital is allocated in society. The lack of diverse voices at financial agencies and in these decision-making processes has exacerbated deeply-entrenched societal issues, such as income inequality. By bringing people together in an inclusive environment at our Annual Summitpeople from different backgrounds, sectors, industries, and with different views and perspectives—we can cultivate discourse and debate, and ultimately drive forward innovative ideas and lasting change. Concordia is committed to ensuring that inclusivity is built into the fabric of each of our events and our team selects diverse speakers to reach wide audiences. To further this commitment, gender and racial equity will be included in all blocks of programming at the 2021 Annual Summit. 

Concordia will be hosting its first-ever U.S.-focused summit this fall. An organization rooted in building a global community to confront global challenges, this marks a pivotal moment for Concordia. What can we expect to see at this inaugural Lexington Summit, and what does it mean for Concordia’s future? 

Since Concordia’s founding 11 years ago, there have been various regional summits in Latin America, Europe, and Africa that have stemmed from the Annual Summit model. Many of the regional challenges that we’ve seen outside of the United States are also seen here, including economic inequality, the impact of global trade on global communities, and environmental sustainability. It is time that we turn back to the United States and have a regional summit. Now more than ever, having an open dialogue with diverse voices here in the United States is so critical, especially because our country is currently so divided. It will be great to have an inclusive space in which we can bridge partnerships and combat some of these divisions. My hope is that this first-of-its-kind summit in Lexington will demonstrate that as U.S. citizens we have more that unites us than divides us. 

As an organization rooted in addressing challenges with the help of a global community, how has COVID-19 transformed the way Concordia hosts international summits, and how does Concordia plan to go global again after COVID-19?

In addition to the Lexington Summit this Fall, Concordia will also be hosting its first-ever Indo-Pacific Summit virtually in November. The Indo-Pacific region represents 60% of the global population and a powerful economic corridor, holding unique perspectives in its positioning among major global powers and developing tailored approaches to regional challenges across geographies and cultures. The Concordia Indo-Pacific Initiative will feature a set of conversations designed to engage new networks and build credibility in the region, starting with programming at the 2021 Annual Summit. We look forward to getting back overseas for in-person Regional Summits in 2022.