By Keisha Senter
We need to have more intentional conversations about what it will take to build inclusive economies in this country. SOCAP introduced the SPECTRUM event in 2019 as a dedicated space for real conversations about racial disparities and how communities can build economies that create pathways to access and inclusion for entrepreneurs of color and positively impact the lives of all who live there. Hundreds of leaders from New Orleans, Nashville, New York, Washington, DC, Miami, and all across the United States gathered together last June at the inaugural SPECTRUM in Atlanta, a city with a culture and history deeply rooted in change-making and innovation. SPECTRUM participants came from all walks of life and industries to have hard, honest conversations about how to create change, together. Once the seeds were sown–a new community grew as strangers became colleagues, friends, and allies.
We were eagerly working with our partners, advisory council, and community to design a second SPECTRUM event building upon the work we started last year, when the COVID-19 pandemic began spreading across the United States. As we made the difficult and necessary decision to cancel the in-person event in Atlanta, we saw an opportunity to reimagine the event, expand our community, and increase our impact by launching SPECTRUM Virtual.
SPECTRUM Virtual will be a three-day digital convening happening June 9 – 11. You are invited to join us online to help address racial disparities head-on and determine ways to drive more capital to entrepreneurs of color and close the racial wealth gap.
The conversations we are designing for SPECTRUM Virtual are more critical now than ever. This pandemic is shining a powerful light on the cracks and gaps in our systems and revealing the horrific toll of unchecked racial inequities. COVID-19 hospitalizations and death rates have been disproportionately higher for Black, Latino, and Indigenous communities than for other racial groups. “Stigma and systemic inequalities” are specifically cited as reasons for these disparities in a recent CDC report. System-level change is required to solve the racial inequities at the root of many of our nation’s worst challenges and we see SPECTRUM Virtual as an opportunity to advance that work. Despite the gravity of this moment, we have never been more energized and hopeful than we are now as we plan a virtual gathering to grow the SPECTRUM community and deepen our work.
Working Together to Close the Racial Wealth Gap
In planning SPECTRUM, we are speaking with leaders across sectors, geographies, and backgrounds and hearing again and again that the racial wealth gap is the most urgent challenge we should be working to solve. We have identified a number of key questions related to this challenge:
- How do we better position and support entrepreneurialism among communities of color?
- What role can founders of color play in creating equitable communities that thrive?
- What will grow awareness among decision-makers of the importance of having other voices, backgrounds, and experiences at the table?
- How do we help people who have capital and power think differently and equitably about the way in which capital is deployed?
These questions are the foundation of every conversation we are planning for SPECTRUM Virtual. For three days, equity will be the central theme that connects every session, whether it is focused on changing capital or changing culture. Each day will center on the mechanisms needed for building an inclusive economy in which everyone has an equal opportunity to thrive and achieve prosperity. Our goal will be to surface and scale solutions that deliver positive social impact.
Making Authentic Connections in Virtual Communities
I believe SPECTRUM Virtual has the potential to bring the right people together in the right virtual room, unite them as a community, and then motivate them to collectively identify what we must do to build an economy that works for all of us.
One of the things we’ve heard most from the SPECTRUM community is that you want the opportunity to build real connections and collaborate with people you probably wouldn’t otherwise meet. We’re designing this virtual event to meet those needs.
Our goal is to create communities within the wider SPECTRUM community. We will have hundreds of people in one virtual room, working together ,and sharing stories and knowledge. For a portion of the event, attendees will have the opportunity to connect with others that play a similar role: entrepreneurs, investors, funders, or innovators (however you identify yourself or your work). These affinity groups will break out to collaboratively identify specific outcomes you want to achieve, determine how you’re going to drive towards change, and agree on ways to hold each other accountable. Then all groups will come together again to hear the full range of perspectives and potential solutions.
Through this approach, we will help individuals within our community build authentic connections with colleagues and peers while identifying shared challenges and opportunities. Then we’ll bring everyone back together again to share and coordinate a plan to achieve our mutually desired outcomes. We want people from organizations that have power and resources to help hold the space and listen in order to understand their responsibility to the whole community, and what they will need to contribute in order for us to create that change.
Join Us On This Journey
We recognize that the road to racial equity will require a long journey. It will take the efforts of many people talking and working together to create the widespread positive changes we want to see. I believe if we connect all these smart, talented, passionate people through SPECTRUM Virtual and get them started on that journey together–we will one day see an inclusive, equitable economy at the end of the road.
Join us for SPECTRUM Virtual June 9 – 11, 2020. Sign up and ask a friend to log on! Once you are there, don’t just listen-share your perspective and story and best thinking.