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Obama Is Bringing A New Global Summit & Fellowship To Chicago

By Stephen Gossett in News on Sep 13, 2017 3:33PM

Former President Barack Obama hosts a conversation on civic engagement and community organizing, Monday, April 24, 2017, at the University of Chicago in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

We haven't much publicly from Barack Obama as of late—aside from his lengthy pushback statement against Donald Trump's DACA phaseout—but the former president had big news on Wednesday morning, when he announced the inaugural Obama Foundation Summit. The "immersive" summit, which lands in Chicago for two days this fall, will bring together civic leaders "from around Chicago, the U.S., and the world," according to the Foundation.

In addition to the Summit, the Obama Foundation also announced three more initiatives: a new fellowship; a Training Days pilot, focused on young people and civic engagement; and the integration of his My Brother’s Keeper Alliance—which focuses on closing the opportunity gap for young men of color—into the Foundation.

The new Summit "will be a place to share your stories, learn from one another, and then go back to your communities to lead others in the hard work of change. It will also help guide our Foundation as we continue to design programs that connect and support the next generation of young leaders here in the United States and around the globe has applications for some Summit attendance slots that are reserved for young people active in their communities.

The Summit takes place Oct. 31 through Nov. 1, although the announcement was mum on exact details. The focus will be "to exchange ideas, explore creative solutions to common problems, and experience civic art, technology, and music from around the world." Former president Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama will both attend, according to the Foundation.

David Simas, Chief Executive Officer at the Obama Foundation, said of the announced initiatives:

“When President Obama left public office in January, he asked people to believe—not in his ability to bring about change, but in their own. Over the last nine months, the Foundation has been soliciting input from people in Chicago, all over the country, and around the world to learn about what’s working in your communities and to identify barriers to civic participation. The initiatives announced today reflect the input from those conversations. From leaders who are already making an impact, to people who are interested in becoming more involved, but don’t know where to start, our goal is to make our programs accessible to anyone, anywhere, with any background or level of experience. This is only the beginning—our programs will grow as we continue to listen and learn."

The Obama Foundation Fellowship will support 20 Fellows on a two-year, non-residential program for training and leadership development. The Fellowship seeks "outstanding civic innovators" and looks to spotlight "organizers, inventors, artists, entrepreneurs, journalists" and others.

And the Obama Foundation Training Days invites 150 young people, ages 18 to 24, "to teach young people how to put civics into action where they live," Obama said. The first Training Day takes place in Chicago on Oct. 14. Another takes place in Tempe, on Nov. 11, then in Boston, on Nov. 18.

"Welcome to the next phase of this organization — inspired by you. From the day we launched the Foundation, I told you that even as we experiment, even as we try and fail as humans do, there would be one constant in our work — our commitment to progress," Obama said.

Obama Foundation officials will discuss plans for Obama's upcoming presidential center on Thursday at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, at 5 p.m. Some 20 residents plan to begin camping out on Wednesday evening to guarantee admittance and push in person for a Community Benefits Agreement.