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HIGHLIGHTS: Revisit the 2024 TOGETHER Conference!

During the Tom Tom Festival, our TOGETHER Conference convened engaged citizen leaders from all sectors and neighborhoods to talk about the future of our community.

Four immersive tracks tackled some of the most important questions of the day with leading thinkers, while leaving space for pause, self-reflection and connection.

Panels, keynotes, workshops, and seminars addressed important questions around criminal justice reform, financial empowerment, equitable education, community wellness, local journalism, diversity initiatives and much more.



The first day of the TOGETHER conference focused on the current directions of technology. The “Technology for Good” track looked at the broad implications of technology from a local perspective. Entrepreneurs, funders, and other ecosystem stakeholders came together to join the conversation.

Speakers shared valuable insight on everything from AI, Climate and Sustainability and Funding to Biotech and Augmented Reality. Of note were multiple sessions on AI, which focused on the necessity of ethics-based growth, and how AI is impacting various industries. Virginia’s Most Innovative Startups showcased an inspiring line-up of tech-driven product development. Women on the Rise highlighted women founders who are galvanizing the industry. 

Marty Weiner, founding engineer of Pinterest and first CTO at Reddit, gave the keynote talk for the Technology for Good track, So Where Are We With AI? The Holy S*#t Talk, outlining the astounding growth and development of AI in the past year.

At “Navigating the Frontier: The Future of AI and Ethics” a panel of experts explored the intersection of AI technology and ethical considerations, examining the complex challenges and opportunities that lie ahead as AI continues to evolve and integrate into every aspect of our lives.

“Virginia’s Most Innovative Startups” showcased note-worthy inventions ranging from health and medical-related products to clean energy production to optimizing learning for better educational outcomes. These vanguard founders and CEO’s were each awarded $1,000 by VIPC to honor their distinction.

“Women On The Rise” featured four women who have embarked on their journey as investors. This inspiring session offered insights into the challenges women face in the investment world and valuable strategies for overcoming barriers.

“The Founder's Journey: Navigating the Funding Landscape to Achieve Success” explored the exciting frontier of tech possibilities and the captivating stories behind the visionary founders driving the companies making headlines.



The second day of the TOGETHER conference was all about creative enterprise. The inaugural “Entrepreneurship for All” track highlighted the small business ecosystem in Charlottesville. Experts from various industries convened to share their knowledge, while offering key strategies to fund and grow business.

The day started with high school entrepreneurs and seasoned executives discussing creative vision and innovation. Virginia’s Most Innovative Startups; Clean Energy Showcase and Charlottesville’s Most Innovative Startups brought together forward thinkers to address important issues around climate, sustainable agriculture, energy, AI, biomedical advancements and transportation. A conversation on the future of Charlottesville offered local entrepreneurs a chance to share their vision for the city.

“The Role of the University in the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem.” Michael Lenox and Pat Lochte of University of Virginia joined  Venture Central’s Rebecca Haydock, and UVA Licensing and Venture Group's Richard Chylla to discuss the myriad ways that universities interface with their communities

At “Impact for Reluctant Capitalists,” four seasoned business owners discussed the joys, challenges, and realities of being an impact-focused entrepreneur balancing financial sustainability and impact.

“Making the Entrepreneurial Ask” was a hands-on workshop about the importance of strategic partnerships in building successful businesses. Led by UVA Darden’s Jim Zuffoletti, participants learned about the art of “asking,” and refined their skills with role-playing scenarios in real-world contexts.

“Virginia’s Most Innovative Startups: Clean Energy Showcase” shined a spotlight on the groundbreaking work of seven climate tech startups from various regions, highlighting the power and potential of collaborative efforts in the clean energy sector.



On the third day of the TOGETHER conference the Society and Justice track zoomed out on the systems of our society. This day featured critical conversations around criminal justice reform, art and culture, financial access and empowerment, and education. It was a sustained look at the ways in which the structures and resources of our community can be brought together to assist everyone and establish a shared conversation for the future. 

With panels on the Future of DEI, Bipartisan Solutions and Local Journalism, we took a deeper look at the potential of our city through the lens of common good.

A panel of experts from United Way, the University of Virginia, and The City of Charlottesville shared insights on navigating the complexities of DEI in today's world at “Future of DEI: The Shifting Landscape of Inclusion.”

At our “Bipartisan Solutions” session, William Antholis, director of the Miller Center at UVA, joined the former and current president of FMC (Former Members of Congress) to explore innovative approaches to fostering dialogue and compromise across the aisle.

“The Future of Local Journalism,” gathered a panel of journalists working in the Charlottesville area to discuss ways to ensure that the needs of local communities are being met and share possible solutions to reinvigorate the industry.

Mayor Juandiego Wade joined IX Art Park cofounder Susan Kuttner, Greer Achenbach of Friends of Cville Downtown, and Ashley Kershner of Downtown Lynchburg Association to discuss how communities use public art, events, and creative space usage to reinvigorate their downtown districts and bring people together. Session: “Creative Placemaking: Third Spaces as Civic Bridge Builders”

This session gathered experienced educators and youth outreach organizers to share their experiences and strategies for providing innovative and equitable education. Session: “Education in the Midst of Chaos: Supporting Healthy, Grounded Youth in an Unsettled World” 



To close the Together conference we gathered at Haven, Common House and Market Street Park to discuss individual and collective healing as part of the Conscious City Conference. It was a moment to learn and grow through interactive conference panels and experiential workshops. 

Topics included Integrating Physical Health and Emotional Wellbeing, the Science of Psychedelics, Near Death Experiences, Out of Body Experiences and much more. We sat together, shared new ideas and leaned into the frontier of mind, body and spirit.

At our “Science of Psychedelics” session, a panel of University of Virginia researchers explored the emerging scientific research on psychedelics and the impact of this research on clinical and therapeutic applications.

Monica Rao provided a channeled group healing and shared how a near-death experience facilitated her own transformational healing process in her session “Journey to Wholeness: Channeling, Healing, and Collective Transformation.”

Nicole Hawker, founder of Heart and Soul Fitness, shared insights on the powerful link between physical health and emotions at “Harmony Within: Integrating Physical Health and Emotional Wellbeing.”

The Division of Perceptual Studies (DOPS) at the UVA School of Medicine stands out as one of the rare academic units globally dedicated to the scientific exploration of extraordinary experiences. DOPS researchers discussed the significance of investigating these exceptional phenomena in the session “Exploring Interconnection: What Out-of-Body Experiences and Non-Ordinary States of Awareness Tell Us About Our Common Humanity”





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