March 18-19, 2024

Spokane Convention Center

Join us for our 5th annual Community Leadership Summit. We’ll gather together with local volunteers, community leaders and philanthropists to celebrate and strengthen our communities across Eastern Washington and North Idaho.

Schedule and Sessions

*Schedule and speakers are subject to change.

Monday, March 18

8:00 - 10:00 a.m. Check-in

10:00 - 10:30 a.m. Welcome

10:30 - 11:45 a.m. Grant Forsyth and Sam Wolkenhauer

This session with two of our region’s leading economists is a must-attend for anyone who wants to get a thorough (and entertaining!) understanding of the key issues driving economic trends. In this session, “The Great Remaking,” Grant Forsyth, Chief Economist at Avista Corp. in Spokane, and Sam Wolkenhauer, Chief Economist for the State of Idaho, will address labor and demographic issues, as well as inflation and housing.  Understanding where our economy is headed will set the stage for further discussions during the Summit about how local communities can build capacity for a more vibrant future. 

11:45 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Break

12:00 - 1:00 p.m. Lunch Keynote with Monroe Nichols, StriveTogether

In January of this year, StriveTogether received the global Schwab Foundation Social Innovation Award for Collective Social Innovation at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland. The award validates StriveTogether’s unique, proven approach to changing systems, improving outcomes and putting more young people on a path to economic mobility. The success of StriveTogether is rooted in a collective impact approach that serves as the foundation of Innovia’s LaunchNW initiative. 

We are thrilled to have Monroe Nichols, Director of Policy and Partnerships for StriveTogether, join our Leadership Summit for a keynote that addresses the power of collective impact, and how local communities can align resources and actions to improve educational and career outcomes for youth in our region. 

1:00 - 1:15 p.m. Break

1:15 - 2:30 p.m. Jeff Yost, Nebraska Community Foundation

More details coming soon.

2:45 - 4:00 p.m. Jason Neises and Nancy Van Milligen, Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque

Small towns have big assets. Their residents are leaders with the ingenuity, expertise and drive to build strong, vibrant communities. The Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque has successfully implemented two community initiatives that work together to create an exciting opportunity for rural communities. The Community Heart & Soul® initiative brings communities together to connect the dots between issues like rural quality of life, economic development and academic achievement, and work collaboratively toward holistic solutions. Through their Small-town Dreams Initiative, participating towns can receive funds to start an endowment for the community by raising matching amounts locally. By the end of the campaign, communities will have built up an endowment that will grow in perpetuity and pay out annually for grantmaking.

In this session, Nancy and Jason will share how meaningful community engagement and  local endowment building can work together with inspiring results.

4:00 - 4:30 p.m. Break

4:30 - 6 p.m. Networking Reception

6 p.m. Dinner on your own

6 p.m. Leadership Council Member Dinner

8 - 10 p.m. Hospitality Suite (optional)

Tuesday, March 19

7:15 - 8:15 a.m. Buffet Breakfast

8:15 - 10:00 a.m. Community Heart & Soul®

Community Heart and Soul® is a proven community initiative for creating stronger, healthier and more vibrant small towns and communities. Innovia is pleased to announce the launch of the Community Heart & Soul® program throughout its 20-county region, funding and program support to rural communities with a population under 30,000 to initiate a resident-driven process to engage the entire community in identifying what they love most about their community, what they want for the future and how to achieve it.

This session with Community Heart and Soul® staff will provide the roadmap for how to become an Innovia Heart & Soul Community.

10:00 - 10:30 a.m. Break

More details coming soon.

11:15 - 12:15 p.m. Stephanie Sowl, ECMC Foundation

ECMC Foundation is a national, private foundation whose North Star goal is to eliminate equity gaps in postsecondary completion so that underserved learners have greater opportunity for social and economic mobility. As a Program Officer at ECMC Foundation, Stephanie Sowl, PhD, oversees a portfolio of grants focusing on increasing college persistence and completion for students from underserved backgrounds, and has spent the past six years focusing on students in rural communities. In this session Stephanie will delve into key research, policies, and practices to retain talent and promote community development in rural America.

12:15 - 12:30 p.m. Break

12:30 - 1:30 p.m. Lunch and Closing Keynote with Dave Mitchell

As an author, speaker, and organizational expert, Dave Mitchell is acclaimed for his ability to deliver high impact and highly entertaining presentations. Laugh and learn is his motto. 

In this closing keynote, Dave shares insights and inspiration from his award winning seminar and book, The Power of Understanding People. 

Developing successful relationships is critical to our success in both our personal and professional lives. Dave’s “enter-train-ment” style of helping us better understand how to establish and develop effective relationships is the perfect way to end our 2024 Leadership Summit. You won’t want to miss this!

1:30 - 2:00 p.m. Wrap-up

2:00 - 3:00 p.m. Optional Community Readiness Conversations

10:30 - 11:15 a.m. 5% Campaign with Carrie Malek-Madani

Meet Our Speakers

Dave Mitchell

The Leadership Difference

Since founding the Leadership Difference in 1995, over 450,000 people have attended Dave Mitchell’s “enter-TRAIN-ment” seminars on topics that include leadership, customer service, selling skills, and personal performance enhancement. His clients include Allstate Insurance, Bank of America, Universal Studios, Hilton Worldwide, Sub-Zero Wolf Appliances, Electrolux Appliances, Trek Bikes, Walt Disney World and the CIA.

Prior to starting his own organization development consulting firm, the Leadership Difference, Dave was the Vice President of Human Resources and Quality for Buena Vista Hospitality Group, Corporate Director of Training and Development for Marshall Field’s and a television reporter and producer for CBS News. He has a B.A. in Mass-Communications with an emphasis in Business Administration and a Masters Degree in Global Human Resources Development. Dave has served as adjunct professor at the University of Illinois and has been designated as a Certified Advanced Wine Sommelier (som-uh-yay) by the International Wine Guild. Having failed to achieve his dream of playing professional baseball, he went on to a successful coaching career at the tee ball level.

In 2015, Meetings and Conventions Magazine named Dave one of the “Top Speakers of the Year.” Meetings Professionals International named Dave the Meeting Madness “Best Speaker of the Year” at the 2013 World Education Congress in Las Vegas. Eagles Talent Speakers Bureau named Dave one of the top 10 best business speakers.

Dave is the author of the book Live and Learn or Die Stupid! The book focuses on personal contentment and performance excellence. It was released in July of 2006 and was at the top of his publishers’ best seller’s list in the very first month of its release. In December 2013, The Power of Understanding People hit book shelves. Amazon selected it as Editor’s Choice for best business book. His next book, The Power of Understanding Yourself was released in January 2019 and was named “Top Read” by Training Magazine and Editor’s Pick by Dave’s fourth book, Peak Performance Culture: The Five Metrics of Organizational Excellence, was released in September 2020 to critical acclaim.

Dave lives in the wine country of Washington with his wife of 35 years, Lori. He has two adult children: Brooklyn and Slade. Among the Mitchell critters are three horses and Mingus the Menace – a large, smart, scary dog who is secretly a cuddler.

Monroe Nichols


Monroe Nichols is director of policy and partnerships for StriveTogether. In this role, he leads the strategy development for cultivating and supporting communities seeking to join the Cradle to Career Network.

Monroe’s work in the Network started in 2014, as a founding staff member at Cradle to Career Network member ImpactTulsa, where he served as chief operating officer. Prior to ImpactTulsa, Monroe served as an aide to Tulsa’s mayor, was chief of staff to a university president, managed statewide adult career development programs for the Oklahoma State Department of Career and Technology Education, and directed business expansion programs for the Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce. Monroe has held two elected positions, first as a board of education member for Tulsa Technology Center, Oklahoma’s largest and oldest postsecondary vocational training institution. He currently serves in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Monroe holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tulsa and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Oklahoma.

Carrie Malek-Madani

Nebraska Community Foundation

Carrie Malek-Madani joined Nebraska Community Foundation in February 2017. Carrie is responsible for developing and implementing NCF’s communications and marketing goals and strategies to build awareness and support for NCF and its affiliated funds. Carrie creates and oversees the production of NCF’s publications, advertising, social media and video production. She also assists NCF’s affiliated funds located across the state with press releases, donor stories, fundraising letters and other marketing tools.

Prior to NCF, Carrie worked for the Lied Center for Performing Arts in Lincoln where she managed the organization’s public relations, brand strategy and communications efforts. Her previous professional experience includes work for S&S Public Relations, where she developed PR and media relations strategy for clients in industries ranging from technology to education. Prior to S&S Public Relations, she worked for the Denver Museum of Nature & Science’s marketing department.

Carrie holds a bachelor’s degree in communication: media management, and a master’s degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Journalism & Mass Communications in integrated media communications. She is a member of the National Communication Honors Society, Lambda Pi Eta.

Grant Forsyth

Chief Economist, Avista Corp.

Grant Forsyth is the Chief Economist at Avista Corp. in Spokane. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in economics from Central Washington University, he continued his education at the University of Oregon, where he earned an MBA in finance. Dr. Forsyth landed a one-year job contract in the industrial area of the Czech Republic and then transitioned to a Czech financial group, working as an academic and private-sector economist. After two years, he decided to return to school; he attended Washington State University, where he earned a Ph.D. in economics. He was a professor of economics at Eastern Washington University before joining Avista Corp. in 2012. In addition to his current work, he serves on the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors and the Spokane Mayor’s Council on Economic Policy and Forecasting.

Sam Wolkenhauer

Chief Economist, State of Idaho

Sam came to the Department of Labor straight out of college and his position is to write analytical papers, give presentations and provide economic forecasts. His role allows him to assist a variety of important groups and agencies that tackle workforce and development-related issues, from workforce training to affordable housing, business attraction, and education. For the eight years, Sam has also been the lead analyst on our Idaho Department of Labor’s economic forecasting projects in which he creates projections of the state’s demographics and industry composition.

Jason Neises

Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque

Jason has spent most of his career in adult education and working with non-profits like Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Chicago Architecture Foundation, and the Peace Corps. While in the Peace Corps, he lived in Niger, West Africa. “The people there were incredibly impoverished by standards of the developed world, but they were the most kind, generous people I’ve ever encountered. They shared their food, homes, work, language, and culture with me without hesitation. I learned a lot from them about being gracious, patient, and grateful. We need to make the best of the gifts we’re given and not always look to others to be ‘saved.’”

In his work at the Community Foundation, Jason uses asset-based planning processes like Community Heart & Soul® to help community leaders in rural towns increase participation in local decision-making and empower residents to shape the future of their communities in a way that upholds the unique character of each place. He is inspired by the innovative ideas and energy people have about strengthening their towns and improving quality of life in rural areas. Jason is a skilled facilitator and has recently expanded this skillset to include graphic facilitation, visually illustrating the big ideas from group thinking in real time.

Jeff Yost

Nebraska Community Foundation

Jeff Yost, President and CEO of Nebraska Community Foundation, and his talented team are unleashing abundant local assets, inspiring charitable giving, and connecting ambitious people in 270 hometowns throughout 81 of Nebraska’s 93 counties. Jeff has dedicated the past 25 years of his career to NCF’s mission and community-led, asset-based philosophies. Since 1994, NCF and its affiliated funds have reinvested $517 million in Nebraska hometowns. Prior to NCF, he worked for the State of Nebraska in the governor’s office. Jeff is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and has served on many boards and advisory councils including the University of Nebraska President’s Advisory Council, the University of Nebraska Medical Center, the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, and the Council on Foundations. Jeff has taught and consulted on philanthropy, public-private partnerships, and asset-based community development (ABCD) throughout the United States and internationally in 15 countries. He and NCF have been featured in numerous publications including Nonprofit Quarterly, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and The New York Times. He pens a monthly column published in newspapers across Nebraska. Jeff and his wife, Cindy Ryman Yost, are proud parents of three children: Elizabeth, Carter, and Harrison.

Stephanie Sowl

ECMC Foundation

Stephanie Sowl, PhD, oversees a portfolio of grants focusing on increasing college persistence and completion for students from underserved backgrounds. Stephanie has recently completed her PhD in Higher Education from Iowa State University and her dissertation explored how college access and enrollment were spatialized across the United States and the role community context played in creating college-going cultures in rural areas. She has worked in higher education for more than a decade in areas such as academic advising, retention coordination, data management under a federal research grant, and college access and success programming.

Stephanie holds an MEd in Higher Education from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and BAs in mathematics, accounting, and business management from Blackburn College.

Nancy Van Milligen

Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque

Nancy has been president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque since we opened our doors in 2003. Since that time, she has established the Community Foundation as a trailblazer in community leadership and engagement initiatives, drawing the attention of funders across the nation. Through her direction, the Foundation has grown to support over 300 nonprofit partners and 4,000 donors, granting out $50 million to area nonprofits since inception.  

As President and CEO of the Foundation, Nancy is able to work daily on her passion – inclusive communities that support and nurture families. She brings together the energies and resources of nonprofit organizations, businesses and community volunteers to help increase awareness of the importance of giving back to the community and building connections that are critical to solving societal problems.  

Nancy is most proud of the systems change work tackling complex issues that communities are facing, such as brain health, racial equity, college access and others. The Foundation also hosts the Inclusive Dubuque network and through people and partnerships, works to build communities where all can participate and prosper. She is inspired by her team and the progress being made toward a high performing community: for high school graduates, kids gaining access to glasses or learning to read, or people having resources like training and job opportunities.  

While rooted in Dubuque, Nancy extends her leadership to national organizations focused on rural community development. She represents the Foundation on the Coalition for Inclusive Communities and New Profit’s Rural, Small Towns & Indigenous (RSTI) Cohort; and the Thrive Rural Theory of Change Working Group. She currently serves on the Rural Schools Collaborative’s Board of Directors and is involved in the D5 coalition, a national initiative focused on growing diversity, equity and inclusion in philanthropy. She has previously served as chair of the Funders Network for Smart Growth, a member of on the Council on Foundations Public Policy Committee, and president of the Iowa Council on Foundations. 

Nancy earned a master’s degree in public administration from Southern Illinois University and received the SIU Distinguished Alumni Award in 2006. Nancy and her husband Mike have five children, 16 grandchildren, and were foster parents to 24 children. She enjoys reading, biking, swimming, and boating.  

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