After several years pivoting to more accessible digital programming in the wake of COVID-19, Rare with Google was invited in 2022 by AdColor (the premier creativity and technology conference designed by and for underrepresented communities) to host an intimate in-person track that would focus explicitly on helping existing leaders change the status quo. Named AdColor LEADERS, this intimate program accommodated 40 highly-accomplished delegates seeking insight on navigating the industry as it stands while actively change it in real-time.
As an inaugural concept our challenge was to set the standard for a space where future leaders could challenge the status quo, reinvent the industry, and reimagine the future. Taking inspiration from the AdColor 2022 theme, Still Rising, the brief was to create a malleable space that would ebb and flow between the communal and the intimate to inspire a new wave of creative activists.
Spatial design started with an overall directive to feel warm, intimate and safe. Modular sofas were configured to exist in both amphitheatre and collaborative arrangements depending on the session type. We included a library of inspiring reading materials curated by LA-based, Black and woman-owned bookshop Reparations Club. Physical materials and custom swag (including notebooks, stationary, and field guides) gave each delegate space for their own reflection. Plus we threw in plenty of charging stations(both coffee and electricity) and blank wall space for artist-in-residence Reggie Black to fill with ideas and thoughts over the two-day event.
With an intimate audience of some of the industry’s most accomplished working professionals, speaker curation bought a wide array of voices and unique perspectives to the conversation. We invited Erika Soto Lamb, VP of Impact Strategy at MTV, who spoke of using her own life experience to mobilise political and public health causes to an audience of millions; Jimmy Smith, advertising legend and founder of Amusement Park entertainment who advocated for speaking truth to power in every context; clinical psychologist and poet Dr. Sanah Ahsan, who helped streamline systems of care while navigating dominant cultures; and Dr. Tsedale Melau, who shared groundbreaking research on structural oppression in the workplace.
The overall program was co-designed by Rare with Google and facilitated by Utopia, where our delegates engaged in cutting-edge workshops, discussions, and curated exercises designed to encourage self exploration. Our aim was for participants to walk away from this program with a renewed sense of purpose, a reinvigorated approach to their work, and meaningful relationships to propel them to the next level. In a survey taken after the event, 100% of the delegates reported feeling more confident achieving their career aspirations; 96% felt more equipped to lead; 92% felt more equipped to challenge their organisation’s dominant culture; and 100% were likely to recommend the program to their peers, as they begin their journey into an industry that continues to look more like the audience it represents (albeit a little faster now).