The J. McDonald Williams Institute Fourth Annual Conference

Dallas, TX
Thursday, October 16, 2008

The J. McDonald Williams Institute Annual Conference 2008 

Equity in a Time of Retrenchment:
More Urgent than Ever

Thursday, October 16th, 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
 Dallas Convention Center
Ballroom A
650 S. Griffin St.
Dallas, Texas

$90 full day; $50 luncheon forum only; $40 students full day

Registration & Continental Breakfast begin at 7:30 a.m.

7:30 Registration Opens
Continental Breakfast Served
8:00 Morning Plenary
  • Welcoming Remarks & Announcements
  • Presentation of the third annual Wholeness Index report for Dallas, highlighting important changes and trends
  • Remarks by Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert


Public Policy Sessions I

Why College Readiness Starts in Middle School
Most middle school students have their sights set on attending college. Yet, somewhere along the way, these aspirations give way to other pursuits. Targeting middle school students for college readiness allows programs to create a college-going culture that has the opportunity to grow throughout students’ academic career.  With college aspirations and a firm grasp on how they need to perform academically, middle school students will be equipped with the tools necessary to not only succeed in high school, but ultimately college. Content partner: Education is Freedom.

Early Childhood Education: Assessing and Promoting Successful Program Models
It is widely accepted that high quality early childhood education programs can have a significant effect on the trajectories of children from low income communities. But which instructional models have the greatest impact over time? Panelists will share insights gleaned from local research initiatives on the impact of ECE on subsequent academic achievement, using data available through UT-Dallas’ Texas Schools Project. They will also discuss current strategies for building capacity among early childhood programs in Dallas and North Texas. Content Partner: the
Institute for Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Primary Health Care: Pinpointing the Needs of Underserved Communities
Parkland Health and Hospital System has pioneered the use of hospital discharge data – most often used to characterize health statewide trends and needs – to identify the Dallas County neighborhoods and populations most in need of additional primary care services. In this session, health planners will share their findings and invite participants to discuss how they can work in partnership to address the needs. Content partner: Parkland Health and Hospital System.

Restorative Justice: Community Healing through Dialogue
Research indicates that programs built around dialogue between the perpetrators of crime, their victims and community members – in which they talk about the harm done and solutions to repair that harm – offer healing for victims and promote successful reform and reintegration by offenders. Yet such restorative approaches are sometimes conspicuously lacking in the very communities most severely affected by crime. Content partner: University of North Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Documenting Community: Rediscovering the Ties that Bind
The world we walk through every day is full of stories, but we seldom hear them. The neighborhoods we inhabit have complex histories and diverse assets, but we seldom stop to consider them. For young people still building their sense of self, searching out and documenting those hidden stories, forgotten histories and overlooked assets is a powerful tool for forging connections and gaining the stability that comes with appreciating one’s cultural context. Video technology becomes a tool both for building individual identity and boosting community vitality. In this session, the creators of a community documentary program for Dallas youth will share the whys and hows of their approach. Content Partner: Preservation Link

Community Organizing for Change and Wholeness
Although organized citizen activists have been at the center of every major social movement in history, how to best engage people to become citizen activists is widely debated among citizen leaders, community organizers and political strategists. Panelists will draw from their own successes to discuss community organizing theories, strategies and practices that work. Content partner: St. Philip’s School & Community Center.

Poverty and Racism: Overlapping Threats to the Common Good
We cannot shape effective public policies to create fair and affordable housing, punish predatory lenders, promote affirmative action in housing and employment, properly educate the marginalized, reform immigration laws, build safe communities, or repair the social safety net without understanding the reality of economic privilege and the connection between racism and poverty. This discussion will foster that understanding. Content partner: Catholic Charities of Dallas.

Investigating Children’s and Families’ Creative Capital
Creative capital is what gives us the ability to express, imagine and invent. Individuals, families and communities are stronger when they recognize and promote the growth of creative capital. The panel will present research that identifies gaps in Dallas’ neighborhoods’ ability to foster creative capital and discuss strategies for filling those gaps. Content partner: Big Thought on behalf of Thriving Minds.

If the Storm Drains Back Up, You Can Bet You’re Not in Highland Park
From canals and railroads to the interstate highway system to today’s vital broadband lines, national and local economies thrive on smart, targeted public investments. The quality of schools, parks, streets, mass transit, utilities, and other public investments largely determine the quality of life in a neighborhood, a city, and a region – and low-income communities often go without. This session will explore strategies and tools for addressing the disparities. Content partners: Southern Coalition for Social JusticeAntonio DiMambro

The Churches’ Mission: Social Services or Social Justice?
Charitable work benefitting the poor and oppressed is a strong tradition within most American religious bodies. But whereas charity can be an individual act, addressing the underlying causes of poverty requires collective action and engagement in the political sphere. And with that engagement come a host of tensions and conflicts that many people and many churches would rather avoid. This session will explore what faith, particularly Christian faith, demands of individuals and congregations as they face the disparities that divide our world. Content Partner: Sojourners.

Public Policy Sessions II (all sessions repeat)

12:30 Luncheon Forum: Equity, Prosperity and the '08 Election

The luncheon discussion will feature representatives of the McCain and Obama campaigns, and will focus on the importance of urban policy and equity for the next administration. After brief remarks by each campaign's surrogate, Tod Robberson of The Dallas Morning News eidtorial board will moderate a lively and informal “kitchen table conversation” that includes three leading policy thinkers from Dallas. Audience members also will have an opportunity to ask questions.



Skill-building Sessions

Beyond "Se habla Espanol": Cultural Competency for Today's Dallas
Hispanics are now the largest population in Dallas County at over 37 percent. Hispanics have the highest dropout rate of all ethnic groups. In the Dallas/Fort Worth area 330,000 Hispanics are uninsured. These facts create an urgent need for human services among this population, yet cultural and linguistic barriers often stand between Hispanics and the agencies who wish to assist them. This session offers a crash course in overcoming those barriers. Content Partner: The Dallas Concilio of Hispanic Service Organizations.

Making the Case for Permanent Supportive Housing
Dallas is among the cities considering creating permanent supportive housing for homeless people with disabilities such as chronic mental illness or substance abuse. Copious research indicates that the cost of providing permanent housing with support services is far less costly than the current system, in which such people cycle in and out of jails and hospital emergency rooms. But moving from theory to practice, creating appropriate standards and agreeing on where to build, is very difficult. Participants will glean strategies and tactics from a leading national developer of and advocate for permanent supportive housing. Content Partner: The Corporation for Supportive Housing.

Turning Out the Vote: Strategies for Reaching Traditional and Non-traditional Voters
By all accounts, the 2008 election season will be one of the most exciting and electric in modern history. Voter turnout is expected to be high. Many experts believe whichever candidate turns out the most voters at the polls, wins the election. Drawing on personal experience in the political trenches, panelists will share tested strategies for turning out the vote and best reaching traditional and non-traditional voters in this and future elections. Content Partners: Hip Hop Government/ Change the Game.

Collaborative Partnering: Lessons from Thriving Minds’ Neighborhood Leadership Teams
Virtually every community agency extolls the value of partnerships, but building them is far easier said than done. In creating the Thriving Minds initiative, in which Neighborhood Leadership Teams are a central element, Big Thought and its partners studied some of the country’s most successful models. In this session, members of the Neighborhood Leadership Teams will share insights on how to coordinate resources, leverage capacity and build awareness around a shared goal – in this case, to ensure that all children have equal opportunity to high-quality creative learning opportunities. Content Partner: Big Thought on behalf of Thriving Minds. 

Community and Swift Justice/Community Advocacy
Dallas is one of roughly two dozen American cities that are using community courts to try to reduce violence in distressed neighborhoods, strengthen interactions between residents and the justice system, and reinforce to our youth the impact that individuals can have in advancing social justice where none exists. This session will introduce not just the rationale for community courts and evidence for their effectiveness, but the people who work in those courts, familiarizing participants with the services they provide and the processes for engaging those services. Content Partner: Dallas City Attorney’s Office/Community Court.

Listening to Dropouts: Lessons for Educators
Dallas has a graduation rate of only 44% according to the EPE Research Center. What happens to the other 56% of our youth? Why should we care? What stereotypes and misconceptions stand in the way of understanding and changing these alarming statistics? Who are the people behind the numbers? Join several students, Richard Marquez and Albert Black for an electrifying exchange of ideas in search of a solution. Content partner: Texans Can.



Contact Information

  • For more information, contact Victoria Hicks, conference director, at (469)221-0702 or Aaron Bartula, conference registrar, at (972)883-5430.

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