Seattle Foundation Blog

Crosscut Festival Showcases Big Ideas

Speakers spark conversations on important social and political issues

February 06, 2018

By Madeliene Hernandez, Community Programs Operations Associate

Drawing in over 1,500 attendees to Seattle University Feb. 2 and 3, the Crosscut Festival convened some of the Northwest’s biggest names in politics, tech, journalism, education and social change to generate conversations on current issues our region and nation are facing.

As a civic leader driving to change policies and systems to address racial and economic issues, Seattle Foundation sponsored the festival’s race and social justice track, which elevated topics like police culture, racism, DACA, #MeToo, gentrification and tech, as well as equity in education. We believe that in order to have a stronger, more vibrant community for all we need to utilize our expertise, research, leadership, funding and voice, and most especially, collaborate with our partners on upstream approaches to challenging issues. The Crosscut Festival aligns with our efforts to speak out on critical problems our society faces and work with cross sector leaders to co-design innovative solutions.

During the two-day event I had the opportunity to listen to a wide variety of speakers and discussions on topics new and familiar to me. I went to sessions that showcased the incredible range of issues our society is grappling with, including:

  • Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington and Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon spoke on topics ranging from climate change to their approaches to ensure that students and families in both states have access to the tools they need to be successful.
  • Julian Castro reflected on his time as Housing and Urban Development secretary.
  • Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, radio show host John Carlson and Seattle University student Carlos Rodriguez debated policy around Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and their hopes for our nation’s Dreamers.
  • Leaders in higher education and journalism advocated for more dialogue, awareness and action to prevent sexual assault, while STEM innovators discussed the need for a more diverse workforce in high tech fields.

Having spent most of my early career on the ground in various community-based organizations, the Crosscut Festival was the first event that I’ve attended where I saw stakeholders from different sectors and political persuasions respectfully engage in debate on challenging issues. To hear professionals from tech, education, politics and nonprofits share how their fields intersect with others and how their institutions uphold systems that perpetuate racism and inequity was so important because the problems we face are not just for the social impact sector to solve.

Many attendees I met grappled with the question of “what can I do,” and as someone who spends my days ensuring that the Community Programs team at Seattle Foundation has the tools they need to achieve their goals and create change in the community, I believe the most valuable action is for people to come together with people of different races, backgrounds, experiences and values, and continue the conversations that emerge from events like the Crosscut Festival. Talking about, naming and elevating problems in our communities is the first step to creating change. 

The Crosscut Festival left me feeling energized and hopeful about what we can do together to ensure equity in our communities and made me feel fortunate to be able to work at a place that engages in these conversations every day. If you weren’t able to make it to the festival, you can watch the full program livestream. You can also learn more about Seattle Foundation’s civic leadership work



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