Editor's Notes: Welcoming a new decade with Future 50

Katy Smith

I love surprises. Underdog wins, unlikely friendships, finding a tiny earring you mourned as lost three years ago.

Future 50 has been a wonderful surprise. For me, it’s a reminder that you never know what’s going to come back when you send something out into the universe. When we first began imagining a new Columbus CEO initiative that would convene some of the city’s most creative, trailblazing people to make a civic contribution together, we had no idea how much the message would resonate in the community. I clicked “publish” on the web story calling for nominations and cringed, hoping people wouldn’t find it terribly cheesy (as an incorrigible optimist, I don’t).

The response was outstanding. The inaugural class of Future 50 counts among its members a radiobiologist, a university president, HR professionals, startup founders, communications experts, attorneys, transportation planners, real estate developers, nonprofit executives and more. The group is brimming with big-hearted innovators who are not shying away from tough issues. To them, no dream is silly. One of the class members, Alex Anthony, put it this way: “The Future 50 are altruistic innovators with the social capital and robust networks to drive meaningful change.” Here's who else is in the class.

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Judging by the enthusiastic, heartfelt responses, the question we posed in the application process inspired them. “Please share an idea for something you and 49 others, if chosen for Future 50, could do together as an Annual Project within one year to create quantifiable, lasting, positive change in the community,” we asked.

Ideas included working toward affordable and high-quality childcare, a public mural festival, engaging artists in painting houses in Linden and the Hilltop, redesigning our educational models, community conversations addressing racism, and expanding opportunities in “tipping point” neighborhoods through rechanneled public funding, zoning and other changes.

The annual program kicks off in January with a special 13th issue of the magazine celebrating the 2020 cohort and sharing their ideas for how to move the region forward. We’ll gather early in the first year of the fresh decade for a cocktail reception and pitch session to set the agenda for their Annual Project—or projects? Up to them, as long as it embodies the Future 50 core values of altruism, achievement, boldness, creativity and inclusivity.

Indeed, the decade ahead is a critical one to the future of the Columbus region. We are preparing to welcome 1 million new neighbors and 600,000 new jobs by 2050, according to Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission projections. Much change will happen here between now and then. This group has the energy and the commitment to help make the most if it—for everyone.

I’ll close with a quote shared by cohort member Jordan Davis in her application that hit home with me.

“The first thing that comes to mind when I think of the group you are curating is the Steve Jobs quote, ‘Here’s to the crazy ones,’ she wrote. ‘Here’s to the crazy ones … You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.’

“I would presume this group is full of the crazy ones,” Davis wrote.

I’m thrilled to say that it is.