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Future 50 2021: Building an equitable Columbus

Katy Smith
ksmith@columbusceo.com

One of the most exciting things about the creation of Future 50 is that we’re building a group of vibrant thinkers that will grow over time. We started with 50 last year. This year, we have 100, and that will grow by another 50 next fall.

Members of the inaugural class have often said how much they looked forward to meeting the class of 2021, who they helped choose—each application was scored once by editorial staff and twice by members of the class of 2020. We had dreams of a big gathering, where the new class could be announced, followed by cocktails and conversation with the class that came before them, and we’d take a couple of class photos. But alas, the coronavirus pandemic is raging, and a big gathering is not to be had safely (or even a small gathering, for that matter).

You can learn about the Future 50 class of 2021 by reading the special issue of Columbus CEO embedded in this story.

The COVID-19 crisis also dampened the class of 2020’s plans for their annual projects. How do you create a gender equity index when you’re Zoomschooling your kids while trying to run a business from your dining room table? How does a public mural festival really work in a time when people are staying far away from one another?

One project survived, though: The Moonshot magazine. The idea of Smart Columbus/Can’t Stop Columbus director Jordan Davis was to have Future 50s write essays for the magazine, building in its pages the vision of a better Columbus through bold moonshot ideas. Davis took great initiative and organized a series of Zoom salons where we exchanged thoughts about racism, housing, science, technology, transportation, education, civility and more. A group of writers then stepped forward to develop the essays, and we at CEO hired a nationally known illustrator in India, Manjul, to illustrate the ideas.

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The product, published in the October issue, was an outstanding piece of thought leadership, a smart, earnest, hopeful portrait of a region where we make decisions based on data, treat one another with kindness and offer the neediest among us social services systems that work.

The class of 2021 is brimming with similar energy to make change, and unlike in 2020, we go into the year with the advantage of experience. We’ve already been living through a pandemic. We know how to operate and what to expect. The ideas members of the class of 2021 offer are firmly rooted in the crises of 2020—especially the movement for racial equity. They want to address affordable housing, public art, hunger, and egalitarian systems of governance and corporate leadership.

I’m so much looking forward to seeing what projects they’ll come up with—because we need them, today, now. We’ll never have this chance again. Let’s take it.

 

The cover of Columbus CEO's special Future 50 issue