Six years ago, the Program to Aid Citizen Enterprise (PACE) held it’s first Inclusive Voices luncheon where selected leaders in their various fields had conversations with people whom they might never normally come in contact with.
The novel idea has grown in popularity over the years to the point where this year’s event, held March 21 at the Westin Convention Center, boasted more than 250 guests. They were welcomed by PACE Board Chair Claudette Lewis, Mayor Bill Peduto and Master of Ceremonies Bob Nelkin, president and CEO of the United Way of Allegheny County.
Victoria Garner, PACE public relations coordinator, said guests usually get their first or second choice of who they’d like to sit with, be it Heinz History Center African American Programs Director Sam Black, former Steeler Mike Logan, inventor Nicole Narvaez Manns, Kelly Strayhorn Theater Executive Director Janera Solomon, or any of the 26 other conversationalists.
“Everybody’s different,” she said. “Some people want to sit with just one specific person. Others just say, ‘put me with someone I’ve never met.’ It’s fun. Some firms use it as a team-building exercise.
It’s like a giant staff meeting, with good food.”
Though it’s difficult to gauge the impact of the event, PACE Executive Director Lucille Dabney said it is having an effect.
This year we had a greater diversity of conversationalists. And before when firms would buy a table, they wouldn’t necessarily attend. Now they do,” she said. “But what’s really interesting is this was the first year I’ve noticed a lot of the people are new. I came in and said, ‘who are these people? This is wonderful.’”
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