Madison Region Economic Development & Diversity Summit keynote speaker Tiffany Jana, a CEO, author, and international public speaker, challenged the crowd at Monona Terrace Community Convention Center this morning to go out and make a difference in this world.

“I want to tell you that you all can actually do a lot. Just starting with the simple,” Jana told the crowd. “There’s a simple concept that if every single one of us stands right down the barrel of this problem and identifies one small thing that we can do – one tiny place where our sphere of influence where we can make a small difference – and if every one of us makes a commitment to do that … do you think there might be some change in the world?”

This is the fourth year for the Madison Region Economic Development & Diversity Summit, an event that is hosted jointly by partners Madison Region Economic Partnership and the Urban League of Greater Madison for Madison-area businesses and community leaders focused on economic development and diversity. This Summit builds on our previous joint events in a collective commitment to advancing talent, opportunity and growth for all the region’s citizens. According to the event organizers, the convergence of diversity and economic development is a critical component of efforts to mold this region into a model for economic inclusion.

The welcoming session for the summit was presented by Paul Jadin, CEcD, president of the Madison Region Economic Partnership; Dr. Ruben Anthony, president & CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison; Jon Schumacher, board chair of MadREP; and Nia Trammel, board chair of the Urban League of Greater Madison. A special address was given by Secretary Ray Allen of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

Keynote speaker Tiffany Jana
Keynote speaker Tiffany Jana

Jana is the CEO and president of TMI Consulting, a diversity and inclusion firm based in Richmond, Virgina. She established a national network of consultants and spearheaded the company’s transition into the world’s first Certified Benefit Corporation with a diversity and inclusion focus. Her keynote session was titled “Diversity as an Asset and Competitive Advantage.”

“Why are the mortality rates for Hispanics and African Americans getting worse? Why is the income gap getting worse when there are more resources available?” Jana asked the crowd. “We all know there is a problem.

“We’re all good people, right? We all think of ourselves as good, decent human beings trying to be better tomorrow than we are today. I mean, we came to this event! This is a ‘good people’ event,” she added. “But the hard thing in the world is to come to these events and to be inspired and then avoiding the trap of going right back to doing what you always do. I promise you … I guarantee you 100 percent, ladies and gentleman, if you keep doing what you are doing … we’ll be back here in 10 years and I will be saying the same thing.”

Jana said that what is operating against the ‘good people’ is that the system that we have created in America, by design, was optimized to yield the results it has been yielding over and over.

“I don’t know Madison well enough to know where the other side of the tracks are but, guess what? Y’all designed it,” she said. “Not you in this room. But it was designed to put all the poor people in one neighborhood because we were scared.”

She added that we shouldn’t have “white, brown, or black guilt because racism exists, and you didn’t create it. Have guilt over what you are not doing about it now.”

Janas TMI Consulting has become a global leader in social enterprise and values-based engagement that nurtures and supports talent while making a positive impact in the world. She had a simple explanation for her success.

“The research is there. If you have diverse groups of people, your outcomes will be better. Your group will actually be more intelligent: All of us is smarter than any of us. We know this,” she said. “How do you get diversity? You cultivate a workplace that is awesome.”

Mark Richardson, CEO of GigBlender, address the MADRep crowd during the welcoming session at Monona Terrace
Mark Richardson, CEO of GigBlender, address the MADRep crowd during the welcoming session at Monona Terrace

After the morning keynote, MADRep Concurrent Breakout Sessions were held in the morning featuring:
◆ “Economic Development of Welcoming Immigrant Populations in Rural Communities” presented by Himar Hernandez, State Assistant Director for Community and Economic Development at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach
◆ “Stan Davis Diversity Assessment & Planning Tools” moderated by Stan Davis, president & owner of The Davis Group
Panelists were Brittany Harris, VP of Innovation & Learning and IDI® Qualified Administrator, The Winters Group; Naomi Takahashi, Race & Gender Equity Manager and MCOD Administrator, YWCA Madison; Kirsten Moore, Director of Cooperative Services, Willy Street Co-op; Monique Simmons, Family Nurse Practitioner, Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin
◆ “Race, Gender & Entrepreneurial Success” presented and moderated by Dr. Alicia Robb, founder and CEO of Next Wave, Visiting Scholar with the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Colorado at Boulder
◆ “Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace: Best Practices” moderated by Angela Russell, director of Diversity & Inclusion, CUNA Mutual Group
Panelists were Deirdra Copeland, Head, Enterprise Resource Groups Office of Inclusion, BMO Harris Bank; Ben Trockman, Outreach and Employment Specialist, Old National Bank; Bridgett Willey, Director, Allied Health Education and Career Pathways, UW Health
◆ “Beyond Black & White: Small Business Diversity” presented by Deborah Biddle, Diversity & Inclusion Consultant/Speaker/Writer, High-Performance Development Solutions

The Closing Plenary Session “Leaning Into Action: Reactions and Next Steps” will be held today at 3:30 p.m. this afternoon as longtime community leader Angela Russell will reflect on the day and envision the future. She will moderate a panel of distinguished community leaders including Shiva Bidar, Wesley Sparkman, Erica Nelson and Jessica Cavazos.