Moving Ahead With Good Ideas

February may be the shortest month of the year, but 2016’s was long on inspiration and good ideas — not just because of Leap Day. From the Communities Foundation of Texas’ free Cause­Minded Conversation with Just Mercy author Bryan Stevenson to The Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture’s annual Festival of Ideas in Fair Park, there was plenty to think about. But reflecting on all this left many in attendance asking, “What now?” Here are a few more ideas:

1. Before launching a new initiative, learn what’s here.

The Festival of Ideas’ Healthy City headliner Dr. Jennifer Gardy urged using public data to solve health problems. Good news: Significant work is already being done right here in Dallas County via the Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation (PCCI). Its Dallas Information Exchange Portal (Dallas IEP) uses consensually shared, opt-in, anonymized records connecting hundreds of community service partners such as the North Texas Food Bank, Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, and more. When cross­referenced with information from Twitter, it can predict emergency room visits with 75 percent accuracy — and the nation is watching PCCI’s accuracy increase with great interest. Perhaps PCCI CEO Ruben Amarasingham could present its groundbreaking public health work before next year’s Dallas Festival of Ideas.

2. Eat what you kill.

Many unfamiliar with books authored by Entrepreneurial City headliner Russell Simmons were surprised to learn he is an adamant vegan (though that didn’t stop him from dining at Café Momentum). Among attendee­-generated ideas proffered at Dallas Festival of Ideas Headquarters (in the still­-beautiful space that was once The Women’s Museum), one was for community gardens downtown. Fortunately Deep Ellum Urban Garden (DUG) and the Encore Park Community Garden already have that covered. (See #1.)

Among attendee­-generated ideas proffered at Dallas Festival of Ideas Headquarters (in the still­-beautiful space that was once The Women’s Museum), one was for community gardens downtown.

3. Understand the difference between charity and justice.

This pearl of wisdom came from Tony Fleo of Social Venture Partners ­Dallas, which tackled the daunting task of executing some ideas from last year’s Ideas Festival. For inspiration as to why we so urgently need justice, don’t miss top TED talker Bryan Stevenson, who returns April 30 for The Dallas Book Festival at the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library.

4. Shop local.

Where you spend your money matters. So whether buying music from Topic, books from Deep Vellum, clothes from The Akola Project, cleaning supplies from Soap Hope or meals from Cafe Momentum, support Dallas artists and social entrepreneurs setting trends and making waves internationally.

5. Vote, and give a millennial a ride to the polls.

It’s not just the presidential election, it’s key local and regional races, including school board, county commissioners, judges, and the Texas Railroad Commission.

6. Try new ways to get there.

The Literary City headliner Alma Guillermoprieto observed cities where authors’ walks inspire great works of art. The Physical City keynote speaker Nikil Saval echoed this, noting that even though technology has untethered us from desks, our proliferation of coworking spaces proves people not only wish to stare at a screen while in close proximity to others; they pay to do so, even though it’s unhealthy. But just as one must first crawl before running, DART, the T, DCTA and the TRE — which serve more than a dozen north Texas cities — help ease into life outside a car. The GoPass mobile ticketing app allows riders to buy tickets whenever, then swipe to activate at a station, expediting boarding and saving you from futzing with a vending machine. DART light rail tracks cover the most miles of any transit system in the solar system. There are even sites highlighting all the gems you can reach within steps of DART. Yet many north Texans (including most attending the Festival of Ideas, which was closer to Fair Park’s Green Line light rail station than any parking space) have never used the transit systems our taxes help fund. Just as DFW passengers from all over the world ride DART from Terminal A to downtown Dallas in less than an hour, hop aboard to see our city through fresh eyes.

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Catherine Cuellar is the director of partnerships for RefillWise. She’s a multimedia journalist who serves as a director of the DFW Hispanic 100 and Texas Lyceum and an advisor to the Center fo(...)