Uniting Voices: Cortico’s Inaugural Partner Gathering at MIT
Illustration by Jane Shore, Founder, School of Thought

On May 6, 2024, in the heart of the MIT Media Lab, Cortico hosted a milestone event. Bringing Cortico partners together for the first time, we launched a cohort of like-minded and like-hearted leaders committed to community listening as a pathway to transformative change. As we moved through a day of lively discussions and workshops, the air was charged with a sense of hope and the potential of what we can achieve together.

The event kicked off as any good gathering should: over a meal. Partners met and mingled during lunch, setting the stage for deeper connection before touring the Media Lab, where they experienced the research and innovation fueling our efforts at Cortico. Post-tour, partners split into two focused groups: “Youth-Led Means Youth-owned: Building Youth Leadership Through Recorded Conversation Initiatives” and “Local Government Strategies for Community Listening at Scale.”

PC: Artemisia Luk

Cortico partners know better than anyone the importance of community powered understanding in driving meaningful change. These sessions offered the opportunity to share experiences and explore solutions together. Sharing their unique projects—such as Be Heard Durham and JA Worldwide—partners dove deep into the challenges they faced and the lessons learned from their work.

My major takeaway centered around partnerships: connecting the incredible work at Cortico with education stakeholders, but also all the governmental/community work – and research/technology work – that is so intertwined. I’d love to look into ways to network further with these orgs on a consistent basis.

Chris McNutt, Executive Director, Human Restoration Project

The culmination of the day’s events was the launch of a newly connected network of Cortico partners. As members of the Cortico team, we’re continuously inspired and energized by the relationships we’ve built with each partner. Rather than acting as gatekeepers, we wanted to connect our partners to one another in order to build on the dynamism and solidarity we’ve experienced. This network will be a resource where partners can continue to share successes, tackle issues, and co-create innovative solutions. We’re so excited to see how our partners use this environment to leverage their collective expertise, enhancing their shared ability to address challenges and inspire change in their communities. 

The momentum continued into the next day at the MIT Center for Constructive Communication‘s (CCC) annual symposium, where several partners showcased their projects alongside student research. The event provided an energetic space for members of CCC, Cortico, and a diverse range of thought leaders to discuss democracy, technology, and human connection through the lens of our partners’ powerful work. The symposium also served as a meaningful opportunity for our partners to further align their work with cutting-edge research and emerging trends in civic technology, and vice-versa.

PC: Artemisia Luk

Foregrounding the greater societal need for the work we are all – CCC/Cortico/partners – doing helps us feel ‘seen,’ which always feels good, especially when many people don’t yet see the value in what we are doing. And it also pulls us up out of the weeds to remember why we are doing what we are doing and to engage in discourse that connects our work to that of others.

Jennifer Chace, Founder, The Source School

As we reflect on these experiences, we’re energized by the dedication and expertise of our partners: brave leaders committed to surfacing underhead voices in their communities to drive real change. Together, they’ve sparked connections and ideas that are just the starting point of what’s next. At Cortico, we’re committed to growing this vibrant network, creating even more opportunities for us all to learn, innovate, and make a difference together. We’re just getting started, and we can’t wait to see where our collective efforts to amplify underheard voices take us next.

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Cortico is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization led by a multidisciplinary team of experts in community engagement, technology and non-profit management. We strive to meld two elements not typically found in one space: technological innovation and community-centered advocacy. We'd love to keep you up to date on what we're doing!