Points of Light Conference 2023 Co-hosts Talk Inspiration, Impact and Ideas

May 19, 2023

The Points of Light Conference, happening June 14 – 16, 2023 in Chicago, is a global gathering for people, like you, who are passionate about civic engagement. With more than 50 educational workshops, inspirational leadership discussions and opportunities to connect with peers, this conference offers something for every champion of social good.

Back in November, we chatted with Points of Light Conference 2023 co-hosts to find out about Can’t Miss Chicago Experiences. Now, we’re talking with these leaders again about what you can expect at this year’s conference. Hear from Ellen Ray, CEO of Chicago Cares, and Chris K. Swope Cholewa, CEO of HandsOn Suburban Chicago on everything from what inspired them to participate as co-hosts to this year’s special service project at conference.

What inspired you to co-host the Points of Light Conference in 2023?

Chicago Cares: Chicago Cares believes service is a building block of a just and inclusive society and an essential part of how we gain civic literacy and build civic leadership. Service brings people power to the work of change and builds bridges across differences that are the foundation of a healthy society. Co-hosting the Points of Light Conference in Chicago is a concrete way we invest in service.

HandsOn Suburban Chicago: It is an honor to bring together so many talented people who want to influence positive change in the world—having the opportunity to share Chicago its unique experiences, beautiful architecture, incredible cultures and fabulous neighborhoods and provide a memorable experience in the Windy City.

What are some of the KEY THEMES AND TOPICS that you’re excited to explore during the conference?

Chicago Cares: Across the themes and topics, we are excited to talk about collective action! We believe service isn’t service if we do it alone. Service is a commitment to acting together. When we are more deeply bound to one another socially and civically, transformational change is possible. Many of the workshops and sessions encourage us to refocus on the work for collective impact. Where can we come together in new and different ways? Where can we take risks together and build our power together? What can service make possible? We anticipate powerful learning and rich dialogue together.

How have past conferences helped attendees to make a positive impact in their communities, and what is a success story that you can share?

HandsOn Suburban Chicago: Being reinvigorated and refreshed, brainstorming and learning about ways different communities and cultures can use a similar idea with very different results, can be amazing. Sometimes the big lessons are to learn from mistakes or missteps of others, to ask additional questions, create bridges and explore ways to move forward. Last year during “Failure Night,” I was reminded of the importance of looking at all of the people involved in communication when making changes to a program. Thanks to the genuine sharing of one of our leaders, I was able to make a swift change before any potential miscommunications happened.

What are some of the unique features of the 2023 conference, and what sets it apart from other events in the civic engagement space?

Chicago Cares: Whether it’s the Conversation Igniters, the Idea Exchange Dinners or the integration of arts and culture into the event, Chicago’s conference will be a one-of-a-kind experience for a one-of-a-kind city. Chicago has a rich history and legacy of innovative and powerful civic engagement. We are home to so many civic champions and leaders and so many cutting-edge and impactful organizations. As a result, the tapestry of civic engagement work is woven from a great diversity of stories, histories and activities which will be on full display at the Points of Light Conference. We encourage you to think of Chicago as another teacher from which you can learn. Each neighborhood and community has a story to tell and something to teach us about ourselves and our future.

Share one tip that can help attendees get the most out of the conference.

HandsOn Suburban Chicago: Think broadly and join workshops outside of your everyday work. This expands new ways of thinking and meeting new people.

Tell us more about the community-designed and driven service project planned for the conference. What kind of activities will attendees participate in and how will this benefit the local community?

Chicago Cares: Every Chicago Cares service experience is uniquely designed in partnership with local leaders to move community goals forward. We listen directly to our neighbors most connected to the issues and then influence how volunteers and companies serve and give to advance community goals. Chicago Cares and our partners Northwest Side Community Development Corporation in Belmont-Cragin have been working for years to increase public art that celebrates the culture and history of the community while inspiring community pride and new investment, particularly along commercial corridors.

How will the mosaic mural project at conference support the community’s branding initiative and encourage economic development?

Chicago Cares: The mosaic that conference attendees will support was designed by community members and creates opportunities to draw people into the community to shop at local small businesses, engage with their neighbors and encourage activity along key commercial corridors. The project is an opportunity to support a community-driven, community-designed work of art that supports “place-keeping,” and economic development. Members of the Northwest Side Community Development Corporation corridor ambassador program will be on hand to share more with volunteers.

What advice would you like to offer those considering attending the conference?

HandsOn Suburban Chicago: Take advantage of the incredible networking opportunities, as well as the knowledge of the people who come together worldwide. I treasure the talented people I have met who are willing to share, because we are all connected with similar visions.

If you haven’t yet registered for Points of Light Conference in Chicago, head over to our conference page today! Don’t wait – regular registration ends May 31, 2023.

Points of Light

We are champions of civic engagement with a mission to inspire, equip and mobilize people to take action that changes the world.