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Annual Report


Message from the Director

Sarah Langer Hall headshot

Welcome to the 2022-2023 Institute for Emerging Issues annual report! We’re excited to share the important work IEI has done throughout North Carolina during the fiscal year. Before we get started, I want to acknowledge that the stories and highlights included in this report would not be possible without the support of NC State University leadership, our National Advisory Board, our local and state-level partners, community and economic leaders across the state, our donors and, of course, our staff. On behalf of IEI, I sincerely thank you for your support and trust in our organization.

Although the Emerging Issues Forum has been held annually since 1986, the Institute for Emerging Issues was officially established in 2002. For 20 years, IEI has continued to grow as an adaptive organization with one foot in the present day and one foot on the horizon, providing value through policy and programmatic efforts with potential to create widespread economic prosperity throughout North Carolina. 

At our core, IEI is a convening organization, bringing together people across silos and perspectives to identify solutions to emerging issues facing our state. We’ve covered topics across the health, educational, environmental and economic spaces, and look forward to expanding our scope in the future. While some of our impact can be seen immediately, some may take years to be realized publicly, but that doesn’t make the work any less significant. 

As part of the NC State University community, we support the university’s broad vision and unwavering commitment to the future of our state. We are committed to engaging with and providing service to all of North Carolina, as well as leading in the development of innovative partnerships, entrepreneurial thinking and applied problem solving. 

We have big plans for the year ahead, including a state-wide program of work on strengthening household resilience, a topic on the minds of just about every individual and organization we work with. On behalf of Team IEI, we look forward to working with you and your communities to build deeper networks to advance our mission: A North Carolina where people connect and collaborate to build a vibrant and prosperous future for all.

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Mission & Vision

Our Mission

IEI serves as a nonpartisan connector, bringing North Carolinians together across sectors, regions, and perspectives to collaborate on finding solutions to the state’s emerging and most critical policy issues resulting in a more vibrant and prosperous North Carolina.

Our Vision

A North Carolina where people connect and collaborate to build a vibrant and prosperous future for all.

2023 Forum: Talent First Economics

On Feb. 13, 2023, nearly 500 people of different backgrounds and professions from across the state gathered to learn from and with each other at IEI’s first in-person forum since February 2020. The forum examined ways to overcome barriers and help workers find employment and stay engaged in the workplace.

The forum breakout sessions, featuring those with lived experience, were so well-received by attendees that IEI brought them back for a special virtual series called Talent First Tuesdays.

What is the Emerging Issues Forum? This brief video, featuring footage from the 2023 Emerging Issues Forum, explores the legacy of this annual gathering of North Carolina thought leaders.

Forum Media Coverage

Impact of the 2023 Forum

The work of Talent First Economics wasn’t limited to the Emerging Issues Forum. In fall of 2022, IEI convened the Talent First Economics Task Force and the Talent First Economics Community Cohort to identify and implement ways to break down barriers for underrepresented workers.

The Talent First Economics Task Force

During the course of six months, we addressed regional challenges and identified actionable solutions that we will implement to continue to strengthen workforce and economic development in the Piedmont Triad Region.

Exodus Moon

Piedmont Triad Regional Council
Member, Talent First Economics Community Cohort

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Educational Attainment Update

Regional Meeting Series Furthers NC Educational Attainment Goal

Building off of the 2022 Emerging Issues Forum, IEI and myFutureNC convened a series of local leadership meetings during the summer and fall of 2022 to create future opportunities for collaboration among local leaders to increase educational attainment in their communities.

The meetings were held in collaboration with statewide partners including the NC Association of Workforce Development Boards, the NC Association of County Commissioners, the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina and the North Carolina City and County Management Association, as well as a group of regional partners including 14 regional councils of government and all local workforce development boards. 

At these meetings, local public sector leaders, representatives from the business community and local educational leadership reviewed county-specific attainment data, learned about potential actions to improve the workforce, and heard updates about support from myFutureNC and successful efforts underway in their communities. More than 300 attendees from 87 NC counties identified potential areas for focused action in their own communities. 

The IEI meetings were a successful approach to bringing county level education-workforce leaders into a room to discuss data and county level potential solutions. Follow up meetings have occurred in multiple counties, and connections are still continuing.

Toni Blount

Regional Impact Manager, myFutureNC

A large sheet of paper with a digital inclusion brain mapping activity written on it

BAND-NC: Bridging the Digital Divide in NC

The goal of IEI’s program Building a New Digital Economy in NC (BAND-NC) is to meet needs and build more digitally equitable communities across the state. We are working to make North Carolina the first state in the nation where every county has a digital inclusion plan, i.e., a set of strategic priorities to close the digital divide for all residents. Since its launch in June 2020, the BAND-NC program has provided 73 grants for rapid response projects and digital inclusion planning efforts covering 64 counties.

BAND-NC Provides Support for Local Planning and Implementation Efforts

IEI’s BAND-NC program has provided support to groups in counties across the state as they put together their county digital inclusion plans or move forward with implementation. This support includes kick-off events, a peer sharing network and monthly webinars.

Supporting NC’s Statewide Digital Inclusion Plan

As part of our work with the N.C. Department of Information Technology, IEI is in the final stages of a literature review that will support a new statewide digital inclusion plan.

IEI expects to finalize digital inclusion plans in all 100 North Carolina counties in the coming year. Learn more about BAND-NC and view completed plans.

Federal and State Officials Gather at IEI to Announce Investment in High-Speed Internet

Seven panelists sit in chairs on a stage as part of a round table discussion on digital equity

On November 21, 2022, IEI hosted Congressman David Price and leadership from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the N.C. Department of Information Technology to announce $6.4 million in federal funding for broadband expansion and digital inclusion efforts in North Carolina from the Internet for All Initiative.

Following the announcement, BAND-NC Initiative Leader Samantha Graham joined NTIA and NCDIT leadership for a stakeholder roundtable with representatives from the N.C. Association of County Commissioners, the Governor’s Office of Public Engagement and Inclusion, the NC Rural Center, Rural Forward and NC 100. Each participant talked about the challenges and needs faced by communities when it comes to making broadband expansion and adoption a reality.

Support BAND-NC

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IEI received more than $2 million in grants to support BAND-NC’s mission to bridge the digital divide across North Carolina.

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Faith & Community

The Faith and Community Initiative (formerly Rural Faith Communities as Anchor Institutions Program) at IEI has existed in partnership with The Duke Endowment since 2015 to fold rural North Carolina faith leaders into local and statewide leadership on emerging issues.

Faith and Community Leaders Collaborate on Common Issues at Annual Conference

Nearly 80 faith and community leaders from around the state gathered in Greensboro for the Faith & Community Conference on Feb. 28. This was the seventh statewide faith and community development gathering held by IEI’s Faith and Community initiative and the initiative’s first return to in-person gathering since 2020. 

Community members gathered together to network, collaborate on solutions to common problems, and exchange best practices for care and resiliency for themselves and their communities.

The Faith and Community Conference was an excellent experience surrounded by people of faith and grassroots organizers talking about the issues that matter most to us and impact our communities in North Carolina.

Rachel Baker

Communications Director, North Carolina Council of Churches

Faith and Community Team Engages Community at Events Throughout the Fall

In the fall of 2022, the Faith and Community team co-led and participated in network and regional engagements across the state on topics such as resilient leadership, community assessments, support for educational attainment, loneliness and anxiety in ministry, digital literacy, equity and inclusion, and coalition building for community support, cultural healing and reconciliation. During these meetings, participants discussed working across social divides to encourage diverse partnerships, community leadership development, sustainable approaches to community initiatives, and much more.

The Faith and Community team also held virtual peer networks and interest groups on the topics of digital inclusion, aging, economic resilience, environmental resilience and the food economy.

Three people sit on a stage as part of a panel discussion

Civic and Community Engagement

Bridging Political Divides: Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Steve Kadish Discuss Effective Public Service

On March 20, 2023, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and his former chief of staff, Steve Kadish, discussed the importance of bridging political divides in public service during an event hosted by IEI and NC State University’s School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA).

The event, which took place at the Hunt Library on NC State University’s Centennial Campus, included two sessions tailored for different audiences. The first session, moderated by McKinley Wooten, Assistant Secretary for Tax Research and Equity with the NC Department of Revenue, was aimed at public administrators, nonprofit staff and others interested in effective public administration. The second session, moderated by Dr. Traciel Reid, Associate Professor of Political Science at SPIA, was tailored for students, faculty and staff.

People can trust each other even if they don’t agree all the time.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker

“Results” event on March 20

IEI Supports Strengthening NC’s Food Economy at Farm Aid

In September 2022, IEI sponsored the Farm Aid Festival in Raleigh, which was organized by a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping farmers thrive. Since agriculture is a $92 billion dollar industry in North Carolina, IEI sought to engage with partners to identify and address challenges faced by the agriculture and agribusiness community.

IEI staff attended the festival and were able to spend the day talking to change-makers in NC’s agricultural sector. Read reflections from IEI’s day at Farm Aid here.

The Connector Podcast

IEI Launches New Podcast, The Connector

IEI’s The Connector podcast explores connections being made across sectors, regions and perspectives resulting in a more vibrant and prosperous North Carolina. Since launching in January 2023, The Connector has released ten episodes, totaling hundreds of listens.

Check out The Connector below or wherever you get your podcasts!

Team Updates

Duke Energy’s Kendal Bowman Joins IEI National Advisory Board

Kendal Bowman, president of Duke Energy’s operations in North Carolina, joined IEI’s National Advisory Board in June 2023.

“Kendal is a well-respected business leader who truly cares about the state of North Carolina,” said IEI Director Sarah Langer Hall. “We look forward to her thought partnership as IEI works to address the state’s most critical emerging issues.” 

I’m excited to join this group of dynamic leaders who are helping to tackle the issues of our day and pave the way for a more prosperous and vibrant North Carolina.

Kendal Bowman headshot

Kendal Bowman

President, Duke Energy

Dr. Jeff Cox Joins IEI National Advisory Board as Ex-Officio Member

Dr. Jeff Cox, president of the North Carolina Community College System, also joined the IEI board as an ex-officio member. Dr. Cox became the 11th President of the North Carolina Community College System on June 1, 2023. Cox previously served as president of Wilkes Community College from 2014 to 2023.

Sarah Langer Hall Named Director of NC State’s Institute for Emerging Issues

Sarah Langer Hall was named director of NC State’s Institute for Emerging Issues, effective January 1, 2023.

Langer Hall had served as interim director since former IEI director Leslie Boney retired in May 2022. Since 2019, Langer Hall had served as IEI’s senior manager for policy and programs, where she helped create and manage large-scale interdisciplinary projects and collaborations, create networks of partners across the state to work on challenging issues, and served as a PI on numerous foundation, corporate and federal grants.

I am looking forward to a bright future for IEI, keeping up the momentum our outstanding staff and partners have made in serving the university and citizens of this state.

Sarah Langer Hall

Sarah Langer Hall

IEI Director

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Looking Towards the Future

IEI Strategic Plan

FY 23-24 is the third year of IEI’s three year strategic plan. This year, IEI will focus on the following areas:

  • Building strategic partnerships with key research organizations, institutions and faculty, as well as enhancing platforms that promote talking and exchanging across differences
  • Fostering partnerships across sectors, regions and racial/ethnic groups 
  • Creating a learning network of locally- and regionally-based organizations, and being intentional with how we communicate our impact
  • Continuing to create a diverse, equitable and inclusive culture both internally and externally
  • Continue to enhance IEI’s financial sustainability

2024 Emerging Issues Forum

Save the Date for the 2024 Emerging Issues Forum on household financial resilience, taking place Tuesday, February 13, 2024.

For More Information