UPDATE: Due to the impact of Hurricane Florence, the September 17 Reconnect to Community Forum has been postponed. Organizers have rescheduled the event to November 27 at the Renaissance Asheville Hotel. Details here.

An upcoming community development-focused event in Asheville kicks off the start of a larger initiative by NC State’s Institute for Emerging Issues to mend the divides within North Carolina’s communities with New York Times columnist David Brooks and N.C. Governor Roy Cooper among the headline speakers.

The ReCONNECT to Community Forum is the first in a series of IEI events planned across North Carolina through 2021. The initiative, ReCONNECT NC, is a long-term civic engagement program to foster community growth in North Carolina.

The concept was created after IEI launched an outreach program last year to identify the challenges faced by North Carolinians, as perceived by thousands of citizens. The results found that North Carolina residents are experiencing a collective sense of disconnection to community.

Aiming to rectify the divide, IEI will be hosting six forums over the next three years focused on addressing the challenges and goals of individuals and organizations across North Carolina. The series is broken up into five tracks representing the overarching “reconnect” theme: Community, rural and urban areas, job opportunities, well-being and productivity, and technological opportunity.

Each forum will be held in four regions, starting with the upcoming ReCONNECT to Community Forum in Asheville. The next installment will be hosted in Raleigh in February 2019, then Charlotte in September 2019, Raleigh in February 2020, Eastern North Carolina in September of 2020 and concluding back in Raleigh in February of 2021.

Here’s what’s in store for the upcoming Asheville forum:

New York Times op-ed columnist David Brooks will deliver a keynote that tracks the origins of community disconnection and how to rebuild it today.

Another session will engage two General Assembly members from opposite political parties to discuss what led them to community public service.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper will deliver an address on coming together to create more productive communities.

A closing keynote will be presented by Tru Access Founder and CEO Tru Pettigrew and Cary Police Chief Tony Godwin, who will share the results and story behind Cary’s Building Bridges initiative, which facilitated open conversation with local law enforcement on issues of race relations and police-community tension.

Individual topical sessions include:

The event will also highlight a selection of community development initiatives launched in five North Carolina cities—Asheville, Edgecombe County, Elizabeth City, Elkin and Winston-Salem.

The ReCONNECT to Community Forum will be held at the Renaissance Asheville Hotel. Stakeholders and members of the general public are invited to attend. Tickets, available here, are priced at $195 for general admission.