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DURHAM, N.C. -- Thirty-nine political, civic and business leaders will gather at Duke University this week to participate in the third North Carolina Leadership Forum (NCLF), an initiative that brings leaders together to engage in constructive discussions regarding the future of the state.

Over the course of four private two-day meetings, this year’s participants will explore questions critical to the future of education in North Carolina: What role should choice play in North Carolina elementary and secondary education, and what educational options should the state fund in order to provide a quality education for every child?

The aim is for participants to gain a greater understanding of various perspectives and build new relationships built on trust and goodwill, said Frederick “Fritz” Mayer, director of the NCLF and a professor in Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy.

“In today’s hyper-partisan environment, chances to effectively engage with diverse people and ideas are few and far between,” Mayer said. “We hope to fill this gap by bringing together people with different experiences, values and even geographies.”

The 2019 NCLF cohort is made up of local and statewide elected officials, charter school proponents, school board representatives, and business and nonprofit leaders. Find the full participant list here.

“We believe the cohort will gain the tools to enable them to effectively engage with each other to develop sound public policy for the state moving forward,” Mayer said.

NCLF Launches Third Year


Participants in the 2018 N.C. Leadership Forum examined the state's energy needs and options for shifting to climate-friendlier power sources. The NCLF was spearheaded by the school's Center for Political Innovation and Service (POLIS) with partners in 2018 including the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and The Duke Energy Initiative. Read their report here.

Former NCLF participants have praised the unique opportunity the forum provides.

“My experience with NCLF was invaluable,” said N.C. Rep. Robert Reives II, a Democrat. “It provided an opportunity to analyze problems at several different government levels with people I was not ideologically aligned with. But we discussed the problems in the way that issues should be discussed and debated, and showed just how good government ought to work.”

On the other side of the aisle, former Republican state senator Tamara Barringer, now a professor at Kenan-Flagler School of Business at UNC-Chapel Hill, also spoke highly of the program.

“During my nearly seven years as a North Carolina senator, one of my most enriching experiences was participating in the NC Leadership Forum. It afforded the opportunity to build relationships and exchange ideas with other thought leaders across the ideological and partisan spectrum,” said Barringer. “I was reassured to be able to discuss policy candidly with folks with whom I sometimes disagreed, but to always know that I was truly being heard.”

Reives and Barringer now serve on the NCLF’s eight-member steering committee, as does Mayer. The committee is co-chaired by John Hood, president of the John William Pope Foundation, and Leslie Winner, former executive director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and former General Assembly member. The other steering committee members are:

  • Anita Brown-Graham, professor of public law and government, UNC School of Government;
  • Maurice “Mo” Green, executive director, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation;
  • Chuck Neely, partner, Williams Mullen; former N.C. General Assembly member.

This year’s forum, hosted by the Sanford School of Public Policy, is the third in a series that began in 2016.  Final reports from the first two cohorts are available on the NCLF website: Jobs (2017) and Energy (2018).

The North Carolina Leadership Forum is jointly funded by The Duke Endowment, the John William Pope Foundation and the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.