JustUs Dialogue Series emphasizes taking small steps to make big changes

Monthlong series hosted by Johns Hopkins Office of Economic Development concluded Wednesday with a fireside chat featuring JHU President Ron Daniels

During a virtual chat with Johns Hopkins University President Ron Daniels about advancing economic justice in a post-pandemic world, Alicia Wilson recalled a pearl of wisdom from her father. It was a favorite motivational saying when he was up against a daunting task.

"My father used to say all the time: The big things count, but little things mount," said Wilson, vice president for the Office of Economic Development for the university and health system. "Whether you are doing big things that you can see or little things that will amount to something more, huge things can happen in our community."

It's an approach to creating economic equity that Daniels endorsed during their conversation, the final event of a daylong symposium wrapping up this year's JustUs Dialogue Series. The monthlong set of discussions focused on how strategic investments in business and education can lead to more equitable wealth building.

Daniels and Wilson touched upon some of the large-scale community endeavors Hopkins has deployed to bolster equity, from the multimillion-dollar HopkinsLocal campaign working to increase economic opportunity in Baltimore City through construction, hiring, and purchasing activities to distributing more than 8,000 pairs of glasses to city school children through the Vision for Baltimore program. But they also emphasized the powerful changes that can happen when many people—including Hopkins' 60,000 employees—do seemingly small things to make life better for their neighbors.

"Wherever people live, they should do something that is concrete, that's manageable, and just get it done because when you do that one thing, it leads to the next thing and the next thing, and creates confidence and momentum," Daniels said during the online event attended by elected officials, CEOs, and local residents, as well as Hopkins students, faculty, and staff. "Even though we don't have a solution for every problem, I think getting those small things done can give you the capacity and the confidence and the momentum to go after bigger things."

Presented over four Wednesdays in March and hosted by the Office of Economic Development for the Johns Hopkins University and Health System, the second JustUs Dialogue Series provided a forum for business leaders, philanthropists, academic experts, and advocates to engage in meaningful dialogues around topics including education (March 9), entrepreneurship (March 16), employment (March 23), and investment and innovation in healthcare (March 30.) Eighteen experts shared their thoughts, vison, and recommendations around economic justice throughout the monthlong virtual experience.

The series launched in August 2020 as a way for Hopkins to connect with the community during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide social unrest. The goal of the series is to advance conversations and drive institutions, individuals, and communities to action around racial justice and economic impact.

The series was presented as an immersive online experience simulating the feel of a real on-campus gathering. Those who missed the series as it happened can register at the site, bit.ly/JHJustUsDialogues, to view recordings from previous panels.