Other Speakers

Need a dynamic, expert speaker for your event?

The Creative Class Group has convened the world’s best experts on creativity, business innovation, economic development and global trends. Developing pioneering strategies for business, government and community competitiveness, our speakers are comprised of next-generation thinkers and strategists who offer organizations access to leading-edge knowledge, trends and research worldwide. CCG speakers have presented to audiences around the world, from Australia to Vancouver to Kansas City and Spain.

To book an expert speaker for your event, contact Reham Alexander

Creative Class Speakers

  • John Zogby

    Global Trends

    John Zogby

    John Zogby‘s combination of dynamic intellect and engaging style has made him the speaker of choice on global trends for universities, organizations and corporations throughout the world. He is listed with Leading Authorities and the Capital Speakers Bureau in Washington, D.C. Zogby holds degrees in history from Le Moyne College and Syracuse University. He has taught history for 25 years. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees of Le Moyne College. He received the distinguished Alumni Award in June 2000, and in 2005, he was awarded Honorary Doctorate Degrees from State University of New York and the Graduate School of Union University. Zogby is also a Senior Advisor at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and serves as the first-ever Senior Fellow of the Catholic University Life Cycle Institute in Washington, D.C.

    His analytical expertise has been published on the opinion pages of the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, the Christian Science Monitor, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Newsday and the Boston Globe. He is also a founding contributor to the prestigious website, The Huffington Post.
    Zogby lectures all over the world. He has been spoofed on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and the Late Show with David Letterman. He has been profiled in the New Yorker, Fortune Magazine, Inc., and Investors’ Business Daily.

    Zogby regularly appears on all three nightly network news programs plus NBC’s “Today Show,” ABC’s “Good Morning America” and is a frequent guest for Fox News and MSNBC special programs, along with CNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews.” He also is a regular political commentator for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the British Broadcasting Corporation. The highpoint of his life was his October 28, 2004 appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

  • Charles Landry

    The Art of City Making

    Charles Landry

    Charles Landry is an expert speaker on the art of city building, incorporating a global perspective on education, art and architecture. He helps cities reach their potential by triggering their imagination and thinking. Working closely with decision makers and local leaders and acting as a critical friend, he inspires, facilitates and stimulates, so cities can transform for the better. Charles helps find original solutions to seemingly intractable urban dilemmas such as marrying innovation and tradition, balancing wealth creation and social cohesiveness, or local distinctiveness and a global orientation. Seen as an international authority on creativity and city futures, Landry focuses on how the culture of a place can invigorate and revitalize the economy, enhancing the sense of self and confidence.
    In 1978, he founded Comedia, a highly respected European consultancy working in creativity, culture and urban change. Charles has lectured in over 50 countries across the globe and has completed projects in many of these, from the wealthy to those less fortunate, including Australia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Dubai, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Ukraine, USA and Yemen.

    Charles works collaboratively with clients by participating in and helping to orchestrate events, through shorter and longer term residences, deeper involvement over extended time periods, and by undertaking specific tasks. The work ranges from projects to revitalize public, social and economic life through cultural activity, to visionary city and regional strategies or rethinking assets and potential.

    Charles Landry has published extensively and his two books on city-making, The Art of City Making (2006) and The Creative City: A toolkit for Urban Innovators (2000), both received widespread acclaim. His most recent book (2008) Intercultural City: Planning for Diversity Advantage was co-written with Phil Wood.

  • Zoltan Acs

    Public Policy, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development

    Zoltan Acs

    Zoltan J. Acs speaks to the importance of entrepreneurship for economic development and its role in the global economy. He is a professor at George Mason University School of Public Policy and Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Public Policy. He is also a Research Scholar at the Max Planck Institute for Economics in Jena, Germany and a visiting professor at Imperial College Business School in London. He is coeditor and founder of Small Business Economics, the leading entrepreneurship and small business publication in the world.

    Previously, he held the position of Doris and Robert McCurdy Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, in the Robert G. Merrick School of Business, University of Baltimore. He has also served as: Research Fellow at the U. S. Bureau of the Census, Chief Economic Advisor at the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), Associate Director of Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) at the University of Maryland, Research Fellow at the Science Center Berlin, Research Associate at the Institute on Western Europe at Columbia University and Scholar-in-Residence at the Kauffman Foundation.

    Dr. Acs has held faculty positions at Middlebury College and The University of Illinois-Springfield. Dr. Acs is a leading advocate of the importance of entrepreneurship for economic development. He received the 2001 International Award for Entrepreneurship and Small Business Research, on behalf of The Swedish National Board for Industrial and Technical Development. He has published more than 100 articles and 20 books, including articles in the American Economic Review, Review of Economics and Statistics, Kyklos, Journal of Urban Economics, Economica, Research Policy and Science Policy. His most recent book is Entrepreneurship, Growth and Public Policy, Cambridge University Press.

  • Ajay Agrawal

    Strategy, Innovation and Creativity

    Ajay Agrawal

    Ajay Agrawal speaks on the economics of strategy, innovation and creativity. He is the Peter Munk Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management where he teaches courses on strategy, creativity, and innovation. He is also a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, MA and Director of the Program on Innovation and Creative Industries at the Martin Prosperity Institute.

    Professor Agrawal has presented his research on the economics of innovation and creativity at a variety of institutions including Harvard University, MIT, Stanford University, and the Federal Reserve Bank. He has testified as an expert witness before the Canadian Copyright Board, authored policy papers for provincial and federal government agencies, and advised organizations in various fields including robotics, digital media, television broadcasting, intellectual property valuation, music performance, software development, wireless, automotive, bio-therapeutics, and pharmaceuticals.

    Professor Agrawal has been recognized as “Professor of the Year” by the past four consecutive graduating classes of the MBA program at the Rotman School of Management. He holds a Ph.D. in Strategy and Business Economics as well as a Masters in Engineering from the University of British Columbia. Professor Agrawal is currently a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University.

  • Chris Leinberger

    Metropolitan Land Use Development

    Chris Leinberger

    Chris Leinberger, a land use strategist, teacher, developer, researcher and author, balances business realities with social and environmental issues. Mr. Leinberger is a Professor and founding Director of the Graduate Real Estate Development Program at the University of Michigan, visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC., founding partner of Arcadia Land Company, a new urbanism/transit-oriented development and consulting firm, and President of Locus; Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors.

    His most recent book is The Option of Urbanism, Investing in a New American Dream, published in 2008 by Island Press. He is also the author of Strategic Planning for Real Estate Companies. He has written for numerous publications, such as The Atlantic Monthly and Urban Land magazine. He has been profiled by CNN, National Public Radio, Infrastructurist, and Washington Post among other broadcast, web and print media.

    Leinberger was voted one of the “Top 100 Urban Thinkers” in a poll conducted by Planetizen, the international urban planning and architecture website, in 2009. He was the William H. Whyte Award winner by Partners for Livable Communities in 2010.

    Leinberger is a graduate of Swarthmore College and the Harvard Business School.

  • Ellen Dunham-Jones

    Suburban Redevelopment

    Ellen Dunham-Jones is an award-winning architect and professor of architecture and urban design at the Georgia Institute of Technology. A leading authority on suburban redevelopment, she lectures widely, conducts workshops with municipalities and consults on individual projects. She and co-author June Williamson wrote Retrofitting Suburbia; Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs (Wiley & Sons, 2009, updated paperback edition in 2011). The book’s documentation of successful retrofits of vacant big box stores, dead and thriving malls, and aging office parks into more sustainable places has received significant media attention in The New York Times, NPR, Harvard Business Review, Urban Land, Planning, Architectural Record and other venues. The book received a PROSE award from the American Association of Publishers, was featured in Time Magazine’s March 23, 2009 cover story, “10 ideas changing the world right now” and is the subject of her 2010 TED talk.

    Her continued research on short and long-term tactics for scaling up suburban retrofitting in the U.S. and abroad have attracted interest from National Geographic, the Ford Foundation, MoMA, the NEA, and the CDC. She has published over 50 articles linking contemporary theory and practice, serves as co-peer review editor of the journal Places and is Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of the Congress for the New Urbanism. She received undergraduate and graduate degrees in architecture from Princeton University and taught at UVA and MIT before joining Georgia Tech’s faculty to serve as Director of the Architecture Program from 2001-2009.

  • Jeff Selingo

    Education and Economic Development

    Jeff Selingo

    Jeff Selingo is an expert speaker on the future of higher education and the important role colleges and university play in economic development. He is vice president and editorial director of The Chronicle of Higher Education, in charge of longterm editorial strategy. He writes a regular blog for The Chronicle and The Huffington Post called Next, where he explores innovation in higher education and offers insights on the college of the future.

    Previously, he was editor of The Chronicle, where he has worked for 14 years in a variety of reporting and editing roles. He has been a featured speaker before dozens of national higher-education groups and appears regularly on regional and national radio and television programs, including NPR, PBS, ABC, MSNBC, and CBS. His writing has also appeared in The New York Times and The Washington Post. He received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ithaca College and a master’s degree in government from the Johns Hopkins University.

  • Jeff Speck

    Urban Design

    Jeff Speck

    Jeff Speck is an urban designer who speaks passionately and convincingly on the need to reshape our cities around the pedestrian. His recent book, Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time – which the Christian Science Monitor called “timely and important, a delightful, insightful, irreverent work” — is exerting a profound impact on the design of communities nationwide.

    Recently featured on Weekend Edition with Scott Simon and on APM’s Marketplace, Mr. Speck was also the principal coauthor of the landmark best-seller Suburban Nation (2000), which the Wall Street Journal called “the urbanists bible.” He is a contributing editor to Metropolis magazine, and serves on the Sustainability Task Force of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

    As Director of Design at the National Endowment for the Arts from 2003 through 2007, Mr. Speck presided over the Mayors’ Institute on City Design, and created the Governors’ Institute on Community Design, which is bringing smart growth principles and techniques to state leadership across the country.

  • Donald K. Carter

    post-industrial and smart cities

    Don Carter

    Don Carter is David Lewis Director of Urban Design and Regional Engagement of the Remaking Cities Institute, Carnegie Mellon University. He also teaches in the Master of Urban Design program in the School of Architecture. Prior to joining Carnegie Mellon University in 2009, Don was President of Urban Design Associates in Pittsburgh where over thirty-six years he led many of the firm’s most complex projects, drawing upon his broad international experience as an architect, urban designer, and developer.

    Don is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners, a member of the Congress for the New Urbanism, and a member of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) where he was national Chair of the Inner City Council. Previously, at ULI he served on the Affordable Housing Forum, Infill Development Forum, Residential Development Council, and Entertainment Development Council.

    Don lectures internationally on urban design and architecture. He wrote the opening chapter of SynergiCity: Reinventing the Post-Industrial City (University of Illinois Press, 2012). His newest book is Remaking Post-Industrial Cities: Lessons from North America and Europe (Routledge, 2016), documenting ten case studies and common themes from the international Remaking Cities Congress he co-chaired in Pittsburgh.

    Don currently serves on the board of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, and previously served on the boards of the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, Pittsburgh Zoo, Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, Pittsburgh Public Theater, and Leadership Pittsburgh.

    Don earned a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Carnegie Mellon University and did post-graduate study in urban design and regional planning at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

  • Evert Verhagen

    Public Space in the Creative City

    Evert Verhagen

    Evert Verhagen focuses on the role of public space in the creative city. He is the founder and owner of Creative Cities, a consultancy in the Netherlands. He has been working in different capacities for the community of Amsterdam and has been an advisor on many redevelopment projects throughout the world.

    From 1990 through 2004, Verhagen was responsible for the development of the Westergasfabriek project in Amsterdam. He headed the team that was responsible for the regeneration of the buildings, for the park and for initiating the cultural program. The Culture Park Westergasfabriek opened in September 2003. In 2004 he was the winner of the Golden Pyramid, the Dutch government award for excellent project management. The Culture Park Westergasfabriek was nominated in 2007 for the International Urban Landscape Award (IULA). The project won the Landscape Institute Award (UK) in 2007. Three years later in 2010, it won the Europa Nostra Award.

    Verhagen has presented on the importance of public space, the reuse of industrial heritage, the qualities cities should have to attract talent. He worked in Casablanca Morocco for the redevelopment plan of an abandoned slaughterhouse. During the last few years, he has traveled to speak globally in Taichung (Taiwan), Porto Allegre (Brazil), Perm (Russia), Leeds (UK) to name a few. He wrote and edited several books among them ‘Creativity and the City’ in 2003. He was the organizer of a conference in Amsterdam in 2003, Creativity and the City.

  • Sean Creighton, Ph.D

    Creative Communities

    Sean Creighton, Ph.D

    Sean Creighton is an expert speaker on creative communities and the creative class. He is the Executive Director of the Southwestern Ohio Council for Higher Education (SOCHE), a regional consortium of colleges and universities dedicated to advancing higher education through cooperation and advancing the region through higher education. Founded in 1967, SOCHE was recognized in 2007 by the Governor of Ohio as an exemplary model of collaboration in higher education.
    Sean has published and presented extensively on such topics as campus-community engagement, building coalitions, collaborative strategies for talent retention, and community-based regional development. More recently, his speaking engagements focus on the creative class, in which he showcases a community-empowerment project (DaytonCREATE) that resulted from working with the Creative Class Group.

    Sean was the 2008 commencement speaker for Edison Community College and 2009 commencement speaker for Southern State Community College. He is an elected member of the Board of Education for the Yellow Springs School District in Ohio, and currently serves on advisory committees for the Dayton Development Coalition, Midwest Higher Education Compact, and Yellow Springs Community Foundation.

    Sean earned his Ph.D. in Leadership and Change from Antioch University.

  • Bert Sperling

    Best Cities

    Bert Sperling

    Bert Sperling is an expert on choosing and identifying the “Best Places to Live” for the last 20 years. His work appears regularly in national media, and he is the co-author of the best-selling books, “Cities Ranked and Rated” and “Best Places to Raise Your Family” (Wiley). His web site,, is a resource to millions, and his company provides content and data to national real estate firms and the major Internet search portals.

    Not surprisingly, a recent New York Times feature on Sperling was titled simply, “The Guy Who Picks the Best Places to Live.”

    In 1985, Bert Sperling developed a software program named “Places, U.S.A.” which allowed people to enter their personal preferences to find their own best place. is a natural extension of our work over the last fifteen years regarding demographics, preferences, and the selection of “Best Places” to live, work, or retire.

    Sperling’s concepts and methodology have been the basis of numerous studies since 1985. Today, Fast Forward, Inc. (the producer of is responsible for more “Best Places” studies and projects than any other single organization.

  • Steven Pedigo

    The Creative Class

    Steven Pedigo

    Steven Pedigo serves as the director of research for the Creative Class Group, a global think tank comprised of leading researchers, academics and strategists. In this role, he provides cutting-edge analysis of economic and demographic trends for communities, Fortune 500 companies and major media outlets across the globe. Steven has managed a team of expert researchers to provide business intelligence for an array of clients such as Pinewood Studios,, Le Meridien Hotels, Emaar Canada and Kiplinger’s Magazine.

    Steven is also responsible for managing the Creative Class Leadership Program, a worldwide community engagement program. He has successfully launched these programs in numerous U.S. and international communities from El Paso, TX; to Vancouver, BC, and Noosa, Australia.

    In addition to his work with the Creative Class Group, Steven is the director of civic engagement and an assistant clinical professor for economic development at New York University (NYU). In his role at NYU, Steven is leading the effort to develop, fund and deliver the University’s civic engagement and economic development curriculum and research program.

    Prior to joining NYU, Steven was a vice president and member of the senior management team for the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC), a national research organization founded by Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter to encourage private-sector investment into U.S. urban centers. He is also a distinguished visiting research scholar with the School of Urban and Public Affairs at University of Texas and a visiting professor at the Centro de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey Design.

    Steven has also served in a variety of economic development roles. He was the vice president for business attraction and research for Greater Portland, Inc. (GPI), a regional economic development organization for the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan region. With GPI, Steven developed and staffed a comprehensive, assets-based economic development plan for the region’s key industry clusters.

    Before GPI, Steven started his career in economic development as the director of research for the Greater Washington Initiative (GWI), a regional marketing organization for the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. He was responsible for region’s comprehensive human capital assessment, which was profiled extensively in The Washington Post and utilized by area universities and community colleges to forecast future course needs. As researcher and writer, Steven’s work has been featured in such publications as The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Dallas Morning News.

    Steven holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin and graduate degrees from the H. John Heinz III School for Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

  • Chris Benfield

    Architecture and Importance of Place

    Chris Benfield

    Principal of Benfield Partners in New York City, Chris Benfield works on a variety of architectural, product and strategy based projects for clients worldwide speaking on architecture and the importance of place. Previously he was a Senior Strategist for the Arnell Group’s Innovation Lab, Peter Marino, MR Architecture + Décor and was a founding principal of M1/DTW, a nationally recognized multidisciplinary studio.

    Chris holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Michigan and a Master of Fine Arts with distinction from the Cranbrook Academy of Art, and has taught and lectured at a number of schools including Pratt Institute, University of Maryland, West Virginia University, College for Creative Studies and Cranbrook. His work has been published in Scout, 306090, New York Times, Interior Design Magazine, Clear Magazine and Archinect .

  • Michael Seman

    Innovation and the Creative Economy

    Michael Seman

    Michael Seman is an expert speaker who illustrates how independent cultural production helps drive a city’s creative economy. While working on his doctorate in urban planning and public policy, Michael was immersed in the national network of indie rock scenes as a band member, promoter, and producer – leading him to ask and answer the question, What if Hewlett and Packard had started a band instead? Michael’s time spent amongst the artists and entrepreneurs who use living rooms, garages, venues, and recording studios as spaces for innovation and new business formation enables him to explain how music scenes encompass players across differing industries, operate as economic clusters like Silicon Valley, and catalyze economic and community development for their host cities. Michael draws on relevant economic theory and his experience to deliver talks empowering cultural producers – musicians and otherwise – as agents of urban economic change as well as help city leaders to address their music scenes and broader creative economies.

    Michael received his PhD in urban planning and public policy from the University of Texas at Arlington. He is a contributing writer at The Atlantic: Cities and Director of Creative Industries Research and Policy at the University of Colorado Denver College of Arts and Media. Michael’s research is published in the academic journals City, Culture and Society, Applied Research in Economic Development, Regional Science Policy and Practice, Industrial Geographer, and Cities; he has also co-authored numerous reports for state agencies. Michael is often invited to speak concerning the creative economy at universities and for professional organizations. In 2011, he was one of 22 globally invited to attend the Experience the Creative Economy conference at the University of Toronto’s Martin Prosperity Institute. National Public Radio, Wired, and many regional media outlets like the DFW affiliates of NBC and CBS seek Michael’s perspective concerning the creative economy. Prior to entering the doctoral program at UTA, Michael spent several years as an executive at Creative Artists Agency in Beverly Hills, California where he focused on internal marketing and project development.

  • Laura Huffman

    Enhancing Life through Resilient Cities

    Laura Huffman

    Laura Huffman leads The Nature Conservancy’s Urban Advisory Council and is founding director of its North America Cities program. The TNC Cities initiative helps growing cities utilize nature to mitigate climate change effects and provide the natural resources people need to thrive.

    Huffman has joined the New York University faculty as adjunct professor of Resilient Cities, a class that examines the ways in which people can make growing cities safer and more sustainable.

    Huffman also leads the Texas chapter of The Nature Conservancy. From this prominent position, she establishes conservation strategy and provides public policy leadership, including working closely with Texas legislators on statewide water conservation measures and spearheading water protection funds across Central Texas. She has also authored a number of articles and opinion pieces on drought, freshwater protection and Gulf of Mexico restoration for some of Texas’ most influential publications, including the Houston Chronicle and Texas Tribune.

    Laura Huffman’s distinguished public service record includes more than 15 years in city management, including six years as assistant city manager for Austin, Texas, one of the most vibrant cities in the world. During that time, she negotiated more than $5 billion in economic development agreements, oversaw redevelopment of major portions of the city and secured long-term commitments to protect the city’s water supply. She also served as deputy city manager for San Marcos, Texas.

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