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Civic Impact

Go Native: Networking and collaboration have a new home in Pittsburgh

Brian Supler is a native of the Pittsburgh region, but like so many people he ventured to other cities and countries before deciding to return here. After a decade spent living in New York City, he returned to the region last year seeking challenge and opportunity.

Katherine Harrell belongs to that other demographic you hear so much about in Pittsburgh these days: She wasn't born in Pittsburgh, but she's adopted it as her home. It feels instinctively right to her, and it's the place she's chosen to put down roots.

After working in the nonprofit and for-profit worlds in various cities, Supler and Harrell have joined forces to create a new organization -- still in its infancy -- that's meant to connect the best and brightest of today's Pittsburgh to one another. Both believe strongly in the importance of mentoring and effective networking, and they're committed to helping develop and keep creative minds here in Pittsburgh.

Their goal, by no means a small one, is to "reshape the way bright people socialize in Pittsburgh, and create a meaningful experience out of that," says Supler.

The organization they've founded, called Native, hosted its inaugural event last month, and the organizers are using what they learned that night to develop their concept further. That first event was a "creative salon" where a group of 21 Pittsburghers met for dinner, drinks and discussion that lasted nearly four hours. Everything about the night was designed to foster connection and conversation, from the space (donated by Jill Larson of Fe Gallery), wall art (Ryan Keene), video projection (Chris Lockerman) and art installation (Alex Etschmaier) to the food (Keith Fuller, Six Penn Kitchen), cocktails (Max Miller, Raise Your Spirits) and music (Ryan Walsh).

Profiles of each person were posted around the room, so attendees had a chance to delve deeper in talking with those around them. "We also asked everyone to bring an artifact, something that inspired them in some way, like a book" says Supler, "then everyone took someone else's artifact home." For the next dinner, planned for this spring, Supler and Harrell are considering creating a video montage about their guests to further encourage networking.

Ideally, Native will evolve into a membership-based organization that brings together Pittsburgh's best thinkers and fosters the careers of newbies. The fee was $100 per person for that first dinner and will likely be similar for the next.

"The response has been overwhelmingly positive," Harrell says. "The next step for us is to figure out how we can sustain the project." Stay tuned here for more info.

Writer: Melissa Rayworth
Source: Brian Supler, Katherine Harrell
Image, by Jae Ruberto, courtesy of Native
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