In looking at the Think Piece materials prior to next week’s meeting in Paris, I am struck by how much has changed. When I first came in to ULI as a member back in the ‘80’s I was one of few women, few of my generation—and in the majority as a white American. Now we reach across the globe and have expanded our demographic mix significantly.  And we are still on the express train.

As we think about the rapid population growth and burgeoning cities over 25 million like Jakarta, Beijing and Cairo, we face more of us in all dimensions and facets.  How will we get along?  Gen Y/the Millennials have entered the work force hoping to balance life and work far better than their parents did and yet rise to well-paid, fulfilling careers quickly.  The Baby Boomers are not exiting stage left promptly. They are still there as rain-makers, supervisors, mentors and sometimes obstacles of change.   Gen X is sandwiched in the middle, not able to move up as rapidly as they might like given the work longevity of the Boomer generation, worrying about college tuitions and parents starting to fail and needing support services.  We add to that the higher proportion of women in the work force, immigrants from everywhere and wonder, can we help to make this stew a rich meal, deserving of  a Paris gourmand, or will it be discordant flavors. In a recent survey, over two-thirds of companies reported intergenerational conflicts in the workplace.  Among the concerns was the rapid turnover of young and highly talented staff, the appropriate role for aging Silent Generation staff who may have founded an architectural or service firm.  Workers from different cultures complicate the picture and yet add  necessary and thoughtful dimensions as business continues to move global.

As I travel about, ULI-ers  ask “how can we build our physical environment to ease and enhance our time together?” Whether inside our offices, our homes, in third quasi-public spaces, such as Starbuck’s it’s unclear how we best work and live together.  We walk around individually plugged in to our own music, our own social media, with friends whom we like and “un-friend” at will.  And yet the richness of coming together in shared space can be so rewarding, so opening, so enlightening, we readily choose it over virtual meetings.  The majesty of the Eiffel Tower, the sculptural breadth of Frank Gehry’s new Louis Vuitton museum calls us to think bigger, to drink in the city, the shared experience of good ideas, to build an intergenerational agenda that works across the ULI platform.

I am looking forward to the insights of Amlan Roy, Head, Demographics for Credit Suisse on Thursday morning to kick us off with an understanding of the dimensions of these profound changes.  And I am so looking forward to sharing ideas—and wonderful Paris food with each of you!