March 10, 2017

The Port: CreativeMornings' Malik Benjamin: Redefining Silos through Conversation

On Friday, February 10, 2017, PAMM hosted its first ever CreativeMornings, an international breakfast lecture series for the creative community. Learn why CreativeMornings/Miami Founder Malik Benjamin believes it’s important to break down silos through conversation, collision and collaboration.

I find that asking why community engagement and storytelling is important is like asking why do I breathe – I do it so I don't die. Miami is a multiverse of silos. Geography, economics or country of origin are just a few of the ways people are marginalized or intentionally isolate themselves in this subtropical metropolis. In regards to this conversation, the silos of discipline, field and industry are most relevant.

Every year, CreativeMornings/Miami membership has grown by at least 1,000 creatives – individuals who are truly engaged. Our speakers have spanned the so-called gradient of creativity from science to design and technology to art. We've hosted leaders of philanthropy and high ranking CEOs of for profit enterprises. We've partnered with venues as new as the Cambridge Innovation Center, as hallowed as the New World Center and as hip as O Cinema or LAB Miami. All of our speakers, audiences and venues have been interesting, all have been creative and as a whole represent the multidimensional beauty of Miami.

“The best conversations will happen when silos redefine themselves as institutions where multi-passionate individuals are willing to converse with people unlike themselves.”


However, there is a problem. When we look at the individual audiences that attend our monthly talks, we see that they still tend to align with narrow allegiances of discipline, industry or field. Sometimes audiences are defined by geography, which we forgive due to our collective issues with public transportation – an issue we counter by moving CreativeMornings around the metropolis. However, the silos of allegiance are the problem, and therefore are the reason why engagement, storytelling and conversation are important.

After every event, we analyze our success via data, photos and videos – similar to the way sports teams review game tape. Let's look back at the February 10, 2017 session at Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM).
 
We currently have 4,000 member profiles spread into every crevice of creativity, yet in our last event:
  • 70% of the attendees were first timers
  • 15% had never been to PAMM
  • A majority had never heard of StoryCorps, the Moth, etc. 

A majority of attendees had never heard of a national conversation platform, another percentage had never been to Miami's premiere art platform (i.e. PAMM) and another group had never attended the world's largest morning community monthly event for creatives. That's the relevance and beauty of what happened on the morning of February 10, thanks to the thoughtful organizing of Anita, Grace, Maria and PAMM staff and leadership. February 10 was a day people who were left out of popular conversations, were bought together and listened to.

Conversations are important as long as they promote collision and collaboration. Whether it's science-art collisions in the Knight Plaza, literary speakers at an art museum at 9am or visual artists at the New World Center, the best conversations will happen when silos redefine themselves as institutions where multi-passionate individuals are willing to converse with people unlike themselves. Conversations are two-directional at the very least. Institutions and audience, let's do what we must to make our conversations as complex as we are and move our collective conversations forward. 

​About Malik S. Bemjamin
photo of malik benjamin

Malik S. Benjamin is a member of the inaugural Young American Leaders Program at Harvard Business School Class I 2015, former Knight Foundation Scholar, Miami Foundation Fellow, FIU graduate thesis professor and managing director of the IoCI, where he conducts applied research focused on the “evolution of cities controlled by tangible, intangible and defunct networks”.  He holds a BArch from Cornell University and a double MArch – Computing & Design and Urban Design – from the University of Miami.  

He is the founder of CreativeMornings/Miami and co-founder of Awesome Foundation/Miami, and serves on the AP Executive Committee of the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, board of the Opa Locka Community Development Corporation, Miami Dade County Art in Public Place Selection Committee and Miami Dade County Architecture & Engineering Services Selection Committee. Through IoCI he pursues two missions - to create platforms that bring together design thinkers, social entrepreneurs and social justice lawyers/organizers for the sake of spawning creative solutions for the disadvantaged; the other is to develop private-public partnerships between communities, infrastructure operators and commercial developers with the purpose of positively impacting the quality of life and consumer well-being of surrounding neighborhoods.

At Florida International University, he is the inaugural Changemaker faculty fellow.  In this role he serves as the coordinator of the FIU Changemaker initiative including working with the Changemaker leaders in the areas of curricular and co-curricular activities, research, innovation and entrepreneurship and philanthropy and community engagement.  He promotes social innovation and entrepreneurship strategy to faculty and student researchers, guides and maintains Changemaker activities to align with the FIUBeyondPossible2020 Strategic Plan and leads the planning and management of internal/external communications campaigns which promote activities and student, faculty and staff achievements. Lastly he oversees budgets and pursues opportunities for revenue enhancement from a variety of sources.

His expertise is in curating teams, brokering creative partnerships and breaking down barriers to institutional change through innovation.