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The Power of Meaningful Connections

Navigating Networking: 2023 Inner City Alumni Network (ICAN) Events

Reflections from Ivana Findley, ICAN Program Coordinator | October 17, 2023

Dr. Susan Perkins (right) poses with Beverly Norman-Cooper, Founder of Reimagining Economic Regeneration Strategies, LLC

As an ICIC staff and the Inner City Alumni Network (ICAN) Program Coordinator, I’ve had the opportunity to immerse myself in the world of networking from two distinctly different angles. And while each experience was unique, the underlying message was the same: the power of meaningful connections.

During the spring, I attended and played a role in organizing several Strategic Alliance Building Seminars led by Susan Perkins. Dr. Susan Perkins, a Visiting Associate Professor of Strategic Management at NYU Stern, led the sessions with an engaging mix of storytelling, insights from the latest scientific research on networking, and a tailored approach to understanding and leveraging one’s small business ecosystem. She also shared insights on the types of strategic alliance partnerships that could benefit businesses.

“[The Los Angeles Alumni Strategic Networking Event] has been fantastic, I met some amazing power players that are here to help drive the point of how to work together and grow together… The way they’re communicating is ‘How can I help you grow your business? And if I can’t, let me connect you with someone within my network that can help you with this issue.”
– Roberto Martinez, Braven Agency, ICCC Los Angeles Alum

But for me, the magic happened during the guided networking segment. There’s a certain thrill in watching people, in real-time, take what they’ve just learned and weave it into conversations, forging connections and sparking collaborations. As someone relatively new to ICIC at that time, the experience painted a picture of the role ICIC plays in the business world — providing a platform for growth, connection, and collaboration.

ICAN D.C. members

On the flip side, the ICIC alumni social networking events had a completely different vibe. It was like attending a family gathering where everyone was both familiar and eager to reconnect. The atmosphere was casual, with the core intent being to allow ICIC alumni to bond within their communities and ecosystems. But what caught my attention was how many names I recognized from the Susan Perkins events. And not just that; I could see them applying the principles of strategic networking they had learned, but in a more informal setting. It was heartwarming to hear their feedback and especially the fond mentions of the ecosystem name tags – a tool used during the Strategic Alliances sessions.

“As an alumni ICIC has given me ample opportunities to be able to network and stay connected to the alumni community and ICIC programming. I appreciate that because often when you complete programs there is usually no after-care programming or check in. This is much appreciated because I hate to feel like just a number.”
– Jessica Lewis, Mobu Enterprises, ICCC Atlanta Alum & ICAN Atlanta Steering Committee Member

Through these series of events, my comprehension of networking has profoundly evolved. The Susan Perkins sessions gave me academic insights and tools, while the alumni socials gave me a chance to see those tools in action. Both have enriched my understanding of networking, and I’m grateful for the connections, lessons, and memories I’ve made along the way.

ICIC’s Inner City Alumni Network (ICAN) is a vibrant group of alumni from all of ICIC’s programs engaging in networking, learning, and building a strong community. With the establishment of seven local chapters and dedicated Alumni Steering Committees in cities such as D.C., Boston, and Los Angeles, ICAN has become a catalyst for strengthening the alumni community. Steering Committee members enjoy heightened visibility, priority consideration for speaking engagements, exclusive networking events, and VIP access to the Annual Conference. ICAN is not just a network—it’s a dynamic platform empowering success through meaningful connections and ongoing professional development.


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