Aly Khalifa has long been a force in Raleigh and while it has often been recognized, today Gamil Design, Khalifa's business, announced that he is the winner of the prestigious Eisenhower Fellowship. The Fellowship is open for citizens in our area and several other major markets who are 32-45 and have made an impact on their communities. Here is how the fellowship describes itself:
We send approximately eight to ten high-achieving mid-career (aged 32-45) U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents abroad for an intensive, individually designed program in the country of their choice. Fellows are selected by blue ribbon steering committees and are currently recruited from Philadelphia, Research Triangle North Carolina, New England (Boston), and St. Louis.
International and USA Fellows are selected based on the following criteria:
- Five to ten years of exemplary leadership (age range of 32-45)
- Demonstrated impact in the individual’s professional field
- Active leadership in broader professional/community activities
- Integrity, energy, and motivation to make a difference
- Breadth of perspective and enthusiasm for continued learning
- Likelihood of contributing to the home region and to the larger Eisenhower network, based on prior networking record
- Demonstrated potential for advanced leadership and societal impact
- Value of Fellowship to significantly enhance leadership abilities
- Note: International Fellows must be fluent in English
SPARKcon alone is one of the most tangible contributions to downtown Raleigh, the creative community and marketing the downtown Raleigh experience. Since 2006, the yearly festival has become an unofficial end to Summer in downtown Raleigh - an opensource festival of 'self organizing' groups throughout Raleigh that showcase creative talent. The whole thing is only possible because of the amazing dedication of Khalifa, his wife Beth and so many others. Even as SPARKcon ownership was handed off to non-profit VAE, Khalifa has remained instrumental in the planning, organization and exectuion of the event.
As designbox closes out eight years in downtown Raleigh, co-founder Khalifa reflects on the institution's contribution to the downtown- the collective is a loosley organized group of creative thinkers, a shared office location, an open gallery, a retail store with local goods and the nucleus for the 12 months of planning and meetings that go into organizing SPARKcon every year. designbox was the original co-working spot in downtown Raleigh, before that movement had a name. Its focus on community and collaboration has always meant that it was a place where groups could take creative chances.
Kirby Derby is the early summer neighborhood party off of Western Boulevard on Kirby Street. Here, Raleigh folk put on a community parade complete with performance, costumes, floats and an adult derby car race. That gathering just celebrated its tenth year and it also owes its roots to Khalifa.
Aly Khalifa has been instrumental in these events, and for those that have gotten to participate or attend those events, they know the special community strengthening, non-commercial effect that all of them have. The primary sucession that designbox represented in the Warehouse district, bringing public space along side of creative work, was fundamental to the rehabilitation of that area. 'Creative thinkers as primary succession for Raleigh' could be the theme of Khalifa's time here. The energy and exposure that SPARKcon brings downtown; a pre-Fayetteville street activation of weekend life in a downtown where many retailers close for Saturdays.
That influence is one that can't be measured. Interaction with designbox and SPARKcon spawned many other creatives, this writer included, to set out on their own ventures. With less than 30 days until this year's SPARKcon, I can't think of better timing.