Innovate Memphis’ Susan Dalton receives 40 Under 40 recognition with Memphis Business Journal

Civic Data and Innovation

Innovate Memphis is pleased to announce that Susan Dalton, Director of Strategic Initiatives, has been recognized in Memphis Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 cohort for 2024.

Susan Dalton is a Memphis native who puts community first when she strives to make a positive social impact and has worked at Innovate Memphis for over six years. She has been and continues to be instrumental in successfully leading our work, designing and delivering projects, programs, partnerships, and collaborative initiatives that address long-standing civic challenges. Susan’s top priorities are focused on community development initiatives, reimagining parks and public space, and addressing the challenges of food waste and food insecurity.

Anyone who has visited the parks along Memphis’ riverfront or visited Cossitt Library should know that Susan played a role in the development, programming, and operations to bring these public spaces back to life along with a coalition of nonprofits and public agencies. She is most known for her central role in Memphis’ $4 million grant-funded Reimagining the Civic Commons – an initiative dedicated to advancing social cohesion and economic and environmental goals through revitalized parks, libraries, trails, and public spaces. She brought Innovate Memphis’s expertise in facilitating collaborative projects, designing prototypes, engaging in qualitative community research, and deploying regular measurement and data evaluation to learn from the pilot and inform permanent changes. In just three years, “The Fourth Bluff” demonstration project area adjacent to Downtown and the riverfront transformed a series of sleepy spaces into a vibrant Civic Commons. The River Garden, Fourth Bluff Park, the Cossitt Library and River Line Trail have become community anchors connecting downtown and the riverfront. This demonstration project brought bold design concepts to reality and helped spur a major downtown Memphis transformation.

Susan did not lead these projects alone, but without a doubt, the 10+ local organizations participating in Reimagining the Civic Commons would agree that she’s a major reason for success as a facilitator, coordinator, visionary thinker and advocate for this work. A few partners have this to say about her contributions:

“What I love about Susan is that she is truly a yes/how person who figures out how to make things happen. She’s inquisitive and inclusive by nature where others might need a lot of training to learn these practices. She builds bridges and creates a welcoming environment for everyone, which shows her level of commitment to our community. She’s incredible smart but also a good, hard-working person who doesn’t rest just on her brilliance.” – Penelope Huston, Chief of Communications for the City of Memphis and former VP of Marketing & Communications at Downtown Memphis Commission

“Susan Dalton has worked with Memphis Parks on several innovation projects, and with every project, her diverse knowledge base and compassion for fellow Memphians is evident. She does a remarkable job of combining analytics with attention to detail and the more cumbersome, underlying ‘why’ of human psychology that invariably ends up making the project stronger.” – Nick Walker, Parks Director for the City of Memphis

At Innovate Memphis, Susan also helped launch open civic data projects and efforts to measure and improve physical conditions in Memphis neighborhoods, serving a member of the Data Committee of the Blight Elimination Steering Team, the United Way Driving the Dream Data Interoperability Systems Advisory group, and Innovate Memphis’ Civic Data Forum.

Susan achieved an Executive Certificate in Social Impact Strategy from the University of Pennsylvania in 2020 and is a 2022 catalyst in the Women’s Impact Alliance. She currently serves on the board of Bloom, a local parks advocacy intermediary, is a convener for the Memphis Reimagining the Civic Commons collaborative and the Southern Cohort of Innovation Cities.

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