The Nantucket Project (TNP) will be celebrating 10 years of “gathering, connection, and conversation” this September and recently announced that former First Lady Michelle Obama will be coming to the island to headline its annual event on Nantucket. This week Nantucket Current caught up with TNP co-founders Tom Scott and Kate Brosnan to ask them about this year’s event, how they navigated the pandemic, and landing Michelle Obama as a speaker.
We recently shared your news that Michelle Obama will be coming to Nantucket for the 10th annual Nantucket Project. How were you able to secure such a high profile guest speaker?
Kate: I’d say it’s really the result of 10 years of hard work.
Tom: Kate’s right. Hard work has won us so many wonderful speakers this year.
Kate: That’s right. This will not be the first time the Secret Service has visited us. And I love that they bring their dogs!
What else are you doing to commemorate 10 years of TNP?
Kate: It’s definitely a great milestone for us, and I have a deep sense of gratitude for everyone on island who has helped us make it to 10 years. And that just makes me more aware that this really isn’t about us. So I really try not to think of TNP10 as a commemoration, but to make it as much of a look forward as possible.
Tom: I’m so with Kate on this. I think I would feel this way anyway, but I think the opportunity to talk about and consider the world post-Covid is what motivates my thinking right now. I know so many people and organizations that had to really rethink everything, and many of them were able to act on it and change for the better. So how can we all embrace that mindset and feed off each other? I call it the new planet rising.
In-person gatherings were off the table during the pandemic. How did you keep TNP viable over the past 18 months?
Tom: I’m not going to lie, it was hard. And it still feels hard right now. But the really incredible thing is we were actually able expand our business in the last year. Our platform, TNP.us is something we were already building. But when Covid hit, we really put our heads down and it gave us a new sense of focus. We have built what I like to call the world’s greatest conversation engine. And I know that sounds ambitious. That’s the idea.
Kate: The idea is to really change the way people interact and treat each other online. We really believe the way to do that is through conversation.
What are something things people may not know about what TNP is doing on a year-round basis beyond the annual event on the island?
Kate: We sent a group of people from our team down the length of the Mississippi—from Minneapolis to New Orleans—and hosted group conversations in 10 cities focused on race in America.
Tom: I’m pretty sure I learned more about our country and race during that trip than I have in my whole life. And I have to say the experience made me really hopeful. So now we’re bringing a bunch of the people that we met to Nantucket this fall to share what we learned together.
In past years you’ve provided island residents with the opportunity to attend TNP. Will you be doing that again this year and how can islanders apply to attend?
Kate: The Islander Pass is back again, and that is entirely due to the generosity of Jill and Steve Karp. I know this is just one of many acts of generosity the Karps do, and that comes from a real place of love for Nantucket and the people who live here year-round. So I’m truly grateful to share this news. The applications to attend will be on our website at the end of July.