Who We Are

Christopher Gergen

Christopher Gergen is CEO of Forward Impact. This work includes launching community-based strategies to develop and scale high-impact entrepreneurs including Bull City Forward in Durham, NC, Queen City Forward in Charlotte, NC, Moore Forward in Moore County, NC, HQ Raleigh, and Think House – all of which Christopher helped to start.  Forward Impact also helps schools, universities, and communities develop transformational entrepreneurial leadership experiences with partners such as the Center for Creative Leadership, where Christopher is Innovator in Residence.  Forward Impact also consults with state and national clients including helping launch and scale the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation’s Social Entrepreneurship Initiative, the Aspen Institute’s Center for Urban Innovation, and the NC Charter School Accelerator. This work complements Christopher’s role as a social entrepreneurship fellow and adjunct faculty member with Duke University’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship initiative.  

Christopher is co-author of the nationally acclaimed book Life Entrepreneurs: Ordinary People Creating Extraordinary Lives and co-authors a bi-weekly column on social innovation for the Raleigh News & Observer and the Charlotte Observer titled “Doing Better at Doing Good.”  Christopher is a 2013 Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute and serves on several local, state, and national boards.

In 1999, Christopher co-founded SMARTHINKING that became the leading online tutoring provider in the United States before being acquired by Pearson Education in 2011. Other ventures include starting Café Nunoa - a coffeehouse/bar in Santiago, Chile when he was 24 and “Entrepreneur Corps”—an AmeriCorps*VISTA initiative that placed 400 full-time business volunteers for a year of service in over 90 non-profits. Previously, Christopher started LEAD!, a leadership, entrepreneurship, and service program for Gonzaga College high school students in Washington, D.C. and is a founding board member of the E.L. Haynes Public Charter School also in D.C.  Further experience includes serving as Vice President of New Market Development for K12 Inc. and Chief Operating Officer for New American Schools. Christopher received a Bachelor of Arts with honors from Duke University, a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the George Washington University, and his M.B.A. from Georgetown University. He lives with his wife and two children.


Jason Widen

Jason Widen is Co-Founder of Forward Impact whose mission is to unleash the impact potential of next generation entrepreneurial leaders. This work includes supporting community-based strategies to develop and scale high-impact entrepreneurs including HQ RaleighThinkHouse, and Leadership exCHANGEJason brings an extensive background as an investor, developer, and entrepreneur to his current role as Co-Founder and Executive Director of HQ Raleigh, an award-winning entrepreneurial co-working space located in Downtown Raleigh. Seeking to develop the pipeline of young entrepreneurs is one if Jason's passions. He is the Founder of ThinkHouse, an intentional living community and accelerator for post-graduate entrepreneurs.   In addition, Jason was instrumental in the creation of  Leadership exCHANGE, an award-winning organization dedicated to training the next generation of leaders and global citizens to change the world.   Founded in 1999, Leadership exCHANGE has trained students from more than 80 countries and created programs in Prague, Rome, Panama City, Havana, Bologna, Berlin, Bangkok, Boulder, and Raleigh.  His teaching portfolio includes Global Business and Social Entrepreneurship.   Jason has raised millions of dollars as an entrepreneur and real estate developer. Most recent projects include the founding of RevGen and raising capital for the purchase and development of 50,000 sq. ft. expansion space for HQ Raleigh.


Allyson Sutton

Allyson is the Communications and Events Manager for HQ Raleigh. A self-proclaimed grammar nerd, she received her Bachelor's degree in Journalism & Mass Communication with a focus in Advertising from UNC-Chapel Hill. Allyson is passionate about finding new and creative ways to engage audiences and develop brands, and has found this process to be most rewarding (and challenging) in the startup world. Prior to joining the HUB team, Allyson managed the marketing efforts for CityFabric, Inc and managed a small business in Chapel Hill. She brings experience in broadcast radio, professional sports, and non-profit organizations, and has a penchant for editing, writing, and event coordination.


Liz Tracy

Liz brings international experience in community development and public outreach to her role as Community Manager for HQ Raleigh. She ran a nationally-recognized jewelry business and arts-based learning camps for kids. Liz manages HUB Raleigh membership services, events, programming, and anything else that gets thrown her way! 

As the coordinator for Panama City's Global Leadership ExChange program, Liz brings her management skills to organize a one month leadership and entrepreneurship initiative where students get first hand experience working within an entrepreneurship community. 

Liz's specialties include event planning and management, fundraising, marketing, public speaking, workforce development, volunteer management, mediation, teaching, child development, case management, creative projects, environmental and sustainable projects.