Regretfully, I again missed the Council on Foundations (CoF) Annual Conference, though I was present in Denver for the Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP) annual board and membership meetings before flying to Portland to participate in the ReVV 2010 Conference. The theme of the CoF Conference this year: Intersections: Social Change, Social Justice, Social Innovation. Thanks to social media, you can get a taste of the Conference.
As is true at many conferences, the main points of many sessions tend to repeat themselves from the prior year. This is not meant to diminish the importance of making those points. But the repetitiveness is one reason a regular attendee should try to get a taste of different breakout sessions and not always go to the same types of sessions they attended the previous year(s). It's also a reason for conference organizers to bring in new speakers, including young and/or emerging nonprofit and philanthropy professionals.
From my reading, the major themes of the Conference included:
- Risk-taking. If we want to really address social problems and really make a social impact, we must take risks. And, sometimes, we'll fail. But if we learn from those failures and share and collaborate with each other, the failures will have great value.
- Charity vs. Change Dichotomy. We need to fund a search for solutions, and also continue to fund direct services. Are we allocating our philanthropic dollars wisely? Is Institutional Philanthropy Structured to Support Successful Social Change?
- Diversity. When you subtitle your conference with the term "social justice," you know diversity is going to be a major theme. As one program noted by its title, it is a myth that we now live in a post-racial society. It was appropriate that affinity groups received more recognition this year, particularly in light of the 20th anniversaries of both AAPIP and Native Americans in Philanthropy (NAP). I was fortunate enough to be invited to join AAPIP and NAP in a joint dinner celebration. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend their spiritual and sobering joint trip to Amache and Sand Creek (sites of a Japanese-American internment camp and massacre of Native Americans, respectively).
- Now Generation. We need to create space for new leaders. Affinity group Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP) held its national conference immediately before the CoF Conference. CoF President Steve Gunderson opened a plenary session branding EPIP with the Now Generation tag.
- Technology and Social Media. These are powerful tools. Fear of the unknown and lack of time to develop knowledge in these areas can leave your organization behind. You can start slowly without getting overwhelmed.
Former Vice President Al Gore delivered the keynote, focusing on information and power (refeudalization of information) as well as climate change.