Tuesday, May 19, 2009

CUNY Emerging Leaders International Fellowship

This morning I had a great, wide-r0aming conversation with the emerging leaders who are part of the CUNY Internshional Philanthropy Fellowship program. Every year this Fellowship draws very interesting and energetic young philanthropy people to NYC for 3 months of targeted research, seminars, and more. Generally five are international and one is from the US.Check it out here:


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Philanthropy is Love Made Visible: EPIP Sets the Tone for Next Generation Grantmakers

The Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP) pre-conference opened May 2 at the Council on Foundations Annual Conference in Atlanta. EPIP's programming is especially designed for next generation grantmakers, aptly titled: Innovation and Legacy: The Place of the Next Generation in Philanthropy. Rusty Stahl, the Executive Director of EPIP (on Twitter @rustystahl) wrote a blog post about the rationale for the EPIP pre-conference in conjunction with the Council on Foundations Annual Conference on their Epiphanies blog. It was obviously a move in the right direction: the anticipation and energy was palpable in the room with about 75 young, dedicated grantmakers ready to learn about new and better ways of doing philanthropy to enable social change. It was great to see the level of racial diversity at the EPIP pre-conference with about half the room made up of people of color. It was also amazing to hear everyone expressing their passion for social justice and figuring out how philanthropy can support that.

Rusty Stahl outlined four goals for the pre-conference: training on the "soft skills" required for grantmaking, cutting-edge workshops, inter-generational dialogue and career support for the next generation of grantmakers. The opening plenary set the tone for the day and lifted up several themes exploring the kind of leadership we need to move philanthropy forward in the future.

Kathy Merchant, President of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation spoke to the group about her experience in nonprofits and philanthropy. Kathy said: "I wish I had had a next generation network like EPIP when I started out in my career. I hadn't even heard of the word 'philanthropy'." She lifted up the idea that place matters in philanthropy, that it has to be all about the community. Kathy reminded us that we should think about the "shape of things to come." The fact is that yesterday's strategies and structures won't be sufficient to address the new challenges facing us today. She urged the group to unleash our creative energy and passion to help the field progress. See a short video clip of Kathy's remarks below:

Ralph Smith, Executive Vice President of the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Council of Foundations Board Chair, also gave opening remarks. Ralph remarked how the EPIP next generation pre-conference had trumped the boundaries of geography, focus, and role. Attendees were not defining themselves by community foundations, family foundations small/large foundations, etc. Ralph said: "We have managed to install so many fences and so many boundaries, it is difficult for us to acheive our full potential in creating a field that can, in fact, find solutions to the challenges of our time." This quest for inter-generational learning might help us practice skills on transgressing the boundaries that keep us apart, trap us in "what we already know", and confine our imagination to "the possible." Ralph reminded us that the boundaries we see in philanthropy are not natural, and are not inherent. And whether they remain depends on our courage to develop the habits to move across those boundaries to become a collective, powerful force for change and for good. See a short video clip of Ralph's remarks below:

The table discussions afterward focused on ways to move beyond these unnatural constructs of philanthropy. What kind of reflective practice do next generation leaders need to have to find out how we can help remove those boundaries in our own philanthropic work? One of the dynamic ladies of color sitting next to me was Naomi Christine Leapheart (on Twitter @nachristine) who shared this powerful thought that stuck with me the entire day:
Good philanthropy is less about technical expertise than about that "something else." Part of it is creativity, partly boundary-crossing, partly your own life experiences. We, fundamentally, already have what we need to do this work. Philanthropy is really just about expressing our love for the community.
Jason Franklin, Deputy Director at 21st Century School Fund and board member at Resource Generation shared a good takeaway as well:
Young people have the freedom of not knowing what we "shouldn't" do, so we can freely imagine what's possible.
Everyone here seems so thoughtful about doing this work. Any Baby Boomer foundation executive in that room would have no doubt that the next generation is just as committed to the field and study of philanthropy as their older counterparts. It's so inspiring just to be here with all of these folks! I can say that just from today I'm even more fired up about doing my part to advance social justice through promoting the leadership of the next generation.

Cross-posted by Rosetta Thurman, blogging about nonprofits, leadership, and social change at www.rosettathurman.com. You can follow along with the entire Council on Foundations 2009 Annual Conference on Twitter using the search hashtag #cof09. Also check out Trista Harris' blog New Voices in Philanthropy for updates.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Pre-Conference Review

I felt, re-energized, inspired, reflective, and connected after the EPIP Pre-Conference "Innovation and Legacy" on May 2nd and 3rd, in Atlanta, GA

Over the last year, my membership with EPIP has provided me with great resources and networks to support my work in the philanthropic community. The pre-conference demonstrated that EPIP offers more that supportive materials and great contacts; it is the progressive movement of the next generation leaders in philanthropy.

I recognized this at the Opening Session. There was a sea of young, fresh, and diverse foundation professionals from across the country ready to soak in this experience. At the start, one of the opening speakers, Ralph Smith, Executive Vice President at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, challenged us to dismantle the boundaries we see in philanthropy. He said these boundaries are not natural or inherent. At that moment, it became apparent this conference was going to be different, it would be an event which challenged the status-quo and offered a variety of perspectives about our role as grantmakers.

Conference goers participated in plenary sessions with senior leaders from major foundations and workshops. I attended the workshop on Social Justice Philanthropy, what EPIP has copyrighted as "Philanthropology." I could have spent the entire weekend in this session! Kalpana Krishnamurthy led the workshop with energy, passion, and a deep understanding of the complex nature of social justice philanthropy. Her interactive workshop allowed attendees to identify and discuss what social justice philanthropy is and why it’s necessary. We engaged in debate exercises, such as a whether the RFP process is compatible with principles of social justice philanthropy and role-playing scenarios that presented the multi-layer challenges of roles and responsibilities in the grantmaking process. Additionally, I couldn't help but notice that most people in the room had read NCRP's "Criteria for Philanthropy at its Best."

Sunday started early with Emerging Leader Salons. While many in room looked a bit tired from Saturday night, we were all quickly energized by the Panel Discussion with Executives Leaders: Lynn Huntley (Southern Education Foundation), Kathyrn Merchant (Greater Cincinnati Foundation), Ralph Smith (Annie E. Casey Foundation), and my executive director at Southern Partners Fund, Janine Lee. Each leader shared their summarized personal journey to philanthropy with the group. It struck me that none of the panelists had started their careers in the non-profit sector, yet all of them did want to contribute to the common good. Although, as stated by Kathryn Merchant, there wasn't the presence of the philanthropic sector that there is now. I couldn't helped but wonder how associations like EPIP, other affinity groups, and membership organizations will impact the progression and career tracks for young philanthropic leaders. Will all of these incredible resources and networks keep us connected in the field for the next 20-30 years? And how will this impact grantmaking? Good thing the breakout sessions that followed the panel discussion provided an opportunity for EPIPers to discuss these and other questions on their mind with one or two of the senior foundation leaders. I have to say I think this was one of the most beneficial and valuable parts of the entire pre-conference.

As we moved into the afternoon sessions on Sunday, once again EPIP had prepared thoughtful and innovative workshops to attend. The first workshop I attended was “Foundations and Public Policy” with presenters Elenore (Nellie)Garton, Senior Researcher at the Sillerman Center at Brandeis University, and Jason Franklin, Lecturer at the Wagner School at NYU. The workshop focused on how foundations can increase their impact by supporting their grantees efforts in the public sector. Nellie and Jason offered attendees strategies and real examples of ways foundations can be more strategic in their grantmaking by acting as a conduit between community needs and public action.

The final session I attended was “A Mile in my Shoes: Next Generation Dialogues on Race, Class, Money, and Power in Philanthropy.” I’m still processing all of my thoughts from this session that was transformative both professionally and personally. In this authentic workshop, presenters Milano Harden, President of The Genius Group, Inc., and Chad Jones, with Resource Generation, were able to get attendees to go deep within themselves and be real about thoughts and feelings on their experiences in philanthropy.

The pre-conference came to an end at the closing plenary. Unfortunately, by the time I left the previous workshop, took a quick pit-stop at the restroom and found room L504, I had missed Steve Gunderson’s words to the group. However, I was able to partake in the closing group reflection on the last 2 days. I truly was inspired by my colleagues’ sentiments and felt empowered to know that all of these individuals shared a vision on the values and future for philanthropy. Thanks much to the entire EPIP team, all of the presenters and moderators, and my fellow next gens for an incredible and rejuvenating experience.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Innovation and Legacy - Focusing on Soft-Skills - Plus Lots of other Goodies!

This weekend EPIP will hold two days of intensive skills-training for the next generation before the COF Annual Conference. Putting on programs and increasing the visibility of the next generation at this particular conference has been an important part of our annual work since 2001. This post offers some highlights of our event, and some context for why we are focused on "soft-skills." 

Several people will be live-blogging and tweeting from the EPIP Pre-Conference - including Rosetta Thurman from Perspectives from the Pipeline, Trista Harris from New Voices of Philanthropy, and Kevin Lasokowski from Capital Epiphanies! I hope they will be cross-posting to this blog, and that you will find their reporting useful!

Instead of "bringing the next generation to the conference" and putting on workshops within the conference, we will hold our own cohesive mini-conference during the weekend before. This will be an intimate retreat emphasizing training in the soft-skills needed for philanthropic effectiveness. 

While most trainings for foundation staffers focus on the hard-skills and practical procedures of grantmaking and measurement, EPIP believes that the soft underbelly of the "effectiveness" discourse in the field is also the silent ghost in the machine: the incredibly challenging power dynamics, politics and ethics of philanthropy, money and identity. That is why the workshops at our event take on thorny issues like role, race, intuition, listening, and justice.  

One exciting workshop: James Allen Smith, Vice President at Rockefeller Archives Center, an amazing collection of historic records from various foundations and nonprofits, has created a special session just for EPIP using primary source films, documents and music from the Archives. This workshop will look at the dynamics of Northern private (and mostly white) philanthropy active in relations while funding education in the South in the early 20th Century. This workshop fits well with the themes and issues raised at this Atlanta conference.

We named our event "Innovation and Legacy: The Place of the Next Generation in Philanthropy." Although I don't think the title is grammatically correct (neither innovation or legacy is a place per se), it is a meaningful and relevant statement about our event (unlike the many conference theme statements that ring hollow).  With an inter-generational cast of presenters, participants will both seek to understand recent history to inform their effortsat  cutting-edge change.

We invited the premiere "grantmaker educators" (such as GrantCraft, The Grantmaking School) and our next generation partner groups (like Resource Generation and 21/64) to  put on their own workshops. And we added our own Philanthropology workshop on social justice philanthropy, featuring EPIP trainer Kalpana Krishnamurthy.

Then we added a bunch of goodies! 
  • Like providing a significant number of scholarships to empower diverse emerging leaders to actually attend our training and, to a lesser extent, to attend the COF conference. 
  • Like bringing four senior leaders to dialogue with emerging leaders through a set of Emerging Leader Salons and a panel discussion.
  • Like one-on-one career consultancies  with leaders from Idealist.org and Commongood Careers.
  • Like releasing "Wit and Wisdom: Unleashing the Philanthropic Imagination", the new book from EPIP by Mark D. Constantine, which features interviews with senior foundation leaders - many who are people of color - discussing race, equity and philanthropy. The book is being distributed to our Pre-Conference and Annual Conference participants. And it is available for free download on EPIP's website here.
  • Like inviting the top leadership from COF to come speak with next generation leaders, in a sense bringing the conference to the next generation.
This is our follow-up from our work leading in the creation of a "Generational Leadership" track at the 2008 Leadership Summit, which was ranked one of the top three most popular tracks at that meeting. At the 2007 conference in Seattle, EPIP partnered with the Council to create "Emerging Leader Salons"-- semi-formal sessions each featuring frank and open dialogue with one senior leader.  From 2001-2006, each year EPIP presented a concurrent session on our issues, and hold what became the annual Next Generation Reception. From that history, you can see that our work in this arena has been both continuous and also that it has evolved in exciting ways! I can't wait to see what we do in 2010!