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.

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