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Dispatch from #ForumCon22: Accountability

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

This is a guest post by Jennifer Paniagua, Program Associate at Hispanics in Philanthropy.

Early in July, I had the pleasure of attending United Philanthropy Forum’s 2022 Annual Conference in Seattle. It was great to finally have the opportunity to connect in person with other folks in the sector across several organizations and areas of work. Although this marked my 3rd philanthropy conference since I joined the sector, it was the first as a participant—indulging in the programming and not scrambling to find speakers or troubleshooting technical issues. Though it is difficult to concise several days and so much knowledge shared, I offer some key takeaways: 

  1. Emerging practitioners in the sector are challenging and pushing philanthropy to expand equity efforts, both externally and internally within organizational work culture. 
  2. Philanthropy’s commitment to racial equity and justice is a never-ending responsibility. 
  3. Allyship with LGBTQ+ communities needs to be louder and larger in the sector. 

Accountability: the word that jumps at me as I reflect back on my time at the conference, a common theme across several sessions I attended. Here, I will focus on three sessions that hugely impacted my experience, inspired my connections, and shaped how I returned to work the following day. 

The first session I attended was the Emerging Practitioners Workshop, facilitated by Elyse Gordon and Laura Collier with EPIP. It was an amazing opportunity to connect with other folks who were also early in their careers and/or newer to philanthropy. In this space we discussed our experiences as we transitioned to this new normal under an ongoing pandemic and also visualized together what an ideal work culture can look like. We shed light to the waves of burn out that loom over us as we continue to deal with the pandemic, social reckoning, climate tragedies, you name it, and brainstormed practices that could make these barriers just a little more sustainable. Through a series of interactive activities, we discovered that a lot of us envision a very similar work culture shift; one that promotes results-oriented work and organization wide rest. I left the workshop with the following accountability questions: What are my personal measures of burnout and what can I do to preserve my energy throughout the work week?

As a representative of an organization that has contributed to this report, the 2022 Journey Toward Racial Equity Report: Key Findings and the Road Ahead plenary was very insightful. The conversation between Susan Taylor Batten, Alice Y. Hom, Deborah Aubert Thomas, and Lori Villarosa, which followed after a summary of the report and its key findings, emphasized that our journey towards racial equity and justice is ever-changing, ongoing, and experimental. They called out the fear that exists in philanthropy, especially around the topic of race, to try, to make mistakes, and to fail. They rightfully argue that failing is okay and in fact necessary to move the needle. That the most critical part of failing is sharing that journey and lessons learned with the world to adapt and build from. I, for one, left feeling extremely inspired to continue pushing for equity and justice focused practices and initiatives. To continue learning, failing, and trying again. In addition to all the information, practices, and journeys shared, it was incredible to see such powerful women of color take on not only the large stage but also a topic that many have shied away from for far too long. 
My accountability question: How can I create a culture of positive failure around equity and justice at my organization that overshadows shame and instead insights curiosity and boldness? 

Amongst my favorite sessions of the conference was the Leveraging Your PSO to Support Trans Communities workshop. Not because it was one of the few queer centered spaces but because it was organized as a working session. One where we had the opportunity to work together across multiple organizations and areas of expertise, to discuss the ways in which our organizations and the sector as a whole can be more inclusive of and responsive to trans communities. We focused specifically on the GUTC Pledge released by Funders for LGBTQ Issues, discussing the necessity for and intentions of the pledge, as well as ideas on how to encourage more foundations and organizations to sign on. April Bethea and Alexander Lee shared with us the reality that LGBTQ+ led/serving organizations face in philanthropy, how “despite the urgent needs by transgender communities, for every $100 awarded by US foundations, only 4 cents focuses on trans communities.” It is important that philanthropy meets the moment and responds to the needs of the queer community through funding and redirecting resources, as well as take a loud stance in support of the community and put pressure on others to do the same. As a member of an organization that has signed on to the pledge, my accountability questions are: What is my organization doing to hold itself accountable to uphold our commitment to the pledge within our organization, our grantmaking, and our programming? How are we actively and intentionally influencing our partners and funders to join us in taking a stance with the Trans and queer community? 

As I reflect on my time at the #ForumCon22, I feel fueled by the knowledge and connections I made during my time in Seattle. As I continue to show up at HIP and in my work, I turn back to my accountability questions for guidance and direction towards the future I, and many others in the space, envision. I hope that you too can take and adapt them as they relate to your work and what you envision. 

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