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Dispatch from #ForumCon22: Coalition Building for Social Change

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

This is a guest post by Rod Jacobs, Development Manager at Native Americans in Philanthropy.

The importance of networking is a vital ingredient for philanthropy's recipe for social change, which is evident at United Philanthropy Forum's 2022 Conference (#ForumCon22) in Seattle, Washington, from July 18 to 20. Dale Carnegie, the famous writer and lecturer on salesmanship and interpersonal skills, highlights in his book, "How to Win Friends & Influence People," that a key to building relationships is being interested in others. I had the great fortune at the Sunday casual dinner to sit at a table with representatives from philanthropy-serving organizations, international philanthropic institutes, and conference sponsors. Being interested in my new philanthropy colleagues supported greater understanding of membership challenges (CEMEFI has over 1,600 members), technology systems to support philanthropy (akoyaGo and Network for Good), and where to find the best pizza in Connecticut (Connecticut Council for Philanthropy). Being interested and curious proved to be an excellent strategy leading into #ForumCon22.

As a newcomer to the world of philanthropy, it's key to build a foundation of knowledge and connection. #ForumCon22 offered a stream for first-time attendees, which included the Emerging Practitioners Workshop hosted by Elyse Gordon and Laura Collier from Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy. At the facilitated session, I learned more about formal roles, informal roles, challenging organizational dynamics, and unique opportunities from fellow first-time attendees from Grant Makers for Effective Organizations, Maine Philanthropy Center, The Funders Network, and Council on Foundations. In addition, we discussed how to use tools like The Management Center's MOCHA model, which clarifies responsibilities by identifying the role a person plays (manager, owner, consulted, helper, approver). Collectively, we found that many of us also assume the role of influencers in our organizations. Hence, influencing systemic change stems from meaningful relationships with others (internally and externally).

#ForumCon22 offered dynamic conversations centered around social equity throughout workshops and plenary sessions. At the breakfast plenary on July 19, Sara Lomelin, CEO of Philanthropy Together, challenged participants by asking, "how do we create community together?" Many of the sessions I participated in attempted to contribute to building a strong community, like Journey Toward Racial Equity Report, A Cross Sector Collaboration and Community Engagement Model, and Extraordinary Collaboration for Extraordinary Times. For me, The Changemaker Experience at the Heart of Philanthropy session highlighted a practical theory (or process) known as journey mapping. The basics of journey mapping are touchpoints with those members, donors, and the community that are important to building relationships. However, I also believe you can go on a journey with your colleague to more meaningful engagement and deeper understanding. You might even say I took the philosophy to heart by creating several touchpoints with my new friends at #ForumCon22 (you know who you are).

A collaborative community brings together knowledge, experience, innovation, and friendships that move us giant steps toward social change. Dale Carnegie once said, "knowledge isn't power until it is applied," which means we are all responsible for creating meaningful relationships in philanthropy. #ForumCon22 was an uplifting and insightful experience that all philanthropic professionals should experience. Remember, fostering the relationships made at #ForumCon22 and throughout our personal and professional experiences is paramount. See you next year at #ForumCon23.