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Dispatch from #ForumCon22: Reassurance

Monday, August 15, 2022

This is a guest post by Chelsie China, Member Service Coordinator at North Carolina Network of Grantmakers.

In a time of many unfortunate tragedies and social unrest in our communities, the United Philanthropy Forum Conference presented sessions that challenged, yet encouraged attendees to look at the power of philanthropy and the seats we sit in.

In the session on Future of Philanthropy Supporting Organizations, Marcus Walton shared a metaphor that illustrated how a board panel can be portrayed. He spoke on the layout of a conference room, the creativity that can be enabled, and how putting “seasoned leaders on a pedestal” can cause others to miss opportunities to collaborate with one another. This led to a discussion on philanthropy’s primitive use – a juxtaposition between a catalyst and analyst for the misuse and disruption of power.

Other conversations centered around COVID-19‘s effect on communities. Rural areas in America are immobilized due to a lack of broadband access and health resources. I appreciated that Paul Daugherty and Dr. Sameer Vohra gave us tangible tools in the session, Building a Healthier Rural America During and After COVID-19, to attack the pressing issues. They modeled how to present anecdotal data to create partnerships with local nonprofits and municipalities. 

How do you vocalize issues in rural communities?

  • Connect with young nonprofit leaders who can serve as consultants
  • Give grassroots a platform and voice
  • Collaborate with policymakers
  • Inspire to create solutions

In another session, the California Policy Forum presented a tangible example of how and why creating a policy forum empowers civil society. Through partnership with four philanthropic organizations, they established a safe space for nonprofits to present their stories.  One standard that was emphasized during its establishment was the emphasis of a liaison - someone who could break policy jargon down into everyday language. They ended the session with tips on structure such as format, frequency, and the right duration for a forum.  

Without reference to the historical accumulation of funds in philanthropy, there is an incomplete image presented. Jeffery Robinson, Founder of The Who We Are Project, led an interactive session based on his documentary Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America. He emphasized that we must “give up creation stories and address individual's cognitive dissonance to win the long game.” His passion for education radiated throughout the period and left many of us inspired to rethink how we advocate for American history and our very own creation ideologies.

I think it’s safe to say behind the multiple arrays of colored masks and stoplight-colored lanyards, many people desperately missed the convening of in-person networking. The conference reassured my hope that philanthropy can aid change in our society. The only question is whether we will ignite the power that lies in front of us.