November 16, 2018

Building Our Knowledge: Fall Conferences

Fall tends to be conference season in the nonprofit sector, and Community Partners staff once again fanned out across the country to attend some of the year’s best learning events. Take a look at what’s fueling our knowledge and see if you think you might want to put one of these on your calendar for the coming year:

American Evaluation Association conference: More than 3,000 members of the international evaluation community convened in Cleveland for American Evaluation Association’s annual conference. #Eval18 on Twitter captures some of the sharing, learning, and laughter from this huge conference that included several hundred sessions organized under the theme Speaking Truth to Power. I was particularly engaged by a session led by Maria Rosario JacksonAnna CruzGrisha Coleman, and Joseph Larios. They led us through a Feldenkrais movement exploration to unlearn limiting habits of knowledge we each embody. The presenters reminded us that white supremacy is the water we all swim in, and operating in dominant paradigms often perpetuates systemic inequities that social change efforts are working to disrupt.  Chikako Yamauchi, program evaluator and Mellon/ACLS Public Fellow

Building Racial Equity: Foundations, a full-day training by Race Forward, provides a common language for talking about race equity and exclusion, a shared analysis and concepts for examining and working toward racial justice, and tools for applying a race equity lens to our work. While the scope of structural and institutional racism is breathtakingly large, one immediate tool we can use is “choice points.” Specifically, we all make choices daily, weekly, monthly, and annually in our work where we have some influence on a decision or course of action that may affect racial outcomes. For each of these, we can identify and implement actions that could lead to different and more equitable outcomes. – Cynthia Freeman, senior program director

The Communications Network Annual Conference: Communications pros who work with nonprofits and foundations around the country gathered in San Francisco for The Communications Network’s annual conference. This is really the only opportunity for folks who do this kind of work to gather and learn from one another. They always have an impressive roster of speakers and good people to connect with. I found the session on asset framing, thoughtfully presented by Trabian Shorters, particularly important, and will continue to learn more about how nonprofits can work to shift away from messages that focus on the deficits of a community. Organizers also did a masterful job re-locating the entire conference to nearby locations in order to honor striking hotel workers.  Lauren Kay, director of communications (attending with Elisa Perez, senior communications specialist)

Grantmakers in the Arts: The theme of this year’s late-October conference was “Race, Space, and Place,” which was reflected in the location selection of Oakland, a city rich in movement building and the beauty and complexity of many cultures. The GIA 2018 conference blog covers the conference’s vibrant exchanges, collaborative spirit, and focus on creating a more inclusive environment for all. I was especially impressed by GIA’s ability to create an insightful conference that modeled cross-sector equity values by shuffling last minute to re-arrange and accommodate the conference in order to respect striking low-income hotel workers.  – Dianne Debicella, program director

Southern California Grantmakers: titled “Our Common Humanity,” this conference brought together a vibrantly diverse group of grantmakers and intermediaries for panels and keynotes on racial, economic, education, and disability justice. Many members of Community Partners’ staff attended, participating in sessions on recognizing implicit bias, how trauma is rooted in racial inequities and poverty, applying racial, gender, and disability lenses to grantmaking, and more. Rare among grantmakers, the day evoked a high level of candor and vulnerability, including a moving performance from Daniel Beaty, who reminded us “achievement does not equal wellness.”   Cynthia Freeman, senior program director

NNFS: A delegation from Community Partners joined representatives from 64 different nonprofits across the U.S., including Puerto Rico, for the annual conference of the National Network of Fiscal Sponsors October 22-23. NNFS provides opportunities for nonprofits to collaborate, learn best practices in fiscal sponsorship, and contribute to the growing field of fiscal sponsorship. As a founding NNFS member, Community Partners has maintained a leadership role in the network for close to 15 years and currently chairs the steering committee. At the national conference in Seattle, our staff presented in workshops on learning and evaluation, hot topics in human resources, and embracing equity and inclusion in fiscal sponsorship.

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