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Key Takeaways and Resources from SCG's 2014 Public Policy Conference

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dear Colleagues,

Thank you to everyone among the 175 regional philanthropic leaders at our 2014 Public Policy Conference on April 3rd! The day was packed with thoughtful insights, candid discussions, and ideas for action. I’m writing to share key takeaways and resources so that everyone in the SCG leadership community can get the benefit of the day’s learning.

Philanthropy is deeply intertwined with public policy in areas like education, healthcare, economic development and sustainability, just to name a few. And it goes without saying that regional shifts in demographics, politics and our economy affect every dimension of our work. Yet, across so many different perspectives and priorities in all of our panels, keynote and breakouts, I was surprised to see three themes emerge again and again: philanthropy’s role in risk, research, and leadership.

  • Risk: Philanthropy can take risks where the public and nonprofit sectors cannot. We provide the venture capital for urgently needed innovation in education, the economy, and much more.
  • Research: We can leverage relatively small investments in research, along with our power to convene stakeholders, to drive major shifts in public policy.
  • Leadership: Our region is blessed with tremendous assets, and faced with daunting challenges that are often exacerbated by a fragmented approach to systemic issues. Philanthropy is uniquely positioned to demand—and support—leaders who will engage in the difficult conversations.
In response to your voices as members, SCG will keep the momentum going on these key emerging themes. I hope you will be part of the ongoing conversation! Members can access our detailed "recap" notes and action items from each session here (member login required), along with audio and video recordings (or click here for membership information). Even if you were at the conference, you probably missed something among all the different breakouts! You can also view photos in our Facebook album and experience the conference through our social media recap.

I especially want to thank our impressive line-up of speakers and panelists. We heard from a dynamic panel of leaders spearheading some of the biggest research and policy initiatives in our region, including Bill Allen (LA County Economic Development Corporation), Fernando Guerra (Loyola Marymount/Forecast LA), Antonia Hernández (California Community Foundation/Los Angeles 2020 Commission), and Tara Roth (Goldhirsh Foundation/LA2050 initiative). In this lively discussion, we heard candid insights into current and potential strategies to make Southern California a leadership hub for the 21st century—and how philanthropy can play a key role in these efforts.

Following that plenary, we broke out into small-group discussions for family foundations and corporate funders. The rest of us voted on our top discussion priorities and grouped ourselves to focus on education, workforce development, leadership, and poverty.

Our lunchtime keynote speaker, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, outlined ways that philanthropy can support long-term efforts to strengthen and re-structure California's public education system. In the afternoon, more than a dozen experts led three separate panel discussions on Common Core, Local Control Funding, and Voices of Education Reform… too many names to list here, so I again encourage you to read the notes!

I hope this recap is useful to you. I was thrilled by the tremendous turnout for this year's conference, and by the energy and enthusiasm shared by all of our presenters and participants. Thank you for being part of the SCG community and our shared efforts to take action on the challenges and opportunities facing our region.


Christine Essel
President and CEO