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Reflecting on the 2017 Policy Conference

Monday, April 17, 2017

On April 6th, three hundred SCG members from across Southern California gathered for our largest-ever Public Policy Conference. For nearly half  of them, it was their first time attending this annual gathering focused on the intersection of philanthropy and policy. For SCG, it was the first time our Policy Conference actually “sold out” weeks in advance. And the reason is clear: this wave of interest and engagement in the policy arena across our wide mix of private, corporate, and public grantmaking members is a response to the changes sweeping our country since last November’s elections.

From left to right: Kim Belshé, First 5 LA (and SCG Board of Directors); Chris Hoene, California Budget & Policy Center; John Kim, Advancement Project California; Carolyn Rojo and Diane Helfrey, Social Venture Partners; Masha Chernyak and Sara Velton, Latino Community Foundation; Carol Kim, Health Net, Inc.

At this conference, the SCG community came together with leaders from across our region, our state, and our country to examine new and urgent questions:
What does this new political landscape mean for our work?
What changes can we expect in federal and state budgets – and in the laws of our country?
How will these changes affect what we can do?
How will they affect the communities we support?

In the wake of the election, our philanthropy community is realizing that we are already deeply involved in public policy, whether we like it or not. The public sector’s approach to society’s most critical issues will always outweigh the dollars that philanthropy has to invest. The public sector’s treatment of those who are most in need actually sets the conditions for our work and our interventions.
I believe that we are getting stronger as a sector, precisely because we know that we have much more than just our dollars to offer. The Public Policy Conference was a strong example of this, bringing together hundreds of your SCG peers to learn and connect with a powerful lineup of community leaders, academics, and change-makers around the day’s central theme of equity – fair inclusion in a society where all can participate and prosper.

Left to right: Keynote Speaker Michael McAfee, PolicyLink; Dr. Raphael Sonenshein, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Cal State LA; Nike Irvin, California Community Foundation; Bill Allen, LA County Economic Development Corporation; Hon. Kathryn Barger, LA County Board of Supervisors

From engaging in and supporting advocacy, to discovering new approaches to philanthropy rooted in the communities we serve, we were each challenged to consider how public policy plays an integral role in our work to enhance the well-being of Southern California's families and vulnerable populations.

As we heard at the conference, lifting the voices of California’s philanthropy sector will be critical in the coming months and years. Our shared commitment to building equitable communities faces enormous challenges. Health care and climate change affect all of us. Immigrant families are residents of our neighborhoods – and a critical component of the economic fabric of our region. And at an even deeper level, our society is losing trust in a shared vision of reality.

Left to right: Bea Solis, The California Endowment (and SCG Board Chair); Manuel Pastor, USC; Marqueece Harris-Dawson, LA City Council; Maisie Chin, Community Asset Development Re-defining Education; Benjamin Torres, CDTech

Most of all, as I reflect back on the day, I’m struck by how much opportunity, power, and possibility our sector really has. Our agenda was packed full of examples where philanthropy leaders successfully leveraged our unique ability to research issues, evaluate options, convene stakeholders, educate policymakers, engage communities… and most importantly, create collaborations.
SCG is proud to support our members as they pursue effective strategies and strong collaborations to do the work they aspire to do. I hope you’ll take a moment to access the conference resources below, and to explore the growing scope of SCG’s public policy work. Members can also sign up for periodic email updates from our public policy team.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to once again thank our conference partner the California Budget & Policy Center and our member-led Conference Advisory Group, as well as this year's fantastic sponsors, speakers, and participants! 
Our communities, our state, and our nation need transformative leadership right now. Together, we can advance that work. We can lift up those we came into this sector to support. And we can promote change that helps achieve a more equitable society. Thank you all for leading this crucial work here in Southern California and beyond.

>> View photos on Facebook.

>> Watch video clips of sessions (SCG members only).

>> Experience the conference through social media on Storify. (We were trending on Twitter!)

>> Access presentations and other resources (SCG members only).

>> Get the complete list of sessions and speakers on our website.

Christine Essel
President and CEO
Southern California Grantmakers


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