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Takeaways from the 2017 SCG Annual Conference

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Dear Colleagues,

Now that the SCG Annual Conference has come and gone, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the highlights and lessons learned from that special day. But first—to all of you who joined us at philanthropy's crossroads, we appreciate your coming to learn and engage. And to those of you who were unable to attend, please know that the conference was only the beginning. SCG will continue to deepen the ways in which we incorporate these crucial issues of intersectionality and equity across all of our work as we move forward.

This year, over 600 of our colleagues—from foundations, corporate members, and family philanthropists to government grantmakers, philanthropic consultants, friends and partners of SCG—came together for a day focusing on Philanthropy at a Crossroads. We were honored to be joined by an incredible variety of leaders and thinkers in sessions covering the arts, health, economic development, hunger, education, transgender communities, homelessness, and displacement/gentrification, not to mention special sessions on corporate philanthropy/CSR, shifting organizational culture, and powerful new demographic data to help your work. 

As I mentioned in my remarks at the conference, I believe the power of SCG is its ability to help move each of us from isolation to intersection. That's where we can think and act beyond our own specific causes to find overlaps and the benefits of working together. With everything that is going on in our region, country and world—from the wildfires sweeping our state, to the tragedy in Las Vegas, to the aftermath of the hurricanes in the Southeast and Puerto Rico—it gives me hope to see that a wave of engagement and collaboration is sweeping across philanthropy, and I am encouraged by the forward momentum that we are creating together.  

While there were so many lessons to be captured at this conference, the following are a few of the key takeaways from the day that stood out to me:

  • We must strive to embrace intersectionality and to work together on common problems. I was so inspired to hear my friend Monica Lozano, the former Chair and CEO of US Hispanic Media and the Chair of the Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program, among the other wonderful panelists at the Morning Plenary, talk about how corporate entities can mobilize in times of crisis and operate for social good while still improve the bottom line. Monica so rightly pointed out, "there's no trade-off between the two."

Timothy Silard, President, Rosenberg Foundation (left) and Monica Lozano, Former Chair and CEO, US Hispanic Media, Inc. and Chair, Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program (right)

  • Incorporating storytelling into our work is crucial to success of that work. Narratives link issues and communities in ways that statistics and facts cannot. As Diego Sepulveda, one of the distinguished panelists in the Storytelling and Social Movements panel in the the Afternoon Plenary said, "We will use stories to move hearts and lift minds."

(left to right) Diego Sepulveda, Interim Director, Dream Resource Center; Viet Thanh Nguyen, Professor, American Studies and Ethnicity, USC; and Dr. Ange-Marie Hancock Alfaro, Professor and Chair of Gender Studies, USC

  • We heard and appreciate your feedback. While the post-conference feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, we appreciate your ideas about things to do next time. We look forward to exploring themes about race and class, bringing in a wide spectrum of viewpoints and delving more deeply into the structures that have held us back from advancing equity. As one attendee so eloquently noted after the conference: “Our intersections, our stories, our struggles are our greatest assets. We grow and expand as a community when we can be heard, seen, love for our whole selves. From the substance to the logistics of the conference, we at SCG will always strive to raise the bar.
  • Incorporating participation and networking into the conference fosters community and collaboration. Conferences do not just have to be all work and no play. In fact, I find that so much work gets done when we are actually having fun! Nowhere was this more apparent than at the Morning Plenary, when GRAMMY-Award-winning band Quetzal and other musical guests crowd-sourced a song-writing exercise with an entire ballroom of participants, and at the Closing Reception, where we caught up with old friends and made new ones. 

Stephen Gould, Program Assistant, The California Endowment

(left to right) Janice Pober, Senior Vice President Global Corporate Social Responsibility, Sony Pictures; Matty Wilder, Senior Program Officer, The Herb Alpert Foundation; Claire Peeps, Executive Director, The Durfee Foundation

(left to right) Heather Jue Northover, Chief of Staff for the Chief Deputy Director, Department of Public Health, County of Los Angeles; Cindy Harding, Chief Deputy Director, Los Angeles County; Linda Fowells, Executive Vice President, Community Partners; Rosemary Veniegas, Senior Program Officer, California Community Foundation

Harriet Glickman (left) and Paul Vandeventer, Co-Founder, Community Partners (right)

I want to thank each and every one of our members, speakers, sponsors, and staff who made this year’s conference such an inspiring and impactful experience that took us out of our comfort zones and challenged "business as usual" in philanthropy.

Please be sure to check out our social media coverage of the conference as well as our photo albums. We are pleased to make available a number of resources, including videos of all the plenary sessions on our conference resource page (member login required). I also encourage you to download the newly-released report, Highway to Health: Life Expectancy in Los Angeles County, of which we got a glimpse at the conference, and to be on the lookout for the full Portrait of Los Angeles County report that will be released on November 29. 

Everywhere we look, our field is confronted by urgent calls to action. We can only succeed if we work together, as a community, across sectors. We're looking forward to keeping the momentum going by seeing more of you at future SCG events and at next year's conference. 

Thank you once again for working with us ahead of time to shape the conference, driving conversations throughout the day, inspiring one another, and bringing new ideas to the table. You practice community every day in a thoughtful and respectful way with a diverse group of changemakers - and we are so thankful to have you as partners.

Christine Essel
President and CEO
Southern California Grantmakers