After much discussion and thinking with the task force, Council staff, and the family philanthropy community, we are developing the theme of "systems thinking" to guide the conference. We all work within systems every day, even if we don't recognize them. According to James Ferris, a system is quite simply "a set of component parts that through their interactions with one another function as a whole." If we understand the other players in the system, how they interact, and what outside forces are at play, we will all be better able to think strategically about how we can create change. This theme will guide the entire conference.
Family philanthropy is diverse in many ways--in peoples' roles, perspectives, ideologies, strategies for change, areas of focus, and the vehicles they use to engage in philanthropy. This conference will provide a space in which everyone feels welcome and is represented. While it will be inclusive, it will not shy away from the debates the field is having. In fact, we'll face them head on and provide the space to elevate multiple perspectives and have balanced discourse. Whether you are new to philanthropy, a seasoned leader, or somewhere in the middle, we all have something to gain and to contribute.
We are incredibly lucky to be meeting in the hotbed of innovation that is Silicon Valley. I am particularly thankful to have local funders and organizations on the planning task force who will help connect us to the wonderful things in the region. San Jose is a place of great beauty, great opportunities and challenges, great food, and a wealth of other offerings for us to enjoy during off-site sessions and throughout the conference. Here's a little teaser: Think food carts and wine tasting!
One thing this conference will not be is three days of people talking at you. In the best conferences I have attended, the most valuable times have been when I could roll up my sleeves and dig into an issue. To that end, we have developed a series of salons, moderated by a distinguished grantmaker, to tackle a single issue or idea and allow participants to have intimate conversations. In addition, all of the concurrent sessions and plenaries will have participatory aspects beyond the 10 minutes at the end for questions. We all learn better by doing rather than by listening, so anticipate new and different formats and having a voice throughout.
My hope is that this conference will energize and inspire you, push your thinking, and challenge us all to work smarter and have a greater impact. Our work is critical, and for three days in January we will connect with, learn from, and have fun with one another. Registration is now open, so please plan to join us in San Jose to share your knowledge and experiences.
Nelli Garton, Ph.D.
Vice Chair, Marie C. & Joseph C. Wilson Foundation
Chair, 2013 Family Philanthropy Conference