Today on the blog we welcome Marcia Avner, senior fellow at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and faculty, Masters in Advocacy and Political Leadership at University of Minnesota Duluth. She draws on her many years of experience in the sector to reflect on the value of convening, and why she’s excited for this year’s Grassroots & Groundwork conference held by MCF member Northwest Area Foundation.
“All of us are smarter than any of us.” When foundations and nonprofits come together to share stories, ideas, and insights, we build powerful strategies for change. One of the strengths of our sector is that our work is highly relational. We build and rely upon networks that connect us to emerging ideas, to the buzz about effective programs, to shared anticipation of pending opportunities, and to leaders who inspire us. As a consequence, our organizations encourage a variety of convenings to advance our work.
Sometimes frequent gatherings of small cohorts result in deep relationships, partnerships, and accomplishment. In the 1980s, we worked together to change food systems and farming practices with an intent to protect family farms, increase local assets, and sustain strong communities.
Other convenings help us turn crises to opportunities. When welfare reform threatened Minnesota’s programs, foundations, nonprofits, and the faith community convened quickly and dubbed their collaborative MC3: Minnesota Council on Foundations, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, and Minnesota Council of Churches. MC3 tapped its networks to examine best practices for state-based responses. Gathering large groups of people who provide services, other thought leaders, and program participants, MC3 found ways to move people out of poverty, not just off welfare. A government and foundation partnership was formed, The Minnesota Futures Fund, and our state developed the soundest model for reform in the nation.
Our sector comes together to share intelligence and solve problems. We count on several key conferences to understand the state and direction of our work. These include the annual conferences of the Minnesota Council of Foundations and Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, as well as meetings of the national Council on Foundation’s affinity groups. Conferences put on by EARN, the Association of Social Workers, Human Rights Advocates, and the Minnesota Citizen for the Arts consistently provide platforms for effective, time- and money-saving models and tools. They all help us put names and faces to efforts that help our society address critical needs and build on-ramps to better futures.
For those intent on reducing poverty, the Northwest Area Foundation’s Grassroots and Groundwork has proven to be a thought provoking and highly interactive opportunity for learning, developing ideas, and connecting to funders and activists working to address equity and opportunity.
The 2012 conference, Working Together to Reduce Poverty and Build Prosperity, will be held June 6-8, at Mystic Lake Casino, Prior Lake, MN. This event is one example of how we can become the best that we can be at making a difference in our communities. I hope to see you there. But understand, if you attend, your questions, criticisms, ideas and perspectives will be sought. In addition to breakout sessions, keynote speakers and workshops, the conference will feature facilitated conversations to tap the wisdom of the room. For information and to register, visit www.grassrootsandgroundwork.org.