Three Examples and a Prize

Philanthropy411, is currently covering the Council on Foundations conference with the help of a blog team.  This is a guest post by Daniel Silverman, Communications Director at the James Irvine Foundation.

by Daniel Silverman

I am in Philadelphia enjoying  this historic and world-class cultural city before the conference kicks-off with the opening luncheon plenary on Sunday (I highly recommend the Chagall exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art). I suppose it’s a bit odd for me to blog about a conference that hasn’t even started yet, but I was hoping to plant an idea before you begin attending sessions at the conference. As you attend plenaries and concurrents, site visits and social hours, I invite you to notice and share examples of insights and experiences that transcend the traditional “expert at the podium” approach. Specifically, I encourage you to share examples of the following;

  • Interacting and learning from other conference participants in sessions that include audience participation, or in your conversations between sessions
  • Divergent viewpoints, even active debates, that deepen your understanding of some aspect of philanthropy, and maybe even change your perspective
  • An unplanned, serendipitous interaction that led to a new insight or new connection that deepens your understanding of the breadth and diversity of philanthropy.

I know that the Council has worked hard to refresh the traditional conference format and provide for the kind of interaction I mention in these examples. The agenda looks quite promising in this regard. As a communications professional, I’m pleased that they have recognized the power of multiway dialogue and new types of sessions, including audience interaction and debates. (BTW, I hope they play the theme song from “Rocky” when the closing plenary debate begins. We are in Philadelphia, after all!)

So, what’s the prize, you ask? Well, it turns out I have an ulterior motive with this post (my colleagues will warn you to watch out for my ulterior motives.) I’ll be helping plan next year’s annual conference, and we hope to push the envelope even further in regards to interaction, use of social media and technology, and tapping the wisdom of the audience as much as the wisdom of the official speakers. So, whoever shares the best example of  any of the types of experiences listed above – audience interaction, real debate, serendipitous connections—and has an idea for expanding that type of experience at next year’s conference, we will fast track your idea right to the planning committee to turn it into a real, live session next year. Okay, so that’s not quite as exciting as the X Prize or an Emmy, but hopefully it’s enough to get you to share an idea or two. Plus, the real prize will be an even better conference in 2012 for you and your colleagues.

So I invite you to leave your ideas as comments to this post. Let’s also get the conversation going on Twitter. I’ll post a link to this blog on Twitter (@DanielOlias) and use the hashtag #2012Ideas. When you leave a comment, post it to Twitter as well and use that hashtag. We should also use the hashtag for this conference, #2011Annual. If you don’t tweet, I’ll check for comments and post them on Twitter as they come in. I look forward to spending some time with all of you over the next few days!

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Posted by Kris Putnam-Walkerly © Kris Putnam-Walkerly and Philanthropy411, 2010.

2 thoughts on “Three Examples and a Prize”

  1. Hi Daniel,
    I like it…so here’s something I noticed today. I attended the salon with Dan Pallotta (which I thought was great and totally worth my time). So, I have two thoughts here. First, I loved being able to keep the conversation going after the plenary. I was jazzed and didn’t want to stop there. That’s a plus. But one strange thing happened in the salon, Dan posed a question back to the audience and the audience fumbled. I couldn’t tell if it was because there were few fresh ideas that folks were ready to outwardly share with Dan (I would put myself in this category) or if the audience was unsure what to do with a legitimate “how should I do this” question from the presenter (who traditionally comes with the answers). One will never know. Either way, it just showed that moving to an interactive format can be difficult (even when there’s no technology involved), but keep pushing these boundaries because there’s much to be learned and much to be shared and the ones on the stage want to learn too!
    Enjoy the rest,
    Nikki

  2. Hi Nikki,
    Thanks so much for your comment. You share an excellent example of the challenges of more interactive formats. What do you do if the audience doesn’t interact! As you imply, this isn’t an excuse to not push the boundaries and experiment with new and different ways to create interaction. But, like any experiments, some things will work and some won’t. We need to be okay with the failures and push ahead with those experiments that work best. I hope to get more comments about interactions at this conference that worked, so we can do more of it in 2012!

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