The Spaces We Pine for Honest Perspectives


Philanthropy411 is currently covering the Communications Network Fall 2013 Annual Conference conference with the help of a blog team.  This is a guest post by  Erin M. Kelly, MA, Social Media Manager at The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  Follow Erin on Twitter – @erinmkelly.

Erin_Kelly1I may be the only Communications Network member in New Orleans who has not seen an episode of “Treme” or “The Wire.” Sorry about that. You probably don’t want to learn what original HBO series I do watch, but what stood out about the first plenary speaker at the 2013 Communications Network Conference was how similar his family night dinners seemed to my own growing up.

This family dynamic was something I didn’t quite acknowledge for a long time, but after my now-husband joined our first meal, he didn’t hesitate to jump on it: “Your family dinner is the polar opposite of dinner with my family.” (I could insert a story about the first soiree I attended at their house, but can’t digress within the second paragraph!) These valued debates, my view of the way my family communicated, suddenly shifted for me and materialized in a new light: a luxury I had taken for granted.

It was heartening to hear an exec from “Hollywood” talk about his personal passion for dissonance, of weaving camp fire stories that support a true, multi-layered context of our times. Simon’s work ruminates on society through character driven and simple narratives. It’s an honest, stark reflection of what’s happening across our nation and, as Simon acknowledged in this video—one produced after he was named a MacArthur Fellow—one voice isn’t enough. We need a collective.

As I listened, my mind wandered: Are the fault line(s) he scans for storytelling the battle lines for philanthropy? Here are some of my favorite tweets during Simon’s talk:

Circling back to those dinner table debates.

While Simon ascertains that journalism is getting weaker, I have been impressed by the way some journalists attempt to engage on digital. One afternoon late this summer, I tuned in to watch NBC News‘ Cairo correspondent as he responded to reader questions about Egypt during a Google+ Hangout on Air. Yes, a live and dynamic broadcast from his room in Egypt available to anyone who had an internet connection (latest figures from Pew on internet penetration in the U.S., and here’s more on what could be driving further global growth).

I’ll posit those dinner table debates have found a new “table” from which to have those uncomfortable, multifaceted conversations—within the social space—and the participants are no longer just my mom and dad. I smiled when Maria Hinojosa saluted the important conversations happening on social media, perhaps invisible stories that run the risk of isolation. But those are just the stories Hinojosa is out to expose and make visible. A very noble mission, not unlike Simon’s.

(P.S. Homicide was added to my Amazon wish list before David’s session concluded.)

Kris is a sought after philanthropy advisor, expert and award-winning author. She has helped over 90 foundations and philanthropists strategically allocate and assess over half a billion dollars in grants and gifts.

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