COF: When We Become “The Man”

From May 2 – May 7, the Tactical Philanthropy Blog Team will be covering the Council on Foundations conference from Atlanta. The individual blog team members represent a range of opinions and have been given no editorial directions. The opinions expressed in these posts do not necessarily represent the opinions of Sean Stannard-Stockton.

By Trista Harris, Headwaters Foundation for Justice & New Voices in Philanthropy

I had the pleasure of attending the Next Gen party last night at the COF Conference. It is always a great opportunity to catch up with colleagues, eat some great food, and pick up Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy S.W.A.G. This year the party was hosted by COF as part of their work with the Next Generation Task Force to institutionalize the Council’s commitment to next gen issues. I applaud the Council on their efforts to move this work from the sidelines to the core but a small piece of me misses being the outsider. In previous years, EPIP especially, made an effort to bring young people together in an authentic way. Connections were made and support was offered. The EPIP Next Generations parties had titles like “An Intergenerational Transfer of…Fun” and more “emerged” foundations leaders would attend the events as a show of support for the next generation of foundation leadership. It always felt like a young people’s revolution to get a place at the table.

This year was a little different because we have a place at the table. The Next Generation Task Force is a long term commitment that extends outside of getting more young people to the annual conference and more and more young people are on regular Council committees. I ask that all of the groups that have been working on this issue for so long like EPIP, Resource Generation and 21/64 take some time to appreciate all that they have done to get the field to this point but I ask all of us to not get too comfortable with progress. There is still more work to be done to have authentic leadership from young people in the field and a fun party with fake bouncers to reinforce the “hip jazz club” vibe is just one step in many.

Trista Harris is executive director of Headwaters Foundation for Justice and blogs at New Voices in Philanthropy.