The Council on Foundations, together with Philanthropy Northwest, kicked off its 2007 Annual Conference in Seattle on April 29. The theme of the Conference: Philanthropy and the Challenges of Our Time: Making a Difference at Home and Around the Globe.
The Conference focused on four intractable challenges: poverty, public health, the environment, and disasters. While each challenge was given its own track of plenaries and sessions, it was widely recognized that these challenges are interrelated. Where there are failures in any area, the poor are the most adversely affected.
The Opening Plenary featured former Governor of Virginia Mark R. Warner as the keynote speaker. Warner, also a founding investor in both Nextel and Venture Philanthropy Partners, discussed what he believed were the four current challenges in philanthropy:
- Greater implementation of the venture philanthropy or entrepreneurial philanthropy model where organizations are strategically building organizational capacity and not just programmatic capacity.
- Collaborative philanthropy to take proven programs to scale instead of individual foundations constantly searching for innovative approaches.
- Collaboration with the public sector and policymakers, recognizing that public resources are necessary when taking programs to scale.
- Involvement of the American public as part of the solution.
While the opening day included a preconference advanced legal session featuring a very distinguished panel (which will receive a separate post), and I will shortly attend a legislative and regulatory update session, I am surprised by the lack of legal seminars in the program. In thinking about solutions to the "four challenges," I think you need to understand the nature and impact of our laws. Warner is absolutely on the money in emphasizing that foundation leaders must work with policymakers. I really would have loved to have seen someone like UCLA Law Professor Joel Handler (my former prof in an enlightening course called "Law and the Poor") speak at the Conference. On the other hand, I’m certain that we’ll see more of this in D.C. next year. Time to go.