Upswell Summit 2021

The Upswell Summit 2021 takes place this week virtually bringing together “thousands of changemakers, hundreds of speakers, brilliant thought leaders, inspired innovators, and powerful creators to unleash civil society’s fullest potential.”

Our shared purpose: building a racially just and healthy society where every person can thrive.

Othering & Belonging Conference – Highlights

This year’s Upswell Summit registration offered the opportunity to also attend the Othering & Belonging Conference organized by the Othering & Belonging Institute (OBI) at UC Berkeley. The OBI describes its approach as follows:

The Institute [takes an interdisciplinary approach to developing forward-looking solutions to our world’s greatest challenges] by advancing research, policy, and ideas that examine and remediate the processes of exclusion, marginalization, and structural inequality—what we call othering—in order to build a world based on inclusion, fairness, justice, and care for the earth—what we call belonging.
  • OBI Director John Powell advised the audience not to start bridging with the most extreme case but to start bridging with someone closer to home where you can make real progress. Judith Butler argued that groups bridging with other groups with other views will strengthen, not weaken, their position. Opening Conversation: The Risk & Possibility of Bridging
  • Loretta Ross’ story about being a survivor of rape and incest (among other deeply traumatic events) and then working in prisons with rapists was incredibly compelling. Ross explained: “Just because one has the power to wound me, to maybe even exacerbate my trauma, is not the reason to cut off conversation because then my trauma dictates who I am, and I’m not self-determining about who I am.” Keynote Panel – The Risk & Possibility of Bridging

Upswell – Highlights Day One

Main Stage: Dr. Gail Christopher, john a. powell, Uma Viswanathan, and Dan Cardinali

MC Ji Suk Yi opened Upswell 2021 and noted that the gathering was focused on just two main themes: health and racial justice. New Pluralists Executive Director Uma Viswanathan introduced the 2021 John W. Gardner Leadership Award Recipients – Dr. Gail C. Christopher and Professor john a. powell.

The world goes round, always has, always will, but you can be centred, let go and become still. Turn your vision from the scenery you are seeing. Close your eyes and realize, you are that Being. In the hustle bustle outside, do not miss deep within your heart is a fountain of bliss. It has always been there, just covered by a veil – a joy that remains ever fresh, never goes stale. It’s merely out of ignorance that people fight. Differences drop effortlessly on seeing the inner light. Of all Nature’s forces, love binds the universe. What is built will perish, what has come will be gone. Our Spirit is eternal, will continue to live on. On this colorful path, we sing, dance, laugh and meditate.Established in wisdom, all gets done and we simply celebrate.

Ravi Shankar

Author Heather McGhee (The Sum of Us) spoke about her mother Dr. Gail Christopher.

Independent Sector CEO Dan Cardinali then moderated a discussion with Dr. Christopher and Professor powell.

  • The struggle of belonging continues. – jp
  • Caring, love, kindness, and belief in people and in ourselves has great power. – GC
  • Vast majority of Americans are unhappy about the polarization. It’s toxic and destroying us. But change causes stress. And there is much change going on from climate change to the pandemic to demographics. Fear is the first emotion we learn according to neurobiologists. So traders on fear have a head start. But we are connected to each other and the Earth, literally. The connections don’t stop at borders. And we have a need to belong on a personal level, a structural level, and an institutional level. – jp
  • I see progress in healing the self as the wounded warrior for change. When 20 million people marched in the streets to protest the injustice of the murder of George Floyd, we never saw this mass of energy for healing before. We’re so close; we can’t fumble the ball. Over 200 jurisdictions and the leader of the CDC declared racism as a public health crisis. These are tremendous turning points to the barriers of our humanity. This is time of great transformation, and I refuse to allow a minority that preaches hate and division to be the dominant narrative in my experience. – GC
  • Declaration of Independence: It is self-evident that all [people] are equal. We don’t need to prove this. Every major religion says we’re connected to each other. So why have we had redlining and other ways to separate people. Humans have to find a way to live together. Not just by attacking each other but by loving and telling stories. We need to reject the idea of any kind of group supremacy. – jp
  • This is the time to create new models of love, caring, and connection and make the old models obsolete. – GC
  • It’s not just loving each other but making sure our structures (on multiple levels) reinforce the theme that we belong. We have to call people in and not just call people out.- jp

From Ace to Z: Equity Considerations in the ACE Act

  • ACE Act has provisions applicable to donor advised funds (DAFs) and private foundations (PFs)
    • Time limits on advisory privileges to DAFs
    • For complex assets donated to DAFs, charitable deduction is tied to amount available in DAF, not appraised value
    • Closes loopholes in requirement that PFs pay out 5% of assets
    • Incentivizes PFs to pay out more (e.g., excise tax on investment income is 0% if PF payout is 7% or more)
    • Closes loophole of DAF distributions ‘converting’ what should be PFs into public charities
  • Equity, shifting of power, redistribution of wealth – on process and on outcomes – on individuals and on systems
    • Equity and donors – are they all treated the same, do they get similar benefits from their contributions?
    • Equity and nonprofit organizations – are they all treated the same?
    • Consider whether equity and fairness always go together – probably not (but need to look at time frames).
  • Missing data:
    • Who are DAF holders? – This will help us project where charitable giving will go and whether equitable outcomes will result. If mostly affluent DAF holders, based on their past giving practices, the equitable outcomes are not likely to be groundbreaking.
    • How are we defining equity and justice for these purposes?
    • How are decisions made within organizations?
  • Is equity really advanced if we get more dollars to ‘working charities’ – the principal rationale of the ACE Act? There is a question about whether to invest the nonprofit sector’s political capital on the ACE Act vs. other initiatives is well-placed at this time.
  • ACE Act current status: Still in progress. Bipartisan bill, but still not introduced yet in House or Senate. The issues will not disappear and at least some changes proposed in the Act have a good chance of moving forward. But because there are so many underlying questions and there are possible alternative solutions to advance equity, we need to identify better what problems we’re trying to solve in terms of allocation of resources and at what level should we address these problems.
  • Interesting discussion on whether the much narrower focus of the ACE Act may disrupt the bigger issues and problems that inform the ACT Act and so much more.

Main Stage: Rev. Branden Polk, Antong Lucky, and Dr. Buster Soaries, Jr.

  • We were introduced to the late Bishop Omar Jahwar who held the first Heal America tour event to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his principles of nonviolence. 
  • Antong Lucky, inspired by Bishop Omar, as a leader of the Dallas Blood gang, not only changed his life to make his neighborhood better but went to the rival Crips gang to ask for forgiveness and unity and community-building. He is a Redemption Activist (redemption is available to everyone) who proclaims that we need to find how to love those we disagree with.
  • Rev. DeForest Soaries discussed the principles on which this country was founded: equal justice, inclusion, respect for the dignity of every person. He noted that Dr. King said that we want America to be true to what the founders placed on paper. Soaries further stated that our work is not just to identify solutions to our most intractable challenges, but to execute them.

Upswell – Highlights Day Two

Main Stage: LaTosha Brown, Angela Davis, and Angela Glover Blackwell

I unfortunately missed this session while participating in a meeting of the Advisory Board of the National Center on Philanthropy and the Law, but I was able to find some highlights on Twitter and the Upswell Team’s recap:

  • “I believe that we are creating something that has never been created before….We have to bring our radical imagination to the very idea of activism…to birth something completely new.” – AGB
  • “This is what our ancestors who fought slavery were fighting for, this very moment. We have to guarantee that we take advantage of the moment.” – AD
  • “You can’t be in a system that is rooted in white supremacy and expect justice to come out of that.” – LB
  • “[This] is a moment for us to radically reimagine every single system in this country…. We need to see ourselves as founders of a new America.” – LB

Main Stage: Elisha Rhodes, Ekundayo Bandele, Stacy Palmer, and Dan Cardinali

Reference: See Health of the U.S. Nonprofit Sector (Independent Sector)

Cardinali called to attention some of the data and numbers about the nonprofit sector reflected in the Report, including those showing the impact of COVID-19. The loss of 1.6 million jobs due to the pandemic was sobering even if we’ve seen a partial recovery. And organizations led by BIPOC leaders, arts organizations, and small organizations were particularly hard struck as was more explicitly described by the speakers.

  • Middle class America may also be a marginalized group and should not completely hold the burden of giving more. We need to not only ask middle class America how they can show up for nonprofits but also ask nonprofits what they can do for middle class America. – ER
  • Government support, including the PPP loans, really made a difference. – EB
  • Same folks that were left out before COVID (including indigenous and rural and LGBTQ+ communities) are still being left out. Our jobs are not just to get people back on their feet but to get them into a position to thrive. – ER
  • The disabled community has also been and continues to be left out. – EB
  • The mental health of staff needs to be addressed. – ER

Winning on Equity: Moving Philanthropy from Intention to Impact

Reference: Moving from Intention to Impact: Funding Racial Equity to Win (PolicyLink)

  • What it means to win on equity. Need to change our mindsets and what we do. We need to center 100 million people living at or near poverty and holding ourselves accountable. We need to recognize and name that racial equity IS the work and bring our full organizational assets to the effort and mobilize others to do the same.
  • ABFE provides guidance for critical areas of work to fund (see p. 19 of PolicyLink publication referenced above).
  • What are the leading edges of the equity movement? Grantmakers shouldn’t dictate this.
  • The North Star of governance should use a racial equity lens because that’s how we’re doing work for all.
  • Organizations need to see each others as partners rather than competitors in leading transformation. The work necessitates collaboration. It can drive some leaders crazy with its disruptiveness, but joining together is the only path to transformation and may end up being the most fun work leaders do. Leaders are tired of competing and fighting with each other. They are ready to create the space to see abundance and transformative change. It’s not a money problem.
  • “If you’re in the seat, do the job.” – Michael McAfee

Main Stage: Maria Yuan

Maria Yuan, the recipient of the 2021 American Express NGen Leadership Award, discussed IssueVoter, the charity she founded. IssueVoter offers an online platform where individuals can become informed on key issues, make their voices heard, and track their representatives’ voting records. It looks like a great nonpartisan tool for communicating constituent voices. I hope funders provide funding for IssueVoter to be able to offer a multilingual platform – this would be a great investment in equity.

Main Stage: Rep. Betty McCollum, Nonoko Sato, Dan Cardinali

It was refreshing to see a member of Congress show a more comprehensive understanding and appreciation of the nonprofit sector and its economic and public impact. Here is a list of Legislation Sponsored or Cosponsored by Rep. McCollum. Rep. McCollum also noted the need for a federal office of nonprofits. See Independent Sector Proposes a Federal Office of Nonprofits. But an executive order creating such an office could always be reversed by a federal order, which is why legislation is preferred.

Upswell – Highlights Day Three

Main Stage: Dr. Han Ren

Han Ren discussed the human emotions of shame and guilt and how they are related to collective liberation and racial justice. While they are related emotions and often thought of as negative, they have a reparative component that’s important in our learning how to be more pro-social and anti-racist.

  • Unconscious incompetence (ignorance) leads to inaction by White people and pandering to Whiteness, colluding with White supremacy, and survival for BIPOC.
  • Conscious incompetence (shame) leads to complacency and helplessness for White people (White tears) and bitterness, resentment, hopelessness, and victim mentality for BIPOC.
  • Conscious competence (guilt) leads to uncentered action and inauthentic leadership in White people and overwork and tokenization in BIPOC.
  • Unconscious competence (collective liberation) leads to multiracial, non-hierarchical, consistently generative action and rest to dismantle all supremacy, based on principles of collective care.
  • What was harmed in community must be healed in community.
  • Collective liberation requires us to consistently integrate anti-oppressive action into daily life.
  • What happens “out there” is also happening “in here.”

Philanthropy’s Quest for Equity: Past, Present, Future

Carol Glanville and Tiana Hawver started with some history of systemic injustices that have harmed communities of color throughout our country’s history and the evolution of philanthropy and social justice movements on a fascinating graphic timeline that I hope will be made available online.

  • Government distrust of philanthropy has been around since the Progressive Era (1880s – 1916). Philanthropy itself has reflected the White establishment though has also been impacted by various social movements. The growth of philanthropy in the past few decades has been immense but overall grantmaking is still tiny compared to the federal budget. Still astounding to be reminded of inequities and injustices that continue to be pervasive.
  • Digital era (2000 – present) still reflects a lack of funding to BIPOC-focused organizations and big philanthropy controlled by a very few. While there have been significant efforts at promoting equity and inclusion in philanthropy, the inequities persist and are exacerbated by global problems like climate change and pandemics.
  • Where will we be in 2070? This will depend on our reflection on hiring and leadership, policy and practice within foundations; our advocacy; our community engagement; and how we choose to address root causes of structural racism.

Main Stage: Grace Kelly and J. Dash

As an Asian American jazz saxophonist in high school (that can’t have been that long ago!), I was thrilled to hear Grace Kelly speak and learn that cereal isn’t a soup and a hot dog isn’t a taco. J. Dash was an awesome interviewer too! I loved that Grace spoke about asking questions and listening as a way to make our world better. Right in line with the messages at the start of the gathering and the preceding Othering & Belonging Conference.

Wail, Grace!

I loved the diverse representation of speakers at Upswell! Thank you to Independent Sector and all the organizations and people that put this wonderful gathering together. See you next year!

More Summaries

2021 Upswell Summit: Looking Back and Ahead at Our Inspired Future (Independent Sector)