Last week I had the pleasure of attending for the first time the Experience Music Project’s Pop Music conference in Seattle – mostly to be a good supporter of my ethnomusicologist partner and to take a needed break from work. What a refreshing dip into an entirely different “pool.” As I face the prospect of attending the Council on Foundation’s Summit in May, I find myself longing for a time when COF (and the field in general) would take a few cues from the EMP. Specifically, I wish that philanthropy conference organizers would focus on diversifying attendees in order to create dynamic space that allows for unusual alliances and novel ideas to emerge. At the EMP conference there were academics, journalists, artists, and “betweeners” (someone who does not fit neatly in those categories such as me, a nonprofit leaders who cares about the role of art and culture in social change). This set the right tone for vibrant discourse, setting a stage that forced people to get out of their comfort zone. The end result was an exciting exploration and exchange of ideas about emerging issues in popular music. So let’s take a minute to try to “reimagine” the COF summit as a place where all who participate in and/or benefit from philanthropy (and the “in betweeners” who might help shape its future direction) come together, recognizing their interdependence in service to a common cause to learn, share and grow. I don’t think I am alone when I say, “I’m ready for that.” This spring what might have sprung if COF had focused on creating a common meeting ground for a vigorous mix of people and ideas?
More to come on the reality of the Summit when I join the other 2,5000 attendees next month.