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Changing Momentum August 6, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjcallen @ 12:15 am

The last week of July I experienced two amazing bookend events: Momentum and Raising Change.  Allow me to paint with broad stokes a picture of these two conferences that does not do justice to the complexities and nuances of each. 


Momentum was the star vehicle — a major event that featured leading thinkers and opinion leaders on the pressing issues of our time. John Edwards spoke.  Many well-known figures in the progressive world came together to learn, network and perhaps potentially work (better) together. The conference focused on bright ideas; content was intellectually stimulating as well as sometimes emotionally moving. One might characterize it as an “elite” gathering but above all, I would characterize it as inspirational.  I felt very fortunate to have been part of this gathering.


Contrast this with Raising Change, a conference designed to help grassroots organizations develop stronger fundraising approaches and strategies that link money to mission. This was a conference focused on action and attended by the organizers who are on the frontlines of  community change efforts. The event conveyed a sense of urgency coupled with a desire to reach out and bring more people to the table. The event also was built on recognition of the vital role of money in movement building and reminded activists that they too often underestimate the link between money and in promoting social change. It was a warm welcoming environment infused with a strong sense of collegiality and commitment.


What’s wrong with this picture? Two cornerstones of progressive movements gather in San Francisco during the same week but never, ever connect with each other. The “thinkers” and the “doers” need each other – no surprise here.  All the great “thinking” remains not fully actualized until it falls into the hands of people on the ground who are willing and able to implement it.  All the great “doing “ equally falls short of success if not grounded in theory and fueled by rigorous thinking, learning and reflection.  Let’s work toward changing this picture by creating a new, “third way” type of gathering that brings everyone together in a way that strengthens progressive thought and action while providing the momentum needed to change the world.


For more information about the great work being done by GIFT, the organizers of Raising Change conference please check out their website





The Missing Moment at Momentum August 4, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — cjcallen @ 11:45 pm

In late July I was fortunate to have been able to attend Momentum, a social justice conference that brings together donors, academics and activists to engage in “big picture” thinking about emerging issues, strategies and opportunities.  This was my first time attending this event, which was at time sobering but mostly inspiring. Each day reminded me that as progressive we have our Achilles heel: ineffective (insider, jargon-laden speak) communications about what we stand for, which leads to failure to move people who do not already profess to believe in our agenda. What gave me hope was the dizzyingly array of smart, savvy and dedicated people working to create a better world yet willing to be self-critical about why we seem to be losing ground as a movement for social change. 

Climate change is THE (social justice) issue of our time.  Fortunately, we have all the technology that we need to stem the tide of global warming. The essential challenge, however, remains in amassing the political will to respond in a way that just, equitable and strengthens community. My pet peeve: in all this talk about the urgency to respond quickly and with force by harnessing all the technological power we already have, there was not a single mention of an essential strategy to ensure the survival of all living creatures on the planet: population control. Now I know about the checkered past of population control but that does not mean that we should stop the conversation. We must pick up that thread, acknowledging mistakes from the past but forge ahead by placing it front and center in the discourse. When I was a child, I remember learning the term “zero population growth.” (I think I wrote a paper on this topic when I was in the 6th grade.) For progressives to simply remove this concept from a conversation focused on solutions to the problems of sustaining life on this planet is to shirk our responsibility to lead with the combination of smarts and integrity that is required to keep global warming from reaching the point of no return.