Monday, April 30, 2007

Mistakes were made

What’s the point of conferences? Schmoozing? Check. Information? Sometimes. Networking? Check. Hallway meetings? Check.

The 2007 Council on Foundations Conference made some significant changes to its structure, but its pretty much “inside-the-beltway” kind of stuff, probably not of much interest to those outside the conference. Content tracks, focused on themes, more music and culture, that kind of thing. It matters to those here (maybe) but not to blog readers.

But I have seen a few things of potential interest on a broader scale. I have about 12 COF Annual conferences under my belt, so I have some perspective on this. Here’s a list of changes and some thoughts on whether or not they matter. Add to it if you think of something, challenge me, and let the Council know:

• Bloggers are here, opening the doors (a wee bit) on these treasured, closed door sessions (You’d think it was the U.N or something)
o Does this really matter? You tell me – did you learn anything from reading about the conference that you would not have otherwise known? Did speakers change the way they spoke? (Arianna Huffington scooped herself, knowing there are bloggers here)
o I had tried to get COF to have a presence in SecondLife, to open sessions up to email questions and several other ways of opening the doors. Baby steps.
• More foundation CEOs are here than usual
• A wider range of political expression in sessions (President Bush’s Assistant Secretary of Human Services and Bill Schambra of the Hudson Institute)
• I’ve heard the term “we make mistakes” from several speakers and panelists, including Melinda Gates.
• Judging by the exhibitor hall, vendors to foundations may be proliferating even faster than foundations.

Having been to many conferences, I've also discovered a new spectrum for expected outcomes:

o Council on Foundations – networking within foundations
o Global Philanthropy Forum – networking across philanthropy and social enterprise (interested in deal making)
o Skoll World Social Forum – networking across social enterprise and academia
o Clinton Global Initiative – deal making and commitments

What have you learned from or about philanthropy from the 2007 COF conference? Let me know.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think your assessment is spot on. It's more of what I would call "the maddening calm."