Monday, May 05, 2008

der Trans Gen

(Photos by G Kasper, courtesy of Resource Generation. The sign says "Equity for All" and was part of a posterboard titled "The Future of Philanthropy" with dozens of photos of COF participants holding signs of what they wanted to make that future look like.)

What does der Trans Gen mean? The hottest COF conference item was from the Next Gen groups, yellow or green stickers that said either "I am the next gen" or "I support the next gen." Of course, there were those ageless few (whom I won't name) wearing both. Others were playfully arguing about whether they are "in" the next gen or "supportive" of it. Some of us were ruing the fact that we never got be a next gen, because there wasn't really a generation of us. And those of us who live our lives crossing categories and fighting against stasis decided we were simply trans gen. With a nod to the conference's attempted inclusiveness and internationalism, Auf deutsch der Trans Gen. As Martha would say, its all good.

Good things are happening when there is music, crowds are gathering around laptop demos, and there are too many people in one room trying to see what others are doing, actively shmoozing, and shouting to be heard. (Not surprisingly, alcohol also helps). Good things are happening when you attend a conference for the 12th or 13th time and actually feel like something different is afoot. Good things are happening when you walk into a room at a conference you've attended for 12 or 13 years and see a lot of people you don't know, but might like to meet. And good things are happening when people you know and respect get the recognition they deserve.

Hats off to EPIP, Resource Generation, 21/64 and their partners* in making the next generation element of the COF conference a good party and much more. For making the conversations different, for challenging assumptions, for being there in large numbers, for emphasizing "next" in a way that is optimistic and up-for-the challenge, that presents a counterweight to arrogance and inwardness, and that is tech-enabled, diverse, inquisitive, and energetic by nature, not by session title. It was the best and most hopeful part of any COF conference I've ever attended. Thanks for making it happen.

Of course, this wouldn't be me if I didn't file one complaint. I keep hoping that philanthropy 2.0 will die as a buzzword, so I cringe whenever I see it. Even more reason to celebrate and assist the next gen moving into leadership roles - they will be the ones to dump the phrase.

*The Case Foundation, American Express, and others.


Rusty Stahl said...

Lucy - I cannot thank you enough for this glowing commentary about the presence of the next gen and generational issues at the COF Summit. Your words bolstered us while we were were in the midst of program implementation and exhaustion at the Summit.

The stickers and party were the highly visible component of our effort. Our six or so workshops, three emerging leader salons, and pre-conference events provided rich content on the generational opportunities facing philanthropy and nonprofits.

I want to make sure that credit is distributed appropriately. My organization, EPIP, along with Resource Generation and 21/64 and other "next gen" groups joined as equal partners with The Case Foundation, Knight Foundation, Goldhirsh Foundation and American Express in putting on the party. In face, the vision for the party - of fusing the next gen agenda with the philanthropy tech agenda -came from Michael Smith of Case. It was Michael who approached our next gen crew about coming together to transform our annual emerging leaders annual reception into something transformative.

So those sponsors that you asterixed and etceterad were not just financial sponsors to be listed at the bottom of the page, but programmatic partners to be recognized equally.

Lucy Bernholz said...

Right on Rusty - duly noted and another hat tip to you all. Really wonderful to know you ALL are out there. In fact, I came away from COF realizing "this is great - I don't need to go anymore, the future is here." Now, that may not be what you all had in mind, but, I do in fact think some of us need to move out and over. Speaking of which - if you know anyone who wants to work at Blueprint - we're hiring! Blueprint Research & Design, Inc.