The last two weeks have been truly inspirational and humbling.
I spent time with over 4,000 national philanthropic and social sector leaders, activists and change agents at the PolicyLink Equity Summit in Chicago and the Association of Black Foundation Executives conference in Memphis. I was moved by the commitment across the country to confront our most difficult social challenges. Equally, I was energized by engaging in conversations with leaders wrestling with the same questions we’re facing here in Seattle.
I also had the distinct privilege to deliver the keynote address at the Northwest African American Museum (NAAM) Unity Luncheon at Benaroya Hall. The event featured the likes of former-Seattle Mayor Norman B. Rice, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, NAAM Executive Director LaNesha DeBardelaben, and emcee David Espinosa-Hall from King 5 News. Over the last 10 years, public spaces such as NAAM have proven to stand as an iconic symbol and curation of our rich Seattle legacy and our historic Black community.
Here is a brief excerpt from my remarks (in reference to displaced communities of color due to housing inaffordability and redevelopment):
I want to declare to you that right now we can reframe the narrative, the challenges and the unique opportunity for real, long term investment in the rich history of Seattle and the new broader King County. Right now, we can ensure that we all have a sense of place, belonging and community. Right now, we can give people who have been marginalized and victimized back the sense of agency that was taken from them, because there is trauma in our region that we’re not addressing. Right now, we can ensure that we provide the access to services and support that our kids and families deserve in education, housing and economic mobility.
Right now, we can take the necessary risks in our philanthropy and our giving to support the trusted allies and efforts that do the work.
As I engage in these conversations and spaces, I am continually reminded that the work of SVP Seattle, our partners and community investees is critical to the future and prosperity of this region. There is exceptional work happening and the impact is strong. Some of you may have seen our recent newsletter article featuring Southwest Youth and Family Services, and if not, I thought it was worth calling to your attention.
It highlights a key challenge that many nonprofits face – tracking and evaluating data, based on funder demands – and how SWYFS with the help of SVP Partners was able to tackle the challenge. It also shows how just one project can propel partners to aim higher to take on issues at a systems level – aiming to create a common data model for out-of-school-time programs.
And, in the months ahead we can and will do more to leverage our partners, authentically engage our communities, lead with humility and personal sacrifice and have a real conversation about the power dynamics in the social sector. My colleague Michael McAfee, incoming president and CEO of PolicyLink said that “power is the ability to create and change the rules.” We have the ability, and we can make the necessary changes in our organization and our broader network to reinvent philanthropy.
That’s why I hope to see you on Saturday, May 12 at SVP’s 20-Year Celebration (RSVP here). The evening will bring together the hundreds of philanthropists, nonprofit leaders and community members who have made the last 20 years possible as we celebrate how SVP has grown – and where we’re headed.
SVP Seattle, CEO