In a week, 18 people senselessly lost their lives by gun violence in Atlanta and Boulder, and those are just the ones that made national news. As we collectively wrestle with the ways we can address and end white supremacy, misogyny, gun violence, hate, and the countless other social ills that plague us, we also recognize that many of us are in a much different place than a year ago. A year of loss and a global pandemic has illustrated the depths of our interconnectedness and has shifted how we see ourselves in the midst of our society’s greatest challenges. As leaders of nonprofits and foundations and community-based organizations, we want to do good. That’s in our missions and what we strive to do collectively as a sector. But are we? How do we know?
These kinds of questions and how to wrestle with them are part of this Independent Sector community. It is why we make community building such a crucial element of our work — because we are not going to reach the other side of this unless we get there together. It is why, when we were faced with the pandemic early last year, we shifted our Upswell engagement model to engage with you all virtually. In the past, we focused on the city where we’d host our summit in the fall. Los Angeles, Chicago, and then Pittsburgh were our place-based focal points. In 2020, we realized that bringing community to each of you, likely in your homes, was what we needed to do.
While vaccine rates may eventually get to a point where in-person events are a possibility at the end of this year, we are committing to keeping our entire program virtual to continue to connect people from all parts of our country. Our first opportunity to do that will be March 30 with a Upswell Pop-Up focused on trust, leadership, and racial equity. When we planned the event, we had no way of knowing that we’d be bringing our community together in the wake of two mass shootings, but know that what is happening in our nation will always be the backdrop to what we discuss and how we work to heal, care for one another, and build a healthy and just nation for the months and years to come. We also heard from you in your participation last year that people desired even more connection. So this year we are introducing several opportunities to go even deeper on the topics we explore in the Pop-Ups — from what was addressed to what perspective might be missing — in a way that deeply connects you all with one another. Stay tuned for more on that.
While we may feel weary of the troubles we face as a country, I am optimistic that if any sector of the United States is going to do something about it, it is the one from which we do our work. Civil society leaders and organizations have always helped this country face a new dawn, and we will do it together again.
Thanks for your partnership.