During the 18-month course of this pandemic, one of the things that has struck me is how changemakers in this community – nonprofit and philanthropy leaders, activists, academics, social entrepreneurs, and community organizers – are speaking up about taking care of themselves as full human beings in service to a cause.
It is one of the driving themes of feedback we’ve received from the thousands of people who we have engaged through Upswell events over the last two years. The focus on wellness and the links between self and community care have driven more attention to our own mental health, recognition of how pain, trauma or grief shapes everything else we do, and gives us an opportunity to rethink how we operate within organizations or communities we serve. It’s a sea change that I am thrilled to see happening in real time.
These concepts, and how we use the power of self and community care toward collective action, will be the focus of a discussion I will lead between the recipients of the 2021 John W. Gardner Leadership Award at Upswell this year. The recipients, Professor john a. powell and Dr. Gail Christopher, represent bodies of work that strike at the heart of two areas that are critical to our collective path toward a healthy and just nation. In the wisdom of the Gardner Award Selection Committee, comprised of Independent Sector members, they chose to highlight two incredible areas in our efforts toward racial justice: healing and belonging.
Dr. Gail Christopher, currently the executive director of the National Collaborative for Health Equity, is best known for her pioneering work to infuse holistic health and racial equity practices into public sector programs and policy discourse. In fact, there are few among us in the social sector who are unaware of her role in shaping the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation efforts. Professor john a. powell, director of the Othering & Belonging Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, is behind transformative concepts we use in our daily work, such as targeted universalism, and a tireless champion for the theories behind how bridging difference creates the necessary condition of belonging in order to move toward a racially just world.
Not only are we bringing these incredible leaders together at Upswell for our opening Main Stage session on October 20, but attendees also have a chance to connect with one another in an Exchange immediate after our talk to unpack and take a deeper dive into how healing, bridging, and belonging help get us to a shared vision for our communities. The recognition that our own self-healing work also enables us to be a better, stronger, more capable resource for others is a theme that will show up at Upswell, but that’s not where we know the conversation starts or ends.
While we hope you join us for the summit – October 20-22 – we are committed to continuing to journey with you as leaders in your organizations and communities to unlock our own personal and community healing toward a nation where all people can truly thrive.