It’s 2017 and we are reminded now more than ever that the world is changing. Without a shadow of a doubt, the nonprofit sector has to respond to these changes. Philanthropy has a duty to trade in the old way of doing things for new innovative methods to meet the needs of the communities we serve.
That’s where the Our Common Future conference comes in. Each year, national nonprofit leaders meet to discuss how to improve the nonprofit sector globally. This year, we converged in Detroit, Michigan, a city that faces immense poverty, high rates of unemployment, a fractured economy, and a struggling public education system.
Nonetheless, Detroit is a city full of promise. Once known as the Motor City, Detroit built a thriving black middle class through employment in the auto industry. Detroit of yesteryear looks a lot different today. Automotive factories have been abandoned. Naturally, joblessness and homelessness increased substantially.
When local and national government intervention fails, the nonprofit sector is tasked with bearing the burden of rebuilding what has been broken. During the conference, I learned that not all hope is lost. We heard from nonprofit leaders from institutions like the Kresge Foundation, Council of Michigan Foundations, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and many more.
On day two, I attended the main stage plenary session where I was introduced to an extraordinary philanthropic leader who accepted the 2017 American Express NGen Leadership Award. The CEO of Native Americans in Philanthropy, Sarah Eagle Heart, works with faith-based communities on cross-sectional public policy initiatives with, and for, diverse communities internationally.
After hearing her speak, I was more than inspired. She demonstrated that in a world where possibilities seem dismal and social change is nearly impossible to create — anyone can make a difference. I’ll leave you with the words of wisdom she bestowed on all of the attendees: “If you found the right people motivated by the intention to create impact, pathways open and magic happens.”
Let’s make magic together through a common future where philanthropy means more than giving. Rather, it means creating endless opportunity and making sure social change turns from a dream to a tangible reality.
NGen Leadership Award Winner Sarah Eagle Heart joined 2017 John W. Gardner Leadership Awardee Rosanne Haggerty, president and CEO of Community Solutions, on the main stage Thursday, October 26 at Our Common Future for a conversation moderated by Stephen Henderson of the Detroit Free Press.