Last week, I had the pleasure of joining colleagues from the Bush Foundation, Ford Foundation, and the March of Dimes to talk about trust in civil society. We unpacked some of the data found in our new report, Trust in Civil Society, and had a wonderful conversation. I encourage you to watch if you missed it. We also had the pleasure of hearing from the head of corporate social responsibility at Edelman, who partnered with us to do the survey research. Among the points he made is that around the globe and in any industry, ethics eats competence for lunch.
Later in that same week, Independent Sector made a major announcement about the focus of our annual gathering, known as Upswell. When we began this year, in a much different place than we find ourselves today, we had hoped to cover the many ways our sector – made up of a diverse set of individuals, missions, and organization types – would gather to focus on how social change happens without prescribing too many themes. Obviously, the world has shifted dramatically and with it have come both extraordinary challenges to and opportunities for civil society. It was clear to us that we needed to respond to those challenges and opportunities and put a stake in the ground. So we shifted Upswell to focus on two things: COVID-19 recovery and anti-racism.
And so I hope you can see how the two events that we hosted last week are inextricably linked. For any of us who have led organizations in this sector for even a short while, we know trust is our currency. We live or die by whether the communities we serve, donors who support us, and our staff and volunteers who live the mission daily, trust us. How we, as leaders and as organizations, handle COVID-19 recovery and move toward ensuring our work is grounded in anti-racism, will lay the foundation for how people trust us for generations to come. And ultimately, it is not about how competent you are at either, but rather your ethical judgments and authentic commitment to take up this work and move forward toward progress.
Even as we move forward in our own decision to focus on these two commitments, we know full well we are not the experts on anti-racism or charting the sector’s path through this public health crisis. But that’s where you come in. Our sector is brimming with expertise and years of know-how. Upswell is your place to share your knowledge, break through our collective areas of inertia, and move forward together, no matter how developmental. And we aim to provide a platform that allows for as comprehensive a spectrum as possible of what we need to unleash social change – from sense making to reflection to tough conversations to activism. We need it all.
This work is messy. It will always be messy. But it is required. I am confident that the individuals and organizations that make up this great sector of our country can fully and humbly step into the work of pandemic recovery and anti-racism, and Independent Sector is committed to journey alongside you.
It is not too late to submit your ideas for sessions for our Upswell Summit in October and we encourage you to do so. We will also continue to hold our virtual monthly Upswell Pop-Ups before then. Thank you for taking this journey with us thus far.
Let’s keep going.