September 1, 2008

What We're Doing On the Ground

I'm packing my bags for Chicago - headed there for Grassroots Grantmakers' first "on the ground" gathering with fifty of my most respected colleagues. With this event, we're combining two practices that have been at the heart of our network since its inception - learning in place and learning from each other.

The learning in place part is about context - that the work of grassroots grantmaking is tailor made to where it exists "on the ground". This week, the place is Chicago, and specifically the neighborhoods on Chicago's South and West sides. We are partnering with two Chicago member organizations, the Woods Fund of Chicago and the Steans Family Foundation to help us get grounded in their work in these places. And, since this is Chicago, where community organizing is in the water, the theme that runs through our time together will be building resident power and capacity for change. We'll spend this Thursday out in Chicago neighborhoods, getting an "on the ground" perspective of the work of these two funders in these two areas of Chicago.

On Friday, we'll use our common experience "on the ground" to go deeper into the work that we are all doing in our hometowns to build resident power and capacity for change. This day will focus on learning from each other - what happens when people engaged in the practice of grassroots grantmaking from different communities having enough time together, face to face, to do more than compare notes. Since networking and sharing is the goal, this gathering is small by design. But the people who are coming are big in vision, experience and perspective, an indication that the sharing will be extremely rich. Included will be foundation presidents, program officers, community residents, grantmaking committee members, technical assistance providers, community organizers, evaluators, and bankers - an amazing group of people and perspectives that will allow us to get a unique look at the question that we're all asking - "why is this so hard?"

I'll be blogging this week from Chicago to give you an update on how it's going and to share some of the gems that we're sure to discover. Stay tuned.....

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