#CEP2017 Recap: Day 2

Ethan McCoy

Two days down, one to go here in Boston at Leading Effective Foundations, the 2017 CEP Conference! With an action-packed agenda, Day 2 covered a lot of ground and subject areas, from Phil Buchanan’s opening plenary sharing data and findings from recent CEP research, to insights from Doug Stone about receiving and giving feedback in a way that is helpful and productive, to a unique and dynamic one-woman performance from Tony Award-winner Sarah Jones to close out the night. Attendees also took part in the first series of breakout sessions of the conference, which included deeper dives on topics such as foundation culture and limited life philanthropy, to name a few.

Through tweets from attendees using hashtag #CEP2017, here is how Day 2 unfolded:

Following a kick-off to the day from Grace Nicolette, CEP’s vice president, programming and external relations, Jeff Poulos, executive director of Associated Grant Makers, welcomed attendees to the city of Boston, sharing some local flavor and history and adding an important regional grantmaking perspective about the critical role of philanthropy in the respective communities we each call home.

Poulos then welcomed CEP President Phil Buchanan to the stage for the morning’s first plenary, “Leading Effective Foundations in Complex, Changing Times.” Buchanan shared data from recently-published and yet-to-be-released CEP research about effectiveness, including a recent survey of foundation CEOs conducted earlier this year; findings from CEP’s recently-released report, The Future of Foundation Philanthropy; and a major study of program officers. Through this data, Buchanan raised important questions about topics such as how foundations are responding to the current context, how foundation leaders think they are doing when it comes to maximizing their impact, and what, from the grantee perspective, constitutes the most important determinants of an effective funder-grantee relationship. Interspersed with Buchanan’s presentation, attendees discussed in small groups, reacting to the data and sharing their own stories and experiences. Who says a 400-plus-person plenary can’t be interactive!

After lunch, Doug Stone, author of the best-selling Thanks for the Feedback and Difficult Conversations, delivered an honest, humorous, and insightful plenary about the challenges of navigating feedback well — on both the giving and receiving ends — in our work and personal lives. Covering the different forms feedback takes, as well as the various ways in which feedback can trigger us to process it unproductively, Stone’s message has particular relevance for foundations as they seek to learn from feedback from those they work closely with in ways that will lead positively to growth and improvement.

In back-to-back slates of breakout sessions, attendees then came together in smaller settings for panels and conversations focused on various topics, including, among others, purpose-built design in philanthropic projects, listening better to beneficiaries, evaluation, and nonprofit scale. Check out a smattering of tweets from attendees of various sessions throughout the day:

To close the day, the arts took center stage in the grand ballroom, starting with a performance from 19-year-old violist Mira Williams, a student at the New England Conservatory of Music. Williams is part of From the Top, a Boston-based nonprofit that empowers young people to engage and inspire music lovers of all ages. Following an introduction and interview with Media Impact Funders Executive Director Vince Stehle, Williams delivered a lovely piece with a piano accompaniment (see video below).

Following Williams’ performance, CEP Board Member Fay Twersky of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation welcomed performer and playwright Sarah Jones to the stage for a piece that the audience will not soon forget. Jones delivered a stunning one-woman performance, titled “The Foundation,” in which she took on the identities of several diverse characters to hold up a mirror to foundations. Playing out a meeting with board members and grantees, Jones illuminated the interplay between the different perspectives and ideas at play in philanthropy. It was only the second time Jones had performed the piece and it provided an engrossing, thought-provoking, and often times humorous conclusion to Day 2.

And of course, long live the Oxford Comma.

The CEP Conference wraps up on Thursday, April 6. Follow along #CEP2017 to stay in the loop and join the conversation!

For a recap of Day 1, see here.

Ethan McCoy is senior writer – development and communications at CEP.

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