I recently had the profound experience of hearing from U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón, who was a featured speaker at the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) conference. It may be no surprise—she is a poet after all—but her words have remained with me, and I carry them with me into this new year.
Limón’s poetry often refers to the hope that exists in moments of fear or uncertainty, and she spoke about the importance of having tough conversations, of extracting possibility out of contention. Through these conversations, trust is built, and within that trust lives the promise of a better tomorrow.
Examination of the way things are can be challenging, and having hard conversations about what must change to create a community where everyone can thrive is not without difficulties. But difficulty in discourse is not a reason to avoid it; on the contrary, we must have these conversations because they are difficult. A path forward can become clear when we willingly examine the fine points around issues of contention. Sometimes our beliefs are affirmed, other times we need to be brave enough to acknowledge our own misperceptions.
I am taking a cue from Limón to focus the year ahead on building unity through listening and building trust.
Like CEP, our work at the Community Foundation is grounded in asking and listening so that we can continuously improve ourselves and the many people we work with. We have worked with CEP over the last six years to ask for feedback and assess how we can better share information with both the nonprofit partners we work with, as well as the individuals, families and agencies that entrust us to inform their charitable giving.
To help guide us toward the edge of new possibilities, we have developed a new Community Indicators Dashboard that offers an assessment of our region in the areas of health, housing, education and economics. This is not a prediction tool or the end of a conversation – it is a starting point. The dashboard is an opportunity to look in the mirror and know where we currently stand and then imagine how we can build a better tomorrow in our community.
We need to hear the voices of everyone who calls our community home to innovate and build our future. Philanthropy leads with the heart, is informed by the head, and takes the hands of many to build new realities. The common thread holding us all together is found in listening. I am grateful for the trust our donors have placed in the Community Foundation, and I’m optimistic that as we continue to build relationships throughout our community, we’ll innovate solutions to the challenges we face. Trust-based philanthropy propels discussions, finds solutions, and delivers meaningful people-powered change. It is the hope that Limon speaks of in her poetry.
I’m curious: what changes in our community do you hope for in the New Year?