GHC Conversation 2011 Synthesis

Fourteen social sector and philanthropy executives gathered on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina in late March 2011 for our third Conversation. We accepted as the platform for our thinking this year the notion of learning from the future: the personal, organizational, community, and societal interrelationships that will most deeply shape the practice and promise of philanthropy in the year 2030.

As in previous years, participants were asked in advance to write and submit an original essay on one aspect of what they believe we must learn from the future. Each essay coaxed the author out of his/her current “moment” and forced a short walk with uncertainty. This step was essential to moving participants away from techniques and models and more toward personal “openings.” Beyond that, the essays jump-started our conversation because of their collective range and depth.

Unlike the mood and tenor of Conversation 2010, the overarching sense of our collective thinking and spirits this year was that everything we need is here. Over four days, our formal and informal exchanges took on many frames. Philanthropy, of course, was often a starting point for discussion—yet we went deeper than that. Organizational adaptation was another constant—yet we went deeper than that. We held up the natural tensions of wanting to drive toward answers and solutions, only to come gently back to several recurring themes of our discussion, each of which helped us conceptualize what we must do to learn from the future, to truly understand the depth of the idea of interrelationship, and to see with new eyes the practice and promise of philanthropy. Inevitably, no summary adequately conveys the scope and depth of the gathering. I will post here in the coming days key highlights of this Conversation.