Collaboration: Principled Conflict

May 2, 2012

Last weekend was a big one for organizations and people in the business of philanthropy.

Individuals ranging from CEOs to program staff of family, corporate, community and private foundations gathered together in Los Angeles for the Annual 2012 Council on Foundation Conference.  For many, the opening plenary on how philanthropy responded to crises in the past and how philanthropy might respond in the future set the tone for the remainder of the conference.

What did everyone walk away with? A need for more collaboration and public advocacy in finding solutions.

Twenty years ago in Los Angeles, it took the entire community – residents, organizations, businesses and government – to respond and begin rebuilding after one of the worst civil unrests in American history.

Stewart Kwoh, president of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, recalled how communities at that time worked largely in isolation with fragmented approaches to solve social inequality.  A spirit of collaboration was born in the wake of civil unrest that still continues in Los Angeles today.

Antonia Hernández, CEO of the California Community Foundation, confirmed that in comparison to other regions, philanthropy in L.A. is much more collaborative between the private, public and nonprofit sectors and among diverse individuals and groups.

The need for collaboration in responding dynamically to not just disasters, but to find solutions that advance the communities we serve was echoed by representatives from New Orleans and Detroit.  It was evident how foundations and grassroots organizations worked tirelessly together in response to Hurricane Katrina and are struggling through the decades-long decline of Detroit.

Have the responses and solutions to these disasters been perfect?  No. Change and problem solving happens incrementally, according to the panelists.

Although the topic involved looking back and reflecting on how philanthropy responded (or could have responded better) the panelists didn’t dwell on the past.  Rather, a larger issue at hand – that of economic inequity – was identified.  A need and urgency to use what we’ve learned from the civil unrest, Hurricane Katrina, and Detroit, to tackle the current issue of economic inequity was reinforced.

Thanks for reading,

California Community Foundation

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