Right here, right now! – Observations on The Power of Now: Northern California Grantmakers 2016 Conference

Eckhart Tolle wrote the Power of Now to emphasize the importance of being present to the moment at hand. The book is a powerful treatise on living with intentionality and impact. Recently, Northern California Grant Makers and Microsoft Silicon Valley (@MicrosoftSV) convened a conference called, The Power of Now with a similar intent. This one day event which promised a discussion of how to galvanize and make the most of critical moment[s], in partnership with others in our communities, was held on Microsoft's Mountain View campus. And, on the day a coalition of panelists and speakers waxed lyrical on issues of race, gender, technology, criminal justice reform, poverty, and geopolitics. 
 
The Power of Now conference opening plenary keynote was by Ian Haney Lopez (@IanHaneyLopez), of UC Berkeley's School of Law. Professor Lopez, who recently published a book entitled, Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class, shared his insights on the importance of being diligent in raising one's awareness of when "coding" (what he defines as using fear and latent messaging to get people to appeal to certain policies) is being used to drive a hidden agenda. The critical importance of "decoding the agenda" became an important theme throughout the rest of the day's workshops.  Professor Lopez tendered a call to action in support of being ever present to divisive politics and for "an inclusion revolution" that transcends race, gender, and political ideology in support of goals that improve the lot of the poor – a central task of modern corporate philanthropy.
 
"Race isn't real, racism is", Renku Sen
 
As the day progressed, the dual themes of "decoding" and "impact" were interwoven throughout the agenda. During a particularly illustrative session entitled, "Philanthropy, Race, and Gender" with Renku Sen of Race Forward; Google.org Principal, Justin Steele; Nicole Collins-Puri of the Women's Foundation of California;  Josh Kirschenbaum of PolicyLink; and Taj James of the Movement Strategy Center serving as moderator; the nexus of race, impact driven strategy, metrics and data, corporate philanthropy, and innovation was discussed. Renku Sen, argued for the importance of, "telling a compelling story" and using, "data to back it up." While Justin Steele shared an anecdote on his very real struggle to bring social (and racial) awareness to Google's roughly 48,000 employees. Cumulatively, the panel argued for the importance of being strategic and values-driven when integrating progressive values on race, gender (and other "isms") into CR programming and activities. In practical terms, Taj James emphasized using the SRR method -- be Specific (define clear goals, outcomes, and impacts); be Relational (build partnerships, using the story); and be Reflectional (provoke inside/out questions) -- to build partnerships with internal CR stakeholders when building programming around these topics. 
 
As the day came to a close, Van Jones (@VanJones68) -- who was clearly (and publicly) mourning the loss of his friend, the musician, Prince -- joined Jason Grumet of the Bipartisan Policy Center; Larry Kramer of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; PowerPac+'s  Aimee Allison; and KQED's Scott Shafer (moderator) in an occasionally contentious discussion on the rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump and what they reflect in American voter attitudes. Van, appearing at times exasperated by his fellow panelists, argued that "Progressives" are missing the point. This generation is the "Social Media and Reality TV Generation" and in reality TV, the outrageous bully wins. Donald Trump knows this and he is speaking the language of the people. In a chilling omen, Van compared Donald Trump to FDR, JFK, and Obama, stating that, "FDR understood Radio's impact, JFK understood TV’s, Obama understood the internet’s, and Trump understands Social Media’s impact on the population." Larry Kramer argued that American Democracy is in trouble and that as citizens (and philanthropists) we need to focus on, "rebuilding the institutions that make this democracy work."  In summary, the panel posited that American Democracy is at an inflection point, and that an assault on progressive American values is beginning to take shape, led by Donald Trump…and to defeat this assault, it will take a coalition of Clinton, Obama, and Sanders voters working together to continue to move the country forward.
 
Were you in attendance at The Power of Now 2016? Have a different or similar takeaway? Please feel free to share your experience with me on Twitter @iiikaizeniii or LinkedIn, and let’s keep the conversation going.
 
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