What an amazing time we had at PEAK2021 Online! More than 1,300 members of our community gathered in May for eight days filled with candor, inspiration, and guidance that empowered us all to be change agents to drive equity in grantmaking practices and transform philanthropy. Throughout the event, we had a graphic facilitator translate insights from our mainstage programs into mind maps. We hope you’ll download and use these visual tools to help you continue the conversations you started at PEAK2021 within your own organizations and be a catalyst for change.
Black Voters Matter co-founder LaTosha Brown opened with the spiritual, “I Know I Have Been Changed.” What an inspiring way to begin PEAK2021! LaTosha shared her four-V strategy—vision, voice, values, and victory—to frame how we can engage with and invest in our communities. She challenged us to radically reimagine our nation without racism, and lean into discomfort as we push for the changes we know are needed.
Justice Funders brought together a five-star panel with Kimi Mojica, Maria Nakae, Cristina Yoon, Elaine Mui, Rebecca Van Sickle, and Curtis Yancy to help us think about all the ways that we can move from extractive to regenerative practices in philanthropy. They stressed that the scale of the solution must reflect the scale of the problem. In addition, we must work to shift power inside of our institutions, and although it is difficult to change the status quo, use the rejections we get as key information that can be used to better organize change-making efforts rather than wholesale rejection.
PolicyLink’s Michael McAfee and Amanda Navarro highlighted that in order to build trust with communities, our actions need to back up what we say. Our communities see when words and deeds don’t align, so if we are not simultaneously pushing for systems change while supporting immediate needs, then we are not being trustworthy partners. McAfee and Navarro urged funders to share power by letting communities decide where dollars go, to amplify the power of leaders already embedded in community, and to wield their power to redefine what success means and take on the burden of measuring impact.
Journalist and scholar Pamela Newkirk took the mainstage to share some key takeaways from her research on the impact of diversity training efforts. The findings are disappointing: these programs have not only failed to make workplaces more diverse, but they can result in backlash. But there is a simple solution that doesn’t involve multimillion-dollar consulting contracts and unconscious bias training. Hire a diverse set of employees. Treat them fairly and respectfully. Examine internal cultures and pursue the change inside that will fuel the change outside. And always lean into having uncomfortable conversations about race. It’s only through starting and sustaining those conversations that we can actively work toward greater equity.
Kerrin Mitchell from Fluxx moderated a dynamic discussion with three panelists—Sam Caplan, Dan Lammot, and Tim Robinson—that helped us understand all the ways in which we can be responsive, collaborative, and even transcendent grantmakers. They talked about how we can all work together—as funders and strategic business partners—to leverage technology to support the changes that philanthropy needs to make.
Boards and senior staff can often be the biggest barriers to adopting more flexible practices and altering processes that could benefit more communities and leaders of color. Our closing panel of Satonya Fair, Crystal Hayling, Carmen Rojas, and Sherece West-Scantlebury brought down the house with a refreshingly authentic and transparent view of what it means to lead as a woman of color during this time and what leaders can do to disrupt the status quo and be agents for positive change.
In yet another year where we couldn’t be together in person, the strength and spirit of this community shone through in each and every session. We’re so glad you were a part of PEAK2021 and hope to see you in person in New Orleans in 2022! Look for our call for speakers this summer and registration to open this fall.