Plenary Topics and Speakers

National Forum plenaries feature leading voices in the field and society at large discussing the pressing issues of our time. Please download our complete draft schedule grid for projected times for plenaries, concurrent sessions, and workshops. You may also be interested in our bios for our full list of confirmed plenary speakers or a list of planned concurrent sessions and workshops.

Plenary topics include:

cokie-roberts-and-ken-burnsThe Power of Storytelling (Wednesday, October 18th, 12 to 2 p.m.): Our 2017 National Forum kicks off with an interview of the celebrated American documentarian and filmmaker Ken Burns by the award-winning media commentator and author Cokie Roberts. They’ll discuss the power of storytelling and the media in shaping communities and civil discourse, his upcoming series on Vietnam, and much more. Confirmed speakers: Ken Burns, Filmmaker; Cokie Roberts, Political Commentator, ABC News and NPR; Nancy Cable, President, Arthur Vining Davis Foundation.

aahc-museum-photo copy Race, Equity, and Family Philanthropy (Wednesday, October 18th, 6:30 to 9 p.m.): Conversations and clashes around race and equity are becoming more common in our communities, in the media, and in philanthropy. We’re confronting the fact that, for far too many of our African-American neighbors, gaps in socioeconomic progress are still driven by race and history. It is tough work to face our hidden biases and the systemic biases around us, and to turn new understanding into action. In this special session, several of your peers will discuss their own journeys of learning and adaptation. They’ll share how their organizations began discussing racial equity challenges, how their journeys have progressed, and the results so far for their families, organizations, and philanthropy. Note: This special opening evening event will be held at the National Museum of African American History & Culture. Confirmed speakers: Joshua B. Bernstein, Board Member, Diane & Norman Bernstein Foundation; Ashley Snowdon Blanchard, Vice President, Hill-Snowdon Foundation; Drs. Jeff and Sivan Hines, Donors, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta; Nat Williams, Ph.D, Executive Director, Hill-Snowdon Foundation. Photo credit: Alan Karchmer/NMAAHC.

Pride of Place: Foundations Sustaining a Commitment to Place in a Rapidly Changing World (Thursday, October 19th, 8 to 9:30 a.m.): Join NCFP President Virginia Esposito along with leading place-based family foundations as they discuss early findings and themes from NCFP’s “Pride of Place” research project. Pride of Place explores how and why geographically dispersed families have retained a primary commitment to the communities and regions where the philanthropy was established.

Flint-water-pipes-VTU-sized-for-WP copyResponding, Recovering, Rebuilding, Becoming Resilient (Thursday, October 19th, 12 to 1:45 p.m.): Our daily news and social media feeds are filled with stories of communities in crisis. Some have the shocking immediacy of mass shootings and hurricanes. Others are tragic results of long-simmering problems such as racial tensions, police-community relations, and failed infrastructure. Generous families are always quick to respond with outpourings of money, volunteer time, compassion, and prayer. But what can those families do weeks, months, and even years later to help victims and communities recover and rebuild? And, how can they help rebuild trust in a community to ensure it is more resilient when the next crisis comes? Facilitated by Lori Bertman, President & CEO of the Irene W. & C.B. Pennington Foundation, this panel of your peers will describe how they faced crises head-on, dug in for the long run, and improved both their communities and their philanthropy. Confirmed speakers: Lori Bertman, President & CEO of the Irene W. & C.B. Pennington Foundation; Ridgway White, President, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. Photo credit: Kelsey Pieper and Min Tang/Virginia Tech University.

robert-putnam-150x150Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis (Friday, October 20th, 8 to 9:30 a.m.): The America we believe in is a nation of opportunity, constrained only by ability and effort. But during the last 25 years, an increasing number of families and communities are facing opportunity gaps. Those gaps have been reinforced by decreasing trust in communities, decreasing diversity in our social networks, and other social challenges. How can philanthropic families reach across all types of boundaries to offer more opportunity to all children? Professor Robert Putnam will discuss challenges described in his bestselling book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, solutions developed by an interdisciplinary group of foundations and experts, and the special roles he sees philanthropic families could play. Confirmed speakers: Lew Feldstein, Former President, New Hampshire Charitable Foundation; Robert Putnam, Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy, Harvard University.

phil-gwoke-300x180Bringing New Power to Family Legacy (Friday, October 20th, 12 to 2 p.m.: Younger generations are often attempting to forge their own paths while honoring family traditions and values. They’ve grown up wired for new ways of learning, volunteering, working, giving, and living. They want to bring those talents to their family’s giving, that is, if their families are willing to embrace the talents and adapt along the way.  This session, facilitated by Phil Gwoke from BridgeWorks, will feature intergenerational pairs sharing stories and tips for how families can successfully bring young, new power to longer-standing institutions and hopes.  Confirmed speakers: Phil Gwoke, Bridgeworks (moderator); Samir A. Desai, Founder and CFO, Desai Foundation; Megha Desai, President, Desai Foundation; Paul and Adam Growald, Board Members, Growald Family Fund; Phillip Henderson, President, The Surdna Foundation; Elizabeth Tanya Masiyiwa, Co-founder, Simba Education; and Tsitsi Masiyiwa, Founder and Executive Chairperson, Higherlife Foundation.