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 updated NCFP Forum Schedule-at-a-Glance 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 (introduction)

aahc-museum-photo copy Race, Equity, and Family Philanthropy (Wednesday, October 18th, 6:30 to 10 p.m.): Conversations and clashes around race and equity are in the forefront in our communities, in the media, and in philanthropy. We’re confronting the fact that, for African Americans, gaps in socioeconomic progress are still driven by race and history. As philanthropists, we have a chance to confront the tough work of facing 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. Note: This special opening evening event will be held at the National Museum of African American History & Culture. Photo credit: Alan Karchmer/NMAAHC.

Confirmed speakers: 

  • Ridgway White, President, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation (introduction)
  • john a. powell, Director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, University of California, Berkeley (moderator)
  • Joshua B. Bernstein, Board Member, Diane & Norman Bernstein Foundation
  • Ashley Snowdon Blanchard, Vice President, Hill-Snowdon Foundation and Principal, Blanchard Consulting
  • Drs. Jeff and Sivan Hines, Donors, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta
  • Nat Williams, Ph.D, Executive Director, Hill-Snowdon Foundation.

A special thank you to the volunteers who helped shape the initial focus of this plenary: Carmen Anderson, Director of Equity and Social Justice, The Heinz Endowments; Tamara Lucas Copeland, President, Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers; Audrey Jacobs, former Director of the Center for Family Philanthropy, Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta; and Kathy Reich, Director, Buildings Institutions and Networks (BUILD), Ford Foundation.

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.

Confirmed speakers:

  • Alicia Philipp, President, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta (introduction)
  • Virginia Esposito, President and Founder, National Center for Family Philanthropy (moderator)
  • Eleonora Frey, Vice Chair Trustee, The Frey Foundation
  • Adam Gibbons, Board Member, Rasmuson Foundation
  • Geoffrey Gund, President & Treasurer, The George Gund Foundation
  • Rick Williams, Chief Executive Officer, Sobrato Family Foundation

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? 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.  Photo credit: Kelsey Pieper and Min Tang/Virginia Tech University.

Confirmed speakers:

  • Janine Lee, President & CEO, Southeastern Council of Foundations (introduction)
  • Katherine Lorenz, President, Cynthia and George Mitchell Family Foundation (moderator)
  • Lori Bertman, President & CEO of the Irene W. & C.B. Pennington Foundation
  • Mark Brewer, President and CEO, Central Florida Foundation

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:

  • Lisa Parker, President, The Lawrence Welk Family Foundation (welcome)
  • Lew Feldstein, Former President, New Hampshire Charitable Foundation (introduction)
  • 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:

  • Kelly Nowlin, Board Member, Surdna Foundation (welcome)
  • Phillip Henderson, President, The Surdna Foundation (introduction)
  • Phil Gwoke, Bridgeworks (moderator)
  • Samir A. Desai, Founder and CFO, Desai Foundation
  • Megha Desai, President, Desai Foundation
  • Paul Growald, Board Member, Growald Family Fund and Adam Growald, Board Member, Growald Family Fund and David Rockefeller Family Fund