[Editor's Note: We asked contributors for a final, reflective blog entry from the San Antonio conference. Here's what Nina had to say.]
One striking difference between this conference and previous ones is the public officials who came to participate in deep and meaningful ways. Instead of posing for photographs and leaving, mayors and lieutenant governors stayed as partners.
It’s just plain exciting to see a mayor like Jay Williams from Youngstown, Ohio, articulate the power of collaboration across the government, philanthropic, and business sectors, to address issues of a city crumbling after the steel industry pulled out.
Or to hear Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish of New Mexico discuss creating an Office of Philanthropy to coordinate across sectors—all to help children in that state because too many go hungry.
We are finally seeing concrete examples of government, business, and philanthropy collectively leverage their ability to affect change. And we’re meeting government and foundation staffs that are making this happen.
Clearly, a new leadership is emerging—one with the skills and abilities to work across sectors and one that is going to challenge the rest of the country. Cities with community foundations or other philanthropic organizations that bring partners together will be poised to capitalize on this unprecedented flow of billions of dollars of federal funding. Cities that don’t, will feel the loss.
Many of us feel that the true test of the philanthropic sector’s ability to collaborate doesn’t only lie with government and business, but our success hinges on including the neighborhoods and cultural groups that have historically been left out of the planning.
Nina Smart is with The Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation.