As the parent of two school-aged children, I get to see more than my fair share of children’s movies. My current favorite is “Horton Hears a Who.” Horton, the elephant, hears a small yell and realizes that an entire civilization of Whos lives on a speck of dust. He makes it his life’s purpose to protect this little planet from the other animals in the jungle that don’t believe anyone lives on the speck. In the story’s climax (SPOILER ALERT) evil Kangaroo threatens to boil the speck of dust in oil. To prove their existence, all of the Whos yell together, “We are here, we are here!” until they can be heard by all of the other animals and save their planet from certain destruction.
I bring this up because I think the Whos and next generation foundation staff share a similar plight. For the last 10 years, organizations like Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP) have been doing herculean work to show that there are young people working in the philanthropic sector and that this group of professionals adds value to the field. During the last couple of years, this work has been bearing fruit. Through new partnerships among EPIP, Resource Generation, 21/64, and the Council on Foundations, the larger philanthropic field is starting to take notice. The Trading Power report is a visible result of that collaboration, but the more important changes that we are beginning to see are a lot more subtle. At next month’s Council on Foundations 2011 Annual Conference in Philadelphia, you will see more young people on panels and in plenary sessions, but you will also see more young people in the audience because foundations are investing in the professional development of their pipeline of leadership. This is an exciting trend in the field and we will all benefit from it.
We are here. We are here. WE ARE HERE.
Trista Harris is the executive director of the Headwaters Foundation for Justice and co-author of “How to Become a Nonprofit Rockstar.” She is also co-chair of the Council on Foundations Next Generation Task Force.