Like Michael (see the post below), I'm in Philadelphia for a few days to report on and network at Independent Sector's 2008 annual conference. As the conference tagline ("Our Hopes, Our Voice, Our Future") suggests, these are uncertain times -- for the economy, for the nonprofit sector, and especially for the least advantaged and most vulnerable among us. But the election of Barack Obama as our next president and the seeming rejection of business as usual that his election implies have most people at this conference looking ahead with guarded optimism. Optimistic that the possibility of change -- in our social, economic, and geopolitical priorities; in our rancorous political discourse; in our relationship to the natural world and the systems that sustain life on the planet -- is real; and guarded in that optimism due to a sober recognition of the magnitude of the challenges we face.
There's also a sense among attendees that the election of Barack Obama represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity for nonprofits and the nonprofit sector. An opportunity to reframe in broad, inclusive ways issues that are at the heart of the challenges we face. An opportunity to knock down many of the racial, sectarian, demographic, and gender barriers that divide us as a people. An opportunity to use new technologies to connect people to causes, causes to coalitions, and coalitions to action.
As IS board chair Brian Gallagher and IS president and CEO Diana Aviv put it in their message to conference attendees: "There is no better time than now for nonprofit leaders to come together to set a collective agenda -- one that will help steer our nation on a course to stability and prosperity."
It should be an interesting conference.
-- Mitch Nauffts