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2009 CGI: Where Did Our Love Go?

September 24, 2009

CGIimage006Can't put my finger on it, but the mood at this year's Clinton Global Initiative is, well...different. I'm not saying the event has jumped the shark. But something -- okay, a lot -- has changed over the last year. In no particular order, here's a short list:

  • The Democratic Party has a new star, and his name is not Clinton.
  • The rich donors and donor countries that were supposed to save the world almost drove it off a cliff (and still might). The idea that nonprofits and NGOs have much to learn from Wall Street and Harvard MBAs has been opened to question, if not ridicule. People don't want to hear the CEOs of Goldman Sachs and ExxonMobil, both of which pulled in record profits last year during the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, talk about leverage or incremental approaches; they want to hear what resource-rich organizations are doing to address and fix problems now.
  • The financial crisis has drawn the curtain on the complex, interdependent systems that drive the global economy, causing many people to feel helpless and/or disempowered. Who can say that he or she is master of his or her own destiny anymore?
  • In the wake of the financial crisis, previously flush-feeling donors and foundations have cut back on funding, leaving many to anxiously wonder what philanthropy in the Reset Economy is going to look like.
  • The explosion of social networking and social media tools -- and the collapse of traditional media business models -- has put lots of people out of work and served as a reminder to the rest of us (as if we needed one) that all bets are off, there are no guarantees, and the only constant at this hinge moment in history is change itself.
  • The suffocating security in advance of President Obama's appearance at the opening plenary on Monday (and, for that matter, ever since) is a sobering reminder that extremism, foreign-bred as well as homegrown, is alive and well.

Or maybe it's just because since Sunday I've been battling what I hope is only a cold.

So as not to be a complete drag, I'll leave you with this thought from Alan Cohen, the popular speaker and best-selling author:

It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power....

I hope so.

-- Mitch Nauffts

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Posted by Emilie  |   September 25, 2009 at 01:00 PM

Dear God man! Steel yourself. While it's true the world as we know it is shifting beneath our very feet, now's hardly the time to devalue what's become one of the most powerful and inspiring sources of thoughtful solutions in our generation. That Obama is in office should only add to that hope. Change is hard. We'll all have to get over it sooner or later and move ahead.

Posted by Kris Putnam-Walkerly  |   September 26, 2009 at 12:44 PM

Mitch, thanks for all the updates from the Clinton Global Initiative - very helpful to those of us who can't be there!

Kris Putnam-Walkerly
Philanthropy411 Blog
Putnam Community Investment Consulting

Posted by Renee Westmoreland  |   September 26, 2009 at 07:03 PM

Thanks, Kris. Looking forward to the launch of your blog!

Posted by Renee Westmoreland  |   September 26, 2009 at 07:08 PM

Apologies, Emilie, if it seemed I was devaluing CGI. You're right: The CGI annual meeting has few rivals as a sounding board for thoughtful solutions to some of the world's most challenging problems. That said, in the future, I hope the folks at the Clinton Foundation are able to do more to hold people to their commitments and to measure and report on the impact of those that are fulfilled.

Posted by Gail Perry   |   September 27, 2009 at 09:51 PM

Mitch - this is the first time I've read your posts and you are terrific! Love your tone here and a most realistic point of view.

The only thing we can do now is try to create opportunity out of chaos and crisis. Unfortunately all this change is being forced on us so we might as well get creative. I just hope that the nonprofit world is willing to take the risks it needs to take now and continue to reinvent itself.

Gail Perry
consultant, author, trainer to nonprofit leaders

Posted by Renee Westmoreland  |   September 28, 2009 at 10:45 PM

Thanks, Gail. I'm blushing. Really. I checked out your site. Maybe you'd like to contribute to the blog? Let's talk.

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