The 2022 TFN Annual Conference took place in San Diego last week, and I’m pleased to share my top 10 highlights:
Meeting in person rocks! After staring at Zoom screens for the last two years, reconnecting with folks in person felt really great; we could actually hug people! While we will continue to produce engaging virtual content, there’s an energy to human connections that takes place in real life that Zoom just can’t ever reproduce, and conversations in three dimensions is inherently more fulfilling. Approximately 250 people attended this conference and like me, for most of the folks there, this was our first large event in two years! There seemed to be a buzz and joy that everyone felt in being together again.
Smart Growth California’s Dinner: Seventeen funders connected for an informal meal and drinks as the sun set on the balcony of Rustic Root in the Gaslamp District, a few blocks from the hotel. It was so fun to see folks reconnecting for the first time since the pandemic began, or meeting colleagues for the first time in person after having worked together only virtually. Folks chatted until late and given the heartfelt conversations, we saw no need for a formal program and instead appreciated time together. I was reminded that at the heart of Smart Growth California is a group of people who, through quality time together, build relationships and create a space for learning, alignment and collaboration. If you’re interested in learning more about any of Smart Growth California’s workgroups, contact Ron.
San Diego Funders’ Collaborative Kickoff: Over 30 funders attended a dinner and expressed interest to launch a San Diego Funders’ Collaborative working group, which would be co-supported by Smart Growth California and Catalyst of San Diego and Imperial Counties. Fueled by delicious tacos and craft brews from Border X in Barrio Logan, folks connected informally while also sharing more about their climate-related grantmaking and drawing a network map. Christiana DeBenedict from The San Diego Foundation, Megan Thomas from Catalyst and I gave a very brief program; if you’re interested in joining this group for its next gathering, contact Ron.
Thank You, Tim! Tim Mok has been a fantastic colleague and collaborator during his three years of service to Smart Growth California, and the TFN conference marked his final event with our network (his first was the 2019 Funder Summit in Sacramento). Tim is moving on given his growing responsibilities at CivicWell, along with serving on the interim Board of a newly formed land trust in LA’s Chinatown, where he lives. Please connect with Tim on LinkedIn! Tim has played a key role in executing Smart Growth California’s newsletter, website, database and events. If you know someone who’s looking for a part-time job to help with these items, please share this job description with them.
Smart Growth California and TFN Leadership: Kaying Hang, from the Sierra Health Foundation, who co-chairs Smart Growth California’s statewide steering committee, was elected to serve on the TFN Board! Fellow SGC co-chair Craig Martinez from The California Endowment, will continue on the TFN Board. He also did an amazing job as a co-chair for the conference alongside Christiana DeBenedict from the San Diego Foundation, also an SGC statewide steering committee member. Marisa Quiroz from the International Community Foundation was also a conference co-chair, and she is helping to launch the San Diego Funders’ Collaborative.
A Powerful Program: The keynotes and panels lifted up a broad set of intersecting issues, and several leaders throughout the program hailed from California (check out this post lifting up California highlights at the conference). These included engaging sessions on climate equity investments, dismantling housing segregation, park equity, and agroecology in the San Joaquin Valley. We were so happy to see speakers from multiple California-based groups representing Public Advocates, The Greenlining Institute, Prevention Institute, Fresno Building Healthy Communities, Foodlink for Tulare County, Environmental Health Coalition, STAND-LA Coalition, the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties and others. Inspiring presentations and bold calls to action came from funders active in California, including Carmen Rojas from the Marguerite Casey Foundation, Crystal Haling from the Libra Foundation and Jacqueline Martinez Garcel from the Latino Community Foundation.
Advocates in the House: For the first time, TFN opened up the entire conference to a limited number of advocates, and the majority of these attendees came from California. Smart Growth California organized a breakfast on the last day of the conference to connect California-based advocates with Smart Growth California funders, with over 25 folks attending. After brief introductions, I invited folks to connect informally in small groups, and this went strong for nearly 1 ½ hours. Several advocates from the ClimatePlan network were in attendance, along with leadership from the San Joaquin Valley Agroecology Network.
Mobile Workshops: One of the benefits of being together in-person again is learning from place. Attendees took public transit and buses to numerous sites in the San Diego region, learning from community-based advocates about work happening on a broad range of issues such as climate, transportation, food justice, power building and others. For a list of mobile workshops, check out this link.
Federal Policy Briefing: The post conference Communities First Federal Policy Briefing hosted by TFN, EGA and NFG lifted up the opportunity of this moment to resource groups on the ground to ensure funds flow equitably, smoothly, and directly into BIPOC communities. With 50 or so people attending this in person, along with another 150 participating online, this session shows the widespread interest in foundations playing a role to support local, regional, statewide and national leaders to ensure these funds support climate resilient and equitable communities.
#TFN2023: New Orleans! Whether or not you were able to make this year’s annual conference, I invite you to attend next year’s conference, which was announced to take place in New Orleans, LA: March 15-17, 2023. Thanks to all of the TFN staff, contractors, Board and PLACES fellows who made this years conference a success! And thanks to all of the funders active in Smart Growth California workgroups who attended, including: The San Diego Foundation, International Community Foundation, The California Endowment, Sierra Health Foundation, California Community Foundation, Liberty Hill Foundation, Resources Legacy Fund, Seed Fund, Roy and Patricia Disney Foundation, Common Counsel Foundation and the Kresge Foundation. Thanks too to funders within our larger statewide network that attended, including: The McConnell Foundation, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Catalyst of San Diego and Imperial Counties, SoCal Grantmakers, NorCal Grantmakers, Philanthropy CA, League of California Community Foundations, Santa Barbara Foundation, the Emerson Collective and Ioby. See you at #TFN2023 in NOLA!
Below are some #TFN2022 tweets shared highlighting California related issues, leadership or places: