TSNE is a small organization with a big mission and an even bigger vision. That means we have to be as smart and strategic as we can about the way we allocate our limited resources. Given the universe of need, our challenge in providing capacity-building services to nonprofits working for social change is at the same time stimulating and daunting. So we’re constantly evaluating our program mix and looking for new ways to maximize our impact.
That’s why I was excited to participate in the recent Momentum conference in San Francisco, a biennial gathering of social activists and donors organized by our close colleagues at Tides. It was one of those rare gatherings that actually exceeded my expectations, a truly inspiring convocation of passionate, committed and impactful people. The two-day conference featured short but powerful presentations from 40 activists and researchers, ranging from Drew Westen, author of The Political Brain, to Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side) to Premal Shah, founder of kiva.com (check it out!) to famed blogger Kos (Markos Moulitsas Zuniga). The organizers also created big chunks of time for open-space conversations with many of the presenters.
I was not the only participant stunned by the gut-wrenching presentation by former Canadian UN Ambassador Stephen Lewis on the widespread use of rape and violence against women as a deliberate strategy in military conflicts, nor was I the only one alarmed by what I learned about the Alberta Tar Sands project, the largest fossil fuel project in the world – have you even heard of it? – or blown away by the brilliant use of technology for information and advocacy by a small nonprofit called Appalachian Voices.
I’m still processing what I took in at Momentum and have begun talking with my colleagues here at TSNE about what it might mean for our own work. No matter what direction we take, though, one thing is very clear: the social, political and environmental stakes are so high today that we must rededicate ourselves to our case and focus our energies where they can have the greatest impact.