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Friday, June 7th, 2019

Partner Reflections on the SVP Global Summit: Clyde McKenzie

By Clyde McKenzie, Partner, SVP Boulder County

I was a second-year SVP Partner and a first-time attendee at this year’s SVP Global Summit, May 1-3. I arrived in Vancouver, British Columbia, with few preconceived notions, although I hoped to experience SVP fully extended: lots of Partners from other cities and countries; discussions about the mechanics of best practices; thoughts on what has gone well in other places … and on initiatives that have disappointed, and why.

Attendees that I encountered were from many states and from India, China, Australia, Mexico and Canada. Everyone was interesting and engaged. This was not a conference for casual participants or people who self-identified as at the margins of their organizations’ initiatives. The most penetrating discussions outside of Breakout Sessions were with Partners from India, a new Partner who is at the forefront of launching SVP in Idaho, and Partners of color.

Keynote speakers were generally strong and interesting. The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, was particularly thoughtful in her welcoming speech and at our opening dinner, and Sudha Nandagopal – SVPI’s new CEO – was also terrific as a speaker and a panel moderator. Indeed, my hopes for breadth of personal encounters and SVP messages from the top were met. Then came depth. A tsunami of depth.

Among the many Breakout Sessions offered, I chose four, including “Leveling the Funding Playing Field: Data-Driven Outcomes,” “From Charity to Justice,”  “Looking in the Mirror: A Conversation about Race” and “What is the Role of Coaching and Mentoring in Nonprofits?” Among other new insights, I learned a great deal about the power dynamics of charitable work, including the difference between well-meaning empowerment efforts vs. the harder work of helping the recipients of charity find and understand the power that they already have (and have always had) as they enter an encounter with a nonprofit.

In “Looking in the Mirror: A Conversation about Race,” each participant was asked to make a list of the people (up to 10) in our life whom we would contact first with news of either a personal tragedy or a wonderful life event. We discussed the lists constructively and established that most of the white Partners had only listed white people and most black Partners had only listed black people (just citing the two dominant groups in attendance). There were interracial lists, but only a couple. There was some real embarrassment in the conversation (that confirmed that people were being truthful) and some verbal soul searching that made this session strikingly important. I’m still thinking about it.

I have attended SVP sessions on coaching and mentoring here in Boulder County and am very satisfied with that learning experience. Attending the Breakout Session “What is the Role of Coaching and Mentoring in Nonprofits?” confirmed the SVP approach to this skill that is so central to our initiatives. I learned that our Boulder County affiliate does a terrific job, and that encountering the concepts twice serves to reinforce and deepen understanding. 

In all, the 2019 SVP Global Summit exceeded my hopes and expectations. Vancouver was delightful. Participants were enthusiastic and generally on point. And our Boulder County group was well-represented – a notably large contingent for a smaller-market organization – showing real leadership through its participation.

Breadth? Check. Depth? Check.

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