SOM Philanthropy Conference
Ira Magaziner, chairman of the Clinton Climate Initiative and Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS Initiative, opened the 4th annual SOM Philanthropy Conference on December 5, 2008, by calling for "applying business logic to public problems."
More than 115 industry professionals and SOM students attended the conference focused on collaboration and leadership in philanthropy. Despite the size of the crowd, the event had the feel of an informal day-long conversation. Ideas introduced in one session were referred to or expanded on in another and many panelists moved from being experts in one session to interested questioners in the next.
Magaziner said that management skills are critical to successfully addressing complex, seemingly intractable issues around the world. He underscored the necessity of working across sectors to build political will and leverage experts to produce positive outcomes. Magaziner cited a number of examples including working with local government, banks, and construction contractors to remove upfront costs of retrofitting commercial buildings to be more energy efficient.
Ian Moss í09, one of the student organizers, said, "We were very pleased with the response we got from both the student body and the larger community. It seems that the speakers struck a chord with the audience and addressed issues that are very much on the forefront of philanthropic thinking."
Panels looked at assessing the benefits and limits of collaboration and resource sharing in the philanthropic community and working across sectors. Paul Brest, president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, gave the keynote address. Moss said, "Paul Brestís presentation on strategic grantmaking was especially effective at summing up the major takeaway from the conference, which is that any donor or foundation can improve their chances of making an impact by placing their efforts in a broad perspective and overall goal framework."
Brest also participated in a panel on executive leadership in philanthropy in which the panelists addressed a series of questions posed by the audience and the moderator, SOM Dean Sharon Oster. Brest said later, "The questions about leadership were very interesting. They made me think about things that I do but donít necessarily articulate."
Nancy Yedlin, vice president of the Donaghue Foundation, said in an email, "The lineup of speakers and panelists was outstanding. They were quite thoughtful and generous in sharing their insights and their experiences (both successes and failures) in the areas of collaboration, assessing impact, and the role of leadership in effective philanthropy."
Preparations for next yearís conference are already underway as this yearís attendees are giving input on future topics.