Fall 2012 Annual Conference


A Conference in Three Acts: Oct. 10-12, Seattle

Our Fall Conference will be held in Seattle from Wednesday, October 10 – Friday, October 12. This year’s event is co-sponsored by CommA, that super-smart, savvy group of communications folks who work at community foundations.  CommA co-sponsored our 2010 conference in Los Angeles, and we’re delighted to to have them back!

As we do each and every year, we’re going to keep inventing.  Here’s what you should know about what we have planned:

Wednesday, 1 – 5 pm
Act I:  Build your skills, refresh the fundamentals

Normally, we don’t have a conference program on Wednesday afternoon.  And we don’t this time, either.  But in response to attendee feedback, we’re offering a series of workshops from 1 – 5 on Wednesday afternoon for people who want to build and hone their communications skills.  The workshops, taught by consultants who have been working with foundations and their grantees for many years, will focus on the skills that we use in our daily jobs:  messaging, social media tactics, evaluation, etc.  Click here for a list  of  pre-conference workshops.   (Please note that all conference activities, with the exception of our opening night reception, take place at the Grand Hyatt, located at 721 Pine Street.)

The conference itself officially begins with a reception on Wednesday evening generously hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Their new building is a must-see.

Thursday, 8:30 – 5 pm
Act II:  Think and learn with us.

On Thursday, all day, we’ll be offering the kind of conference that you’ve come to expect from the Network –  speakers and breakout sessions designed to give your brains a workout.  We have two fabulous plenary speakers: Sherman Alexie and Jane McGonigal.

Sherman Alexie – author, poet and screenwriter — was named one of The New Yorker’s 20 top writers for the 21st century. After growing up on a Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington, a college professor recognized his “intensity of language, passion, and energy.” A gifted orator, Alexie tells tales of contemporary American Indian life laced with razor-sharp humor, unsettling candor and biting wit. According to a reviewer from the University of Puget Sound, Alexie “…teaches, entertains and inspires — interculturally, intergenerationally and with a flair for taking you to a creative playground that is both familiar and unfamiliar to all of us.”

Jane McGonigal, creative director, Social Chocolate and author of The New York Times bestseller, “Reality Is Broken,” is a designer of alternate reality games, where a real-life activity is re-framed as a game. Her belief is that whatever the challenge, we can face it more boldly if we bring to it a gameful state of mind. She has created and deployed award-winning games all over the word for partners such as the American Heart Association, the International Olympics Committee, the World Bank Institute and the New York Public Library. She specializes in games that challenge players to tackle real-world problems, such as poverty, hunger and climate change, through planetary-scale collaboration.  (For the marathoners among you, check out this interview with McGonigal in the current Runner’s World.)

In between, our opening and closing speakers on Thursday, you can partake in breakout sessions based on topics you suggested in the survey about last year’s conference in Boston. You can find the line-up of breakout sessions here.

After a day of great speakers and breakout sessions on topics you told us you cared about, conference attendees are invited to dine around the great city of Seattle.  Don’t worry—we’ll have lots of suggestions for where you should go.

Friday, 8:30 – 11:30 am

Act III:  In Which We All Peek Into the Crystal Ball, Together

The Communications Network Board has been doing some heavy thinking about the future.  The Board has developed a blueprint for what the Communications Network might be and do, and on Friday morning of the conference, we’d like to share our thinking.  And then have you, conference attendees, weigh in.  We’re going to ask for your input on how we achieve our goals.  The goals are ambitious, but they felt right to the Board and to our Executive Director, and now we want to see if they feel right to the Network’s….network.*

Friday morning will begin with some thoughts in plenary, then we’ll be breaking into smaller groups and figuring out creative, fun ways to get your input.  We’ll end, as always, with the Big Reveal of next year’s conference location.

We hope to see you there. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to email or call 212-731-2268 if you have questions.

*For those of you who wonder, “Gee, sounds like these exercises would be good for the Network…but what’s in this for me?”  Here’s an answer – the future we’ll be looking at and planning for is the same one you’ll be experiencing in your own work – the future where communications patterns and processes are changing every day.  By helping the Network plan, you’ll be launching your own thinking beyond current boundaries…and that can’t help but impress your boss.