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Taking Atlanta by Storm at the Independent Sector Conference

Last week, the Commongood Careers team had the pleasure of being a part of the 30th Independent Sector annual conference in Atlanta. With nearly 1,000 attendees representing the most dynamic and innovative organizations in the country, this year’s conference was a powerful demonstration of the sector coming together to reflect on its current issues, set a collective agenda for 2011, and flex its muscles in the face of the daunting challenges ahead.

Our CEO James Weinberg served on the program committee for the conference and presented to the CEO track while our Director of Client Services Kevin Flynn presented to the Next Generation Leaders (NGen) track. 

While we could tell you about the experimental sessions, conversations about diversity, a focus on government relations and the prevalence of social media, we’d rather share with you some of our favorite out-of-context quotes from the conference, including:

  • “In these challenging times, the nonprofit sector must be the head lights and not the tail lights.”  Rep. John Lewis
  • “In turbulent times when the ground is shaking, it’s good to know how to dance.”  Liz Lerman, The Liz Lerman Dance Exchange
  • “We need to change who is at the table, and the table itself.”  Paul Schmitz, Public Allies
  • “It’s more about the cause than the credit.  It’s hard for me to be up here (accepting this award)…..and this is the only tie I own.”  Darrell Hammond, KaBOOM
  • “I’m inspired by Darrell Hammond.  Who else here can say their organization is named after a sound?  I’ve made a few calls, and we’ve decided to change our name to KaChing”  Richard Brown, American Express

In addition to taking away the words of these amazing leaders (and a good amount of conference swag), we also left the conference feeling connected to leaders across sectors, up and down org charts and amongst different generations. The open access created an energy that was more akin to a retreat than a big conference. Walking around the hotel you’d see Paul Schmitz, CEO of Public Allies, and Bill Strathmann, CEO of Network for Good, mingling in the NGen lounge. Turn the corner, there’s Damian Thorman, National Program Director of the Knight Foundation, grabbing a coffee with young fundraisers. And don’t forget the group of CEOs sneaking into the NGen happy hour to network with the up and comers.

It’s hard to say what was more inspiring: The incredible talent in the next generation of sector leaders, or the time, energy and passion with which the current leaders are making sure they get there. As CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service Patrick Corvington said, “Anyone worried about the talent crisis in the nonprofit sector clearly hasn’t met all of you.”


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