what I learned in New York

“Do you have Thanksgiving in Missouri?” I was asked at a house party in Brooklyn two nights ago. [I think they were joking…] This was the night I first learned about the “Turducken.” A chicken, inside of a duck, inside of a turkey. What?!!!! I feel kind of robbed for going 25 years without knowing about this.

I just got home from a great trip NYC, last night. I arrived, thrilled to be back to the Midwest that I love more and more with every trip, exhausted, and laughing, as I was welcomed home by Dev and Rachow – my awesome next door neighbors, and wonderful roommate – Amanda.

This trip was for the NextGen:Charity conference. It was definitely worth my time. Some highlights for me:

Jonathan Greenblatt [one of Water.org’s board members, actually] spoke on “Accelerating the Impact Economy”. He talked about how the philanthropy landscape is changing, led by mobile and other technology, social enterprise, impact investing [defined by Forbes as “a growing sector of private and public funds that finance for-profit companies focusing on services and products for the poor”], hybrid nonprofits [such as a cool nonprofit in NYC called “Housing Works” that fights homelessness and AIDS, and also uses social enterprise; they have a Bookstore Cafe, a thrift store, Catering service, and online shopping], and incentives [such as the Yale MBA program that offers loan forgiveness for people going into public service or nonprofit work. Awesome].

Sasha Dichter spoke on the unexplored space between philanthropy – where people are willing to give away their money, 100%, and lose it all – and the market – with a focus on a maximum profit and return on investment. His organization [which I respect greatly!] is the Acumen Fund. Their goal is to change the way the world fights poverty; they say, “the markets alone cannot solve the problems of poverty; nor are charity and aid enough to tackle the challenges faced by over two-thirds of the world’s population living in poverty.” What can new approaches look like, and accomplish? He said philanthropy is inherently about risk-taking, and we should be be hard-nosed, tough, ask the hard questions, be business-minded, but also be as generous as you can. I love this.

Dave Harkins spoke on the difference between generations – Baby Boomers, Gen Y, Gen Xers – and their outlooks on life, what shapes and defines them, their giving habits. I knew a little on this topic, but learned a lot and found it really fascinating. Especially thinking about the changing nonprofit/philanthropy space and the potential for exploration and redefinition. People working in this space are definitely going to have to keep audience in mind, meet them where they are, and tap into their strong desires to make an impact.

– The people I met! Wow. Rachel, an amazing, strong woman who came all the way from the UK, from a “people, business, and cultural development” agency. Holly, who is starting her own branding and strategy consulting agency specifically for women. Summer, who was a producer for MTV for 14 years and is about to launch a skills-exchange social platform to connect people trying to accomplish specific goals. Eric, an entrepreneur who had a powerful God encounter and life transformation in every way, and is starting an NGO that helps young girls and women in Asia escape from human trafficking. Michael, who I had actually been in touch with for months previous through work, who is starting and reshaping his new endeavor, the Koya Project. And Fong Wa, who works for Adopt-a-Classroom, a US-based nonprofit that allows you or me to give any amount of a donation to go [100%] to a classroom. You can support a friend or family member’s class and help them buy supplies or meet other needs. Pretty cool! And Zach, Summer’s cousin, an interior designer, actor, producer…to name only a few. An really fun guy to talk to – humble, and apparently very talented. All of these people had beautiful spirits, great energy, were genuine, interesting, and creative. I look forward to seeing where their work takes them!

From L to R: Eric, Fong Wa, me, Summer, and Michael. It's fuzzy because we asked a very drunk man to take this pic. I don't know what we were thinking. Ha ha :D

The opposite of highlights:
– No live tweeting. I think this was a mistake. I understand its merit, but they had some really great people in a room. Later, I sifted through the #nextgen10 hashtag on Twitter and felt like it had a lot of missed potential.
– The two people who spoke from Facebook. The one guy literally walked the room through how to set up a Page on Facebook. REALLY?! I wanted to scream.
– Some more quality networking time would have been nice. I’m sure there were tons of really neat people and leaders there that I didn’t even have the chance or opportunity to meet.

I’m thankful for the opportunities I have to travel, meet new people, keep learning, and even invest in my professional development. And I’m also thankful to learn a few more important things: such as how to take the subway on my own and navigate all of NYC; Peruvian food is THE BOMB; just how diverse the world is, and how small I am in it; good hospitality is life-giving and can make or break a trip [thanks to Alix, Sarah, and Mikey!]; and that I love and am really proud my roots. Maybe I was too proud to admit that last one. It’s just funny how time away, alone, and new experiences can make you see a little clearer about who you are.

Happy Thanksgiving! Have a wonderful week :-)

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2 Comments on “what I learned in New York

  1. Wow! I am really impressed with everything you learned in NYC. I would really like to talk to you in more depth about what you learned!!! So glad you had a great trip, & that you are glad to be home! Thanks for sharing, love!

  2. Erin, I just want you to know that I am encouraged and taught so much when you write in your blog. DON”T STOP!!! I am thrilled that you got to attend this conference and that God has led you to this organization (your dream) and that you are impacting the world around you…and across the globe! Don’t discount the fact that people also met you and probably wrote about this “Awesome girl named Erin, with such a flare and passion for life!”

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