I just got back from Miami where I attended the Jewish Funders Network Conference. It was a good conference and I walked away with lots of ideas for Tucson. Impressions:
1) We all know that New York drivers are the worst. Guess where they retire? I'm very happy to have made it back alive.
2) When I first drove into Miami Beach Friday afternoon I couldn't believe how many places were closed.. I was really surprised.. until I passed the Kosher Butcher.. who knew Miami had a burgeoning Orthodox community?
3) I'm really shy. What? How is that possible?? I absolutely hate walking into a reception without someone at my side. I'm happy to walk up to folks and introduce myself, but then worry that they'll just say hello and turn back to their companion continuing their conversation. Good grief.. If I feel this way, I can only imagine how those folks feel who are shyer than me- like most of the known universe. Take Away: Make sure at events, newbies have dates or buddies.
Why Attend Conferences?
I attend Conferences for a number of reasons- first it pulls me out of my day to day responsibilities to continually check how my organization is doing in moving toward fulfilling our mission. Secondly, I hear of new and innovative programs that might work for Tucson and thirdly, I find out who is doing what and who I might connect with for further information on our local projects. It enriches my work and expands not only my knowledge but my skill set. It's a good investment for staff and volunteers to partner in attending these events- the shared experience enhances the partnership while also enabling being able to attend more sessions!
One of the things that really struck me was how bifurcated the Jewish Community is. We have the Jewish Federation system, the Funders Network world, non-profits and synagogues. How do they inter-relate, communicate and get along?
I was really surprised by how many attendees know a lot about there sphere but not much about the whole picture.
There is an expression - "Inside the Beltway" that many of us have heard and or read. It means those in the know in Washington, D.C. who understand all the dynamics and politics of how things get done. It is good in that it provides a shorthand for those trying to get things done (or not done). For those living beyond the Beltway (the ring of freeways that encircle DC) that Inside the Beltway mentality can be off putting, inaccessible and frustrating.
We have our version of this - "Macher Speak" - (don't go looking it up cause I just made it up). A "Macher" is a big wig- someone with access and influence, someone who gets how the Jewish Community works. Our community is evolving and I can't help but wonder if "Macher Speak" is opening doors or slamming them shut. We need to be providing pathways for new leadership (both lay and professional) to learn, connect, invest, and modify the way our community functions and grows. I know it is frustrating to sit around the table with a bunch of experts and wonder why the newbie has the audacity to ask questions that seem obvious to so many. Hoping that newbies will catch up and get with it isn't a really winning strategy.
With new members and staff, we need to take a step back and take a breath making sure that the newbie is brought along so that they can feel truly part of the Board, Committee or effort. Taking that step back forces us to reflect on whether or not what we have been doing is what we should still be doing, and it provides an opportunity for the newbie to bring fresh insight and ideas. "Because that's the way we've always done it" isn't keeping up with needs of today let alone tomorrow and to remain relevant we need to change our "Macher Speak" paradigm to "Explore Speak" - taking the best of yesterday with the possibility of tomorrow.