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Last month, the first virtual “On the Table MKE” program focused on “healing justice.” Here are takeaways from those who participated in the annual event hosted by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation.
Name: Anita Mogaka
With a passion for the greater Milwaukee community and storytelling, Anita joined the Greater Milwaukee Foundation in July 2019 as a marketing communications specialist. She is part of the team that helps tell the story of the foundation and the organizations it serves through videos, articles, interviews, community engagement and more.
Since 2017, “On the Table MKE” has offered people throughout greater Milwaukee an opportunity to build relationships with others, engage in productive dialogue and turn ideas into positive action that benefits the community in a variety of ways. The past three Octobers, thousands have gathered at hundreds of places across the region on a single day to take part in these community-driven conversations.
In this period of extreme change, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation knew the program had to evolve with the times – we moved our premier in-person initiative to a virtual experience from Oct. 12 to Oct. 14. This year, participants had the opportunity to connect with the community and create dedicated time for learning, listening and leading with bold ideas, all online, and centered on the theme of “healing justice.”
Featured speakers included Frank Nitty, Rep. Kalan Haywood II, Rep. David Bowen, Tiffany Henry, Piper Anderson, Thelma Sias, Corry Joe Biddle, Oby Nwabuzor, Sam Woods, Gabriela Novakovic, LaShawndra Vernon, Kennita Hickman, Ray Nitti, Rosy Petri, Nicole Acosta, Anna Rose Menako, Danell Cross, Zeno Franco, David Nelson, Jordan Roman, Camille Mays, Shaheen Saiyed, James Causey, Angela Peterson, George Stanley, Sue, Ela, Cecelia Gore and Ellen Gilligan.
With more than 700 registered community members, we captured inspirational ideas and action steps through guided discussion questions. Participants were able to actively engage, note key-takeaways, and offer valuable feedback. Here are some of the comments we heard back:
- “Don’t presuppose anything about anyone. There are dynamic, innovative and intelligent people in all generations and inspiration comes from synergy across generations and valuing everyone’s voice.”
– LEADING ACROSS GENERATIONS TABLE
- “The needs continue to grow exponentially; being mindful of working with grassroots orgs or start up orgs while also needing to fund the larger organizations who have been doing the work for a long time.”
– FUNDING THE FRONTLINES TABLE
- “The vision for Milwaukee would include an opportunity to dismantle hierarchies, a place where individuals have the ability to have access to opportunities that allow them to be their best selves, a place where people outside of Milwaukee think and or know it is a safe space.”
– BUILDING COMMUNITY: AN ECOYSTEM FOR CHANGE TABLE
Name: Mark Gesner
Mark Gesner serves as the executive director of Cardinal Stritch University’s Hub for Innovation and Community Engaged Learning. He is the co-founder of Mission Fuel, a business accelerator for nonprofit leaders, host of the Mission Driven Leaders Speaker Series, and co-author of the recently published book, “Your Life is Your Message: Discovering the Core of Transformational Leadership.”
Topic: Reflection on Leading Across the Generations
At the start of our On The Table discussion about Leading Across Generations, I had to smile. Appearing on my Zoom room screen were my fellow panelists, all of whom were younger, more ethnically diverse, and considerably more hip than me. It was apparent that I was invited to represent a generation that was more . . . seasoned. And so, in order not to get defensive about my status as an elder, I amused myself by thinking up euphemistic monikers for my advanced state of being. I also wondered if I could quickly call my daughter for a youth-enhancing screen filter. It was a delusional start, but it kept me from turning off my camera.
Fortunately, the moderator helped us all feel welcome, and I was able to mostly listen and learn. My fellow panelists, representing Gen Zers to Xers, were clear about their leadership lenses. They urged us all to “unleash opportunities” for younger generations by putting them in leadership roles, build networks of influence across generations and lean into mentoring in ways that break down barriers and build up pathways for new ways of thinking at the helm. For my part, I thought it important to note that the way people learn is often different across the generations, and that positional power does not equate to meaningful leadership influence. I also have learned that the most impactful leaders are the ones who align their actions with their core values, and who ultimately realize they have to feel empowered themselves in order to effectively empower others.
My fellow panelists urged that we all start practicing what we were preaching by engaging in intergenerational discussions about leadership, and to each use our own influence by being more inclusive and action oriented.
Since our discussion, I’ve taken their guidance to heart by being more conscious about mentoring younger colleagues, and by intentionally identifying and referring younger professionals, particularly leaders of color, to serve on organizational boards of directors.
There’s no doubt we all deserve a seat at the leadership table and that we need to be vigilant about creating opportunities for leaders from all generations to be successful.
Personally, I’m hopeful that people will not stereotype what I may appear to be on the exterior. But for backup, I’m going to text my daughter about that filter… calling her would be so passé.
Name: Megan Neubauer
Megan Neubauer is an undergraduate student at Carroll University in her senior year studying philosophy, politics, and economics. As a student at Carroll, Megan has been involved in Student Senate, participated as a Humanities Fellow, and received the PioScholar Research Grant. Graduating in May, she plans to attend law school to achieve her dream of becoming a lawyer.
Currently, Megan works as a support specialist for Wisconsin Philanthropy Network and continues to involve herself in the philanthropic community.
Topic: Building Community: An Ecosystem for Change
Signing up for an “On The Table MKE” session opened my eyes to the world of possibility that the Milwaukee county region shows for the future. As a young and developing leader in my own community, I came eager to learn from the experienced individuals around me in the conference. The session I attended, titled “Building Community: An Ecosystem for Change,” explored ways to develop community and bring about change. Although at first the session was intimidating (given I was one of the youngest participants there), I found myself wanting to reflect on the impact of the advice given to the younger generation.
The panel consisting of Danell Cross, David Nelson, and Zeno Franco provided great insight into the risks and challenges of being a leader in a community. Cross talked largely about what it means to not follow the social and societal rules around you as a leader in a community. She highlighted the importance of including minority and young voices at the table of these discussions, an insight more young and evolving leaders need to be hearing. Going into this conference, I was intimidated and felt largely out of place. I didn’t offer any grand experiences. I wasn’t in a position of power. However, I was ready to learn about what I could offer to those around me, and Cross reaffirmed the younger generations’ importance among community leadership.
Additionally, Nelson brought up the topic of differing value systems among leadership positions. At times, these value systems can cause points of contention and tension in communities. Nelson spoke about the importance of people in positions of power to come ready to learn and with an open mind. Keeping an open mind allows each participant, regardless of their background, to have a voice and a seat at the table. Regardless of where my generation ends up, I think it’s important that we take this advice at a young age.
No one person is better than the other due to their power; everyone brings value and knowledge with them. As the younger generation continues to climb the ladder of power, this is a lesson that will need to reign true if we hope to inspire changes in the communities we represent.
Franco also kept with the theme of breaking down barriers. Initially commenting on the high experience level of the panel, he brought up the importance of recognizing in most large community conferences, you won’t know the people around you. Each individual has their own goals and agenda in these conferences, but it’s important to consider the goals of the whole.
Again, as a young voice, this captivated my attention with the inclusion of everyone in the conversation. Another key takeaway for any age group was the conversation regarding goals sometimes hindering progress. While setting goals is good, at times, it can be counterintuitive to true collaboration and progress when the goal is too unattainable or broad. This is a concept I believe all generations could benefit from using. So often goals can be too pressuring or take away from the free flow of ideas in a group. While it’s good to ground meetings in goals, it’s also good to let ideas flow naturally and creatively.
As a young voice in philanthropy and community leadership, I believe each of these panelists brought to the table advice that included all generations. While it can be intimidating to join a conference when the panel is experienced and in positions of power, this doesn’t mean anyone should exclude themselves from the conversation. You bring power to the table regardless of your background, age, or race, and this discussion highlighted that.