2016 Annual Conference | April 8-12, 2016 | Washington, DC

The Future of Community

 Identity.  Purpose.  Place.


At the Council on Foundations’s 2016 Annual Meeting, we are elevating the changing nature of our global communities and examining philanthropy’s ability to meet both collective and individual community needs in the future. Against the backdrop of a presidential election year, the 2016 Annual Conference lifts up key issues influencing and shaping our communities.

As our diverse sector gathers in Washington, D.C. as a unified profession, we invite you to consider “The Future of Community” from your own foundation’s perspective. We see this conference as a unique opportunity for colleagues to learn from one another and drive impact through collaboration.

Together, we will work to understand the contemporary boundaries that make up community – particularly identity, purpose, and place.

Together, we will look at what drives people of common interests to groups, networks, and social movements regardless of proximity.

Together, we will take up three key issues of our time that have a direct impact on the health and well-being of our global communities:

While communities are wrestling with a wide variety of challenges, these issues were selected because of their broad relevance to the field and importance to our collective future.

Over the course of the conference, you’ll see the themes of identity, purpose, and place as well as the three issue areas interspersed in every session on every day. Each day offers you an opportunity to test, sharpen, and augment your thinking about the communities you invest in – whether they are defined by issue, geography, or ideology.

You’ll get a chance to observe philanthropy in action, discover innovative ideas, connect with colleagues, and learn approaches that will equip you to more effectively address your community’s future challenges.

During the three days of the conference, you can expect:

  • Provocative Plenaries: The Opening Plenary will ground us in the conference theme and frame the context of ideas about community. Then, each subsequent plenary focuses on a key issue area: 1) education and workforce, 2) criminal justice, and 3) climate change.
  • Leadership in Action Series: Back by popular demand, this special plenary series features distinguished thought leaders who are shaping global social change through bold ideas and decisive action. Each thought leader will address our conference themes of purpose, place, and identity, digging deep on what each means to them.
  • Workshop Sessions: Each concurrent session block offers a mix of learning across the conference topics, public policy, and audience-specific workshops designed for family philanthropy, corporate, community foundations, and global. Varied session lengths create content-rich experiences and deeper dives that will leave you with concrete ideas to take home.
  • Site Sessions and Experiential Learning: Immerse yourself in the Greater Washington area community with site sessions that showcase philanthropy in action.
  • Preconference WorkshopsExtend your leadership and professional development at our pre-conference programs designed to build skills, promote networking, and bring deeper focus to philanthropic strategy areas such as global giving, impact investing, and rural philanthropy.

Immediately following the Annual Conference is Philanthropy Week in Washington, where you can put these ideas into practice.

Focus Areas

Education & Skill Acquisition

In today’s workforce, the ideal employee must constantly adapt to new bodies of knowledge. To date, our current education system has not prepared our youth for this future and existing certificates degrees, and other traditional markers of expertise no longer guarantee successful careers. Foundations are looking critically at investments that support essential skill acquisition as well as improve existing educational institutions. To cultivate talent and adaptive skills that can keep workers at pace with a shifting global economy, grantmakers have also begun investing in new strategies for lifelong learning and skill development. These conference sessions will examine thes e pilot efforts that grantmakers have crafted to prepare a modern workforce.

Climate Change

With its ability to catalyze innovation, the philanthropic sector is looking at private/ public partnerships, civic engagement, building tighter ties to myriad efforts, as well as learning from grantmaking to date to combat the challenges of climate change. Conference sessions will focus on how grantmakers are looking to both global and local efforts to address climate change and its impact.

Justice Reform

The United States has the largest prison population in the world, and many are routinely denied access to the civil legal processes that might help them overcome the pressing problems of everyday life, like home foreclosures, landlord disputes, custody cases, and unfair employment. Although a divisive topic in the past, today leaders of both parties have forged consensus around the need for bold action to fix this broken system. By examining large aspects of the justice system, including law enforcement, civil legal processes, and incarceration, this conference programming will look at the best ways that grantmakers can invest in meaningful reforms.