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05.12.16 – Luncheon Notes and Photos

SPOKES Notes written by Nick Kroeze

Daper President Aten brought us to order with a resounding ringing of the Rotary bell, followed by a rousing rendition of The Star Spangled Banner, led by Keith Lang.  Dale Bramer provided a reflective invocation and President Aten welcomed us to enjoy our meal and visiting around our tables.

When the program resumed, we were reminded of the open board positions and then Jim Voogd came forward to introduce two visiting Rotarians from Colorado, along with a few guests.  A “Happy Dollars” session followed with half-a-dozen members enthusiastically standing to share their news.  Bob Stark was invited forward to remind us of the Paul Harris Fellow match offer, which has received a good response thus far but still has room to benefit several more members.  We received encouragement from Bruce Pienton to volunteer for the upcoming flower planting project sponsored by the Community Engagement Committee.  Tim Hileman then completed the announcement roster, reminding us to support Indian Trails Camp through attendance at the “Reds, Whites & Brews” event.  Derek then introduced and welcomed today’s speaker, Kyle Caldwell, Executive Director of the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy at GVSU.

Kyle was right at home in this group of Rotarians, being closely connected with several and familiar with many, given their leadership roles in the community.  Noting the Johnson Center theme of “Private action for the common good”, he stated that today’s talk would look at challenges to that endeavor brought on by the faster-than-ever rate at which the field of philanthropy is changing.

Prominent among the shifts that are happening are the change from bricks and mortar philanthropy to focusing more on concepts and systems, changing demographics, shifting economic forces, political polarization and government dysfunction, and rapid social change.  Kyle sees the Johnson Center’s role as being to identify, understand and model the best philanthropic response amidst these shifts.  A key question in this is “Who can scale?”  The enormity of the need, the availability of funds and the need to bring structure and accountability into the system beg the question of whether government or philanthropist organizations are best suited to respond.

Michigan has been a model state, demonstrating how effective private philanthropy can be.  Two major examples of this are seen in the contexts of the revival of Detroit and the response to the Flint water crisis, where philanthropic efforts have outpaced the government’s in achieving results.  An issue ensuing out of this good and effective philanthropy is to what extent can these efforts assume roles the government should be fulfilling?  The answer is, “Not long.”  The government needs to be involved for long-term sustainability of community programs.  The challenge comes down to accepting that “Shift happens!” and that government, philanthropists and the for-profit sector must work together to achieve the goal of building stronger communities.

Many good questions were answered during the Q & A period until President Aten stealthily moved in position to end our good keynote.  Kyle was warmly thanked, certificated and selfied as he made his way back to the Head Table, leaving President Aten to adjourn us into the cool mist of the afternoon.

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