This past September and October were busy months for Siegel Family Endowment, as our team criss-crossed the country at the peak of the annual conference cycle to participate in convenings across our three interest areas: learning, workforce, and infrastructure. These events offer opportunities for discussion, to share our work, and to receive vital feedback that drives our iterative process of asking questions, systematically interrogating them, and applying our learnings to subsequent rounds of questioning. Conferences are also places to strengthen relationships and expand our networks, laying the foundation for collaborative efforts that amplify the reach and effectiveness of our work.
Holon IQ ‘Back to School’ Summit
September 6-7, 2023, New York City, New York
Vice President and Head of Grantmaking Joshua Elder moderated a panel discussing strategic decisions that both funders and policy makers are faced with when aligning infrastructure to serve the needs of a changing education landscape. The discussion focused on philanthropy’s role as society’s risk capital, and many funders expressed concern about the conflicting demands that inform their work in this space. On the one hand, there’s an imperative to support work that’s rooted in evidence and backed by research; on the other, funders are eager to support innovative, early stage ideas that don’t yet have proof points behind them. Participants in the session explored fundamental questions about power, what counts as data, and striking a balance between championing proven approaches and seeding new ideas.
Santa Fe Institute
September 12-14, 2023, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Siegel Family Endowment was proud to partner with the Santa Fe Institute to co-host the CounterBalance seminar series. During the discussion “Collective Adaptation in a Turbulent World,” academic researchers, industry representatives, and civic leaders explored the need to approach the issues facing society today as closely interrelated.
The discussions focused on three key areas (Beliefs and Social-Cognitive Strategies, Social Networks and Institutions, and Emerging Problems), and often emphasized the rapid pace of technological change. Our collective response to these changes – at the individual, community, and civic levels – is a decisive factor in charting a clear path forward. Siegel’s Senior Vice President and Head of Research John Irons shared some challenges that have been felt by both our individual grantees and across the field of philanthropy during a panel discussion with other civil society representatives.
Creative Commons Generative AI Symposium
September 13, 2023, New York City, New York
Creative Commons held a day-long event to explore the legal, cultural, and ethical landscape of generative AI. Siegel’s Research Consultant for Emerging Technology Eryk Salvaggio spoke on data rights and copyrights, and built on a conversation that originated in his recent article in Tech Policy Press. Discussion topics included rights and protections for artists and content creators, who face a range of different conditions around their work in markets and contexts across the globe. While copyright laws can protect against infringement, it’s unclear if and how effectively current data rights policies protect artists’ work from being used to training datasets for generative AI technologies. The panels explored this nuanced topic from the perspective of archives and museums, especially around the use of digital heritage collections. Regulations that protect artists may become a limiting factor in humanities research, especially as digital heritage collection institutions begin using data-driven artificial intelligence to learn from their collections.
Southern Unity for Racial Justice and Equity (SURJE) Summit
October 5-7, 2023, Memphis, Tennessee
At the Southern Unity for Racial Justice & Equity (SURJE) Summit, Siegel Research Associate Madison Snider co-facilitated the workshop “Normalizing Design in Kinship.” The workshop showcased instances of successful community involvement in public infrastructure design processes. The workshop was also an opportunity to strengthen relationships among community-based organizations who are interested in applying these lessons directly to their own work. The workshop, and the conference at-large, both highlighted the importance of the present moment: the federal government has recognized the need for environmental justice, and promised that 40% of infrastructure funding would benefit communities disproportionately impacted by climate change. The conference left no doubt in Madison’s mind that Siegel’s commitment to equity and infrastructure must go hand-in-hand with meaningful engagement in conversations about environmental injustice and how support for infrastructure can play an important role in this work.
Colloquies for Transgenerational Collaboration
October 6-8, 2023, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Siegel’s Research Consultant for Emerging Technology Eryk Salvaggio attended the Colloquies, which was created by Paul Pangaro of the School of Architecture & Design at Carnegie Mellon University. The event is a part of the global Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSD) conference, and is designed to link early career and graduate students with experienced practitioners in their fields. Work was presented in a series of open conversations that involved sharing notes on process, references, and perspectives that emerged from the collaboration. The experiment created a compelling set of insights into topics including misinformation and regulatory policy, generative AI in art and architecture, and strategies for collaboration among designers, researchers, activists, and systems thinkers.
October 12-13, 2023, Boston, Massachusetts
The 2023 PIT-UN Convening reinforced Siegel team members’ belief in the power and potential of collaborative efforts and cross-sectoral partnerships to advance change. The Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT-UN) is one such collaboration. PIT-UN’s rapid membership growth and ability to drive remarkable event turnout both demonstrated the vibrancy of the field and the effectiveness of the collaborative model. The gathering offered an opportunity for public interest technology advocates from a variety of fields and organizations to connect, reflect, and brainstorm ideas and future engagements. Siegel attendees, including President and Executive Director Katy Knight, Senior Vice President and Head of Research John Irons, and In-House Research Fellow Robin Zachariah Tharakan also connected with public interest technology partners and grantees on the sidelines of the event. They left the convening with both hope and excitement about PIT-UN and the future of the larger PIT movement and community.
Aurora Institute Symposium
October 15-17, 2023, Palm Springs, California
Grantmaking Program Associate Kyla Stewart attended the Aurora Institute Symposium, an annual convening of educational innovators devoted to exploring and advocating for next generation learning models. Session topics included personalization, competency-based approaches, and holistic models that emphasize learning both inside and outside schools. Throughout the conference, speakers emphasized the need to include student voice in redesign and model implementation. To that end, some panels featured student speakers who explained how they contributed to redesign projects. Funders can help support this type of involvement by creating space for student voices, and by investing in the contextualized scaling of promising models.
RCAP National Conference
October 17-19, 2023, Boston, Massachusetts
Vice President and Head of Grantmaking Joshua Elder attended the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) national conference, where he participated in a panel about advancing rural philanthropy. Panelists emphasized the responsibility that national funders have to support and showcase what is possible in rural America. Funders are often mistaken that successful work urban areas can scale down to accommodate the needs and priorities of people in rural contexts – but that’s simply not the case. We need approaches that are specifically tailored to the distinct needs, realities, and cultures of rural communities. In addition, there is so much more to learn from rural initiatives – especially for national funders, who all too often ignore the innovation that happens in rural areas.
October 23-25, 2023, San Francisco, California
President and Executive Director Katy Knight participated in two panels at the SOCAP conference, an annual convening of social impact leaders from around the world. These discussions focused on two of Siegel Family Endowment’s interest areas: workforce and infrastructure. On workforce, we shared insights into the innovative way we have partnered with grantee Pursuit and Blue Earth Capital to use blended finance to scale workforce training. The infrastructure conversations focused primarily on the role of investors and the impact community in advancing public interest technology, an engaging topic for audience members who were seeking tangible ways to impact uses of technology for good.
CSforALL Summit Funder Convening and Happy Hour
October 25-27, 2023, Oakland, California
Speaking at a mainstage panel at the CSforALL Summit, Siegel Family Endowment President and Executive Director Katy Knight said, “You have to understand computing to walk through today’s world.” Many speakers echoed this sentiment and stated that we fail our young people when we don’t equip them with that understanding. That project includes technical training, but it also means teaching students to ask critical questions, to evaluate existing systems with an eye toward equity, and to propose new ways of doing things. Students attending the conference and speaking to the audience noted that computer science education — and related areas like data science, AI, and computational thinking — needs to show students the paths toward using technology for the public good, and to give them the tools they need to achieve the impact on the world that they want to make. We hosted a funders’ roundtable and happy hour to build connections and explore how the philanthropic community can champion this critical work.
Technology Association of Grantmakers (TAG)
November 6-9, 2023, Nashville, Tennessee
The annual Technology Association of Grantmakers conference featured the theme of “Trust and Technology.” Grantmaking Program Associate Kyla Stewart found that many speakers shared a wide range of strategies for developing trustworthy relationships. Some argued that trust-based philanthropy is predicated on strong investments in technological and operational infrastructure. Others made the case for data sharing and open data policies, which can help build trust and improve grant strategy. Strategies for building trust can also be a lot more granular and take place at the institutional level. Widely distributed RFPs, for instance, can advance trust, transparency, and equity.
Participants also shared strategies for developing powerful narratives about their work. There are a host of platforms that can help funders share their impact in story form, and some sessions included tips for transforming funder websites and email newsletters into spaces that amplify the stories and voices of grantees. Other institutional assets, like annual reports, can advance narratives by reframing accomplishments and shifting focus towards impact instead of expenditures.