Career Pathways: Setting the Table for the Future of Philanthropy

Friday, June 14, 2019 - 11:30 am
Brian Dixon

Great Food, Inspiring Conversations

On May 1st, those of us in the 2019 Career Pathways cohort gathered in Miami’s South Beach for Learning Session Two. As we reconnected, we ventured out to a local restaurant. Now, I love to eat. I love “good” food. I love “bad” food. When I visit some place, what I think about most is where I will eat. And, as the folks who know me will attest, I have many opinions about food. Because as much as I love to eat, I also love to talk about what I eat. The restaurant we went to on this first night together provided plenty of fodder for conversation. The food was good, but not perfect—certainly nothing that will appear on my personal “best of” list. (Yes, I have a “best of” list! Just ask me about my favorite sandwich) No: what made this place special was the presentation. It was a show. It was as if Willy Wonka himself threw the dinner party and we all received a golden ticket. Popcorn shrimp served in a carnival popcorn machine. Entrees shaded by a bonsai tree, protected by the netting of a beekeeper’s hat, or my personal favorite, guarded by a giant red boxing glove. And desserts served flambé (via blowtorch) or sporting a giant cotton candy wig any drag queen would have envied. We were all in awe, as dish after crazy dish was delivered to the table. We couldn't control our laughter or our joy—as photos will attest.

Making Room at the Table for New Decision-Makers

Over the next two days, we began sharing personal visions for philanthropy that are more than flash, more than show. We offered visions that take seriously the culture and story of communities, those that have been marginalized and colonized by wealth and privilege. We dream of an entrée that is worthy of the presentation, that invokes joy. We don't want to just give away money, we want to effect change in the world. We want to work toward justice for all people. We want to stop taking bus tours as if the poor, people of color, native peoples, people with disabilities, or queer folk are the latest exhibits at the zoo; and instead unlatch the gates to our beautiful buildings, often built on the backs of those very people. We want to make room at our well-dressed tables for new decision-makers, the people closest to the need. 

This vision can be a reality. This table can be set. But what it will take is for folks who look like me to step back and make room. The men who built the table, who own the table, have to relinquish power and control, which is easier said than done. I like my privilege, the privilege bestowed on me by nature of my gender and my race, although I’ve been pushed back because of my sexual orientation. But to become a “we,” a big ol’ table where everyone’s voice is welcome and wisdom is seen, it’s going to take letting go of the “I.” That’s when the entrée can match the fireworks—yes, there were fireworks! I’m excited by the vision of that table - it’s way better than a giant cotton candy wig, and that wig was pretty great.

About the Author
Brian Dixon serves as the Program Officer and Grants Manager at the W. Clement & Jessie V. Stone Foundation, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to bringing about positive change in five major urban areas – Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area — with a commitment to providing the educational and developmental opportunities that support equitable outcomes and enable all children and young people to fulfill their potential.

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