EVENT AIMS TO CATALYZE GREATER COLLABORATION AROUND EQUITY ISSUES
This year marks the seventh year that Social Venture Partners Dallas will host bigBANG! We have never approached a topic as challenging as this year’s theme.
BigBANG! 2016: Equity in Action faces head-on the systemic injustice dealt with by countless Dallasites.
On Oct. 27, we’ll discuss issues that are more prevalent in our communities than many of us realize: issues of racism, discrimination, and bias based on gender, sexuality, and class. Our discussion will focus on three core areas of potential growth in Dallas: housing, criminal justice, and mental health policy.
We hope to catalyze new collaborations and the growth of a shared perspective for Dallas’ future.
Countless civic, business, and philanthropic leaders in our community are already working on these challenges, and the upcoming event will turn a spotlight on their efforts. By gathering for a focused, public conversation on equity, we hope to catalyze new collaborations and the growth of a shared perspective for Dallas’ future.
All of this is a daunting task, and we are thankful for the incredible work of local organizations. As Oct. 27 draws near, we thought it important to share how the event came together and some of its guiding ideas.
THE START OF ‘EQUITY IN ACTION’
SVP Dallas is one chapter within the broader network of Social Venture Partners International, which allows our partners to tie into global workings and share important ideas. Those strengths were exemplified by this year’s SVPI conference in April where we were challenged to carry the topic of equity home to each of our chapters. That April conference is where Equity in Action began.
Realizing the difficulty of equity as a topic, we first wanted to meet with our long-time partners in bigBANG! and discern whether we were all up for the challenge. We met with leadership from United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and The Dallas Foundation and were reaffirmed in something we have long known: we work with some of the most courageous and grounded leaders imaginable.
At those early meetings, we all agreed that the time was right for equity to take center stage in Dallas’ public dialogue. Dallas is ready to put equity in action.
We knew from our first inkling, however, that equity was a topic the community had to choose, not one that we could bring to the fore alone.
MEETING WITH LOCAL LEADERS TO DEFINE CONVERSATION
Dallas has numerous leaders and organizations who have been pursuing deep, systemic change for years. Having decided on “Equity in Action” as our theme, we wanted to meet these leaders and let them define where the conversation might go.
From May through August, we took as many one-on-one meetings as we could with organizers and change agents in Dallas. From pastors to public policy advocates, we met with leaders in the trenches — those fighting for justice in their day-to-day efforts.
BigBANG! 2016 will proudly feature many of those leaders, such as Demetria McCain of Inclusive Communities Project, B.J. Wagner of the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, and Lydia Bean of Faith in Texas, whose courage and conviction have doubtlessly been tested by years of striving for changes that can only come once the rest of us catch up.
One name that came up early in the process of meeting with local leaders was that of Dallas Police Chief David Brown, who recently retired from that position. Brown spent nearly six years at the head of Dallas’ police force and dedicated that time to building relationships with the communities the police defend and instituting improved policing policies. This was, without doubt, the kind of civic leader we hoped to hear from.
Before we were able to reach out to Chief Brown, one of the most horrific events of Dallas’ history occurred: the shooting of multiple Dallas police officers on July 7, 2016.
The tragedy of that day isn’t one that can be contained here and we won’t attempt to comment on it other than to say, out of that dismaying evening Chief Brown’s voice rose to offer our community both consolation and truth. Speaking honestly yet gently, refusing to shy from real issues while never losing focus on the deeply personal tragedy of the events, he admirably opened the door to healing on multiple levels.
We’re proud to say that Chief Brown agreed to speak at bigBANG! 2016 just a few weeks ago and will be joining us as our Legacy of Philanthropy Luncheon speaker on Oct. 27.
The Legacy of Philanthropy Luncheon will be catered for the third year in a row by Café Momentum, a downtown restaurant and culinary training program for juvenile offenders. In the last several years of work, nearly 400 at-risk youth have been involved with Café Momentum, receiving valuable internships and tying into an ecosystem of support that helps them achieve their greatest potential.
The afternoon of bigBANG! 2016 will be dedicated to showcasing the outcomes from The Dallas Festival of Ideas. DFOI has helped incredible conversations take a more prominent role in our public dialogue and set in motion spectacular new works. That part of the day will include both a Fast Pitch Competition between the DFOI Action Committees for a $25,000 grant as well as a highlight of the public policy reforms coming out of its Actions Speak Louder series.
NATIONAL ADVOCATES WILL HELP LEAD THE DISCUSSION, TOO
BigBANG! 2016 is a conference for Dallas, and our focus is on the organizations that have been here for quite some time, but equity is not only a conversation in Dallas, and there are profound thinkers from other cities that can enrich our conversation.
One such expert was introduced to us at the April SVPI conference. Dr. Heather Hackman, founder and president of Hackman Consulting Group, is renowned for her ability to challenge engrained paradigms of understanding. Her signature “lens shift” trainings have helped numerous participants develop critical, social justice lenses and advance equity and justice work in their own organizations.
Hackman will be at bigBANG! 2016 as both a speaker and facilitator and will remain here Oct. 28 for a half-day equity workshop that is available to VIP registrants and hosted at United Way of Metropolitan Dallas.
Jonathan Rapping, founder and president of Gideon’s Promise will also be at the conference. Gideon’s Promise has a mission to transform the criminal justice system by building a movement of public defenders who provide equal justice for marginalized communities. We’re certain that Rapping’s experience can help catalyze growth in our community.
For the third year in a row, bigBANG! will be held at Paul Quinn College, the nation’s first urban work college, and there couldn’t be a better venue for it.
Paul Quinn College has been a community champion in an under-served area of our city, providing not only rigorous academic education, but life skills that most recent liberal arts graduates should be envious of.
The college has continued to develop under the leadership of President Michael Sorrell, who will be joining us on Oct. 27. Most recently, the college received national acclaim for turning its football field into an urban farm that tithes 10 percent of its gross yield to the community.
‘EQUITY IN ACTION’ TRANSENDS EVENT
More than six months after “Equity in Action” became the theme of bigBANG! 2016, we can gratefully say that its content and ideas are hardly our own. The massive contributions in thought, time, and resources from our community have brought this event a richness we never could have imagined.
Equity is difficult. It’s tough to understand and even harder to embody.
Bringing this event together has challenged our own understanding at SVP Dallas. It’s forced us to look more closely at our personal lives, organizational dynamics, and investment strategy. The SVP Dallas Board of Directors began an equity training program, and many of our partners have participated in educational programming to better understand these issues of equity. We are thankful for our partners’ engagement, while also recognizing that we have much more to learn.
Equity is difficult. It’s tough to understand and even harder to embody. It requires us to examine cultural systems and do the hard, communal work necessary to change them. For as much political and societal reflection it might require, it also invites a great deal of soul searching. And it’s worth it.
We invite you to join us for bigBANG! 2016 on Oct. 27 and to join us in community as we pursue “equity in action.”
To learn more about the conference, visit bigbangtx.com.
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