We are the most important component of a free, fair and healthy future. Quixote Foundation recently gathered 150 friends for a two-day Symposium & Celebration — of all of us. We strengthened connections, shifted perspectives, generated ideas and examined what drives us to see free people in fair societies on a healthy planet.
The stimulus for this event was Quixote Foundation’s belief in a new kind of perpetuity: that the community of grantees, colleagues, family and friends QF “leaves ahead” will have a far greater impact than any project, program or result they could “leave behind.” Since 2010, when QF announced a plan to spend everything, this awareness has shaped the foundation’s grantmaking, internal development and other strategies. It informed the desire to mark the foundation’s last month with an exchange among the people in this community — for outcomes that will go beyond what any of us can imagine.
The theme of exchange began at registration, where participants picked up their schedules and left behind their favorite words, which were prominent on their name tags. (As one of the event’s creative directors — along with the brilliant Bryan Jeffrey Graham of Big Tada, Inc. — I can tell you that “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” was challenging in the available space.)
A habit of shifting perspectives was instigated right away too.
After building their own custom cocktails or non-alcoholic drinks, guests explored several “inQuiry” installations. The “Free, Fair & Healthy Worldwide Web” asked two questions: What influenced you to pursue a free, fair and healthy world? What do you think will influence our progress toward that world?
Board room installations (and guests) played with questions about how important decisions tend to happen in old-school centers of power…
…while over in the “Brainstormery,” participants exercised their own styles of strategy and creative change.
Guests browsed Quixote Foundation photos and artifacts before moving on to a “Launch Lunch,” which opened with an update from Standing Rock and then allowed plenty of time for free-ranging conversation.
After lunch, we gathered to ponder the present, absorb the power of all the people in the room, and toast to all we can accomplish together.
The last afternoon presentation featured journalist, activist and comedian W. Kamau Bell. As usual, Kamau interacted with the crowd and had everyone hollering with laughter. His gift for delivering serious messages and thoughtful commentary in funny ways was in full force.
Kamau charged the group with becoming more vocal when we experience or witness racist behavior — to step past our desire to deny or ignore what’s happening in that moment, push beyond what’s comfortable, and risk “having the awkward conversation.”
After some free time, Day One ended with a private dinner for grantees — the community that has generously allowed QF (and those of us who consult with the foundation) to be part of their work. Seating was mixed up to allow room for “accidents on purpose,” the kind of unpredictable connections that will move our shared work forward.
Day Two started with breakfast and more free-form conversation, followed by several Workshop the Future options from a meditation session to a training on practical designs that address power dynamics.
Fast forward to that evening: Shuttles delivered guests to a secret Launch Party location, which was revealed as the Bethaday Community Learning Center in White Center.
Throughout the Launch Party, we all helped craft the celebratory environment around us while exploring three floors of perspective-shifting installations, activities and social spaces.
We started by placing our word “tickets” wherever we thought was best to express our ideas.
Of course, we enjoyed food and drinks everywhere, including some surprising locations.
Quieter installations provided a break from the crowd, and encouraged guests to reflect on the future we’re responsible for creating together.
Singer Josephine Howell then drew guests to the windows with an a capella version of “Calling the World.” The QF board thanked everyone for being the most important components of Quixote Foundation — and for continuing its mission in perpetuity.
Then, it was time to Dance The Future with Radio Raheem.
Quixote Foundation has always believed that any work is made stronger by taking time to celebrate, enjoy food and drink together, mark important occasions and invest in relationships. Throughout a two-day Symposium & Celebration packed with inspiring events, the power of this philosophy was luminously clear.
For me, the most indelible moment was when guests cheered, stomped, applauded and rattled the windows as June Wilson led everyone in a countdown:
“We don’t ask ourselves what Quixote Foundation will leave behind on December 31. We’re way more focused on what Quixote Foundation leaves ahead — on what will happen far beyond any horizon we’re able to see, maybe even because of something someone said or did as we’ve been together over the last two days. We don’t have to know those details because you are a living, perpetual impact. You are a living, breathing ‘Quixote Foundation’ that has nothing to do with an organization. We know that you are driving toward free people in fair societies on a healthy planet no matter what, and we’re not stopping our work, we’re just moving it into a new and different form. So let’s say ‘Thank you’ to each other, and let’s count down to launch beyond Quixote Foundation to a free, fair and healthy world!”
Each of us who have been involved in this organization in any way can move forward with confidence that our shared work truly will go on in perpetuity — through the collective power we see, hear and feel in the amazing Quixote Foundation community. Through you, through us, our pursuit of free people in fair societies on a healthy planet will continue to thrive.
So join me: 10…9…8…