Guest Post by Christal M. Jackson, Founder of Head and Heart Philanthropy


Attendees make the convening. I have been in the business of convening now for the past five years. While it is a rewarding field, it can also be challenging to bring together the right mix of people.


In February, I had the privilege to work with Conveners on “Increasing Attendee Diversity”, a Co-Hosted Session at Echoing Green’s New York office. Given that the social impact sector is predominately white; initially, I thought solely about ethnicity. After thinking more about this topic, diversity extends beyond ethnicity to thought, religion, sexual orientation, class, experience, and even industry.


It is in the best interest of the communities we want to impact to make certain our convenings are as diverse as possible. It’s really serious business.


As you plan your next convening here are three practical steps to keep in mind:

  1. Host Committee: Identify leaders or influencers that reflect the community you want to engage. Invite them to be on your host committee, and share with them your explicit intention to recruit more diverse participants for your convening.  These committee members can help by serving as a champion for you in new communities and reviewing your materials and content to support your effort to speak to a new audience.
  2. Cultural Sensitivity: Does everyone feel welcome to attend your convening? From the invitation to the content, considering who you want at the table will drive your design.  Make certain everything from marketing material to meals reflects a level of sensitivity to a broader audience.  Be intentional about inclusion and not narrow it to a single panel presentation.  Culture is often times the 800 pound gorilla in the room.
  3. Cost: Let’s face it, cost is a huge factor.  We’ve all heard the statistic that on average women earn 79 cents for every dollar earned by men. This disparity is even greater for minorities who may earn as little as 54 cents per dollar as in the case of hispanic women.1 If there are opportunities for people to leverage their skills, networks, or other valuable assets to gain full participation, it’s worth considering.  It would be great if social entrepreneurs had access to large professional development budgets but often times they don’t.


Hope these practical tips are helpful!  Look forward to hearing about your success in diversifying your convening.


Christal M. Jackson

Founder- Head and Heart Philanthropy

christal-jackson-headshotFor nearly two decades, Christal M. Jackson has adopted a philosophy of servant leadership deeply rooted in her Haitian family traditions and values. She is the founder of Head and Heart Philanthropy (HHP), a social impact agency that hosts convenings centered on the best practices in philanthropy, domestic and global initiatives of utmost importance to communities of color. A growing network of over 250 professionals, thought leaders, funders and social entrepreneurs, HHP gathers annually in Martha’s Vineyard with its cohorts to collaborate and exchange ideas. Since its inception four years ago, this network has facilitated nearly two million dollars in resources that address critical issues around health, poverty and education.


1Source: U.S. Current Population Survey and the National Committee on Pay Equity; also Bureau of Labor Statistics: Weekly and Hourly Earnings Data from the Current Population Survey.