Acting Together - Forefront's 42nd Annual Luncheon

Thursday, June 16, 2016

“Act together, give together, so we can get it together, in order to live together.”

That wasn’t just what renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma said at Forefront’s annual luncheon on June 8—those words captured the whole spirit of the event. From the smile and a wink Mr. Ma gave to one of his fellow musicians during a piece played with students from the People’s School of Music to the ideas offered by Donald A. Cooke from the McCormick Foundation, who was honored at the luncheon, the joy and effectiveness of collaboration was a central theme.

In introducing Mr. Cooke, Forefront’s President and CEO, Eric Weinheimer, talked about the importance of building connections, and highlighted Mr. Cooke’s ability to get the best out of the people and organizations with which he works. “You understand,” Mr. Weinheimer told Mr. Cooke. “You see the potential that resides in us when we get out of our silos, when we choose to work together for a common cause.”

Mr. Weinheimer also highlighted Forefront’s work to bring all of the different aspects of the social impact sector together in order to take action on pressing issues. He pointed to the Nonprofit Sustainability Initiative, which helps organizations explore strategic partnerships, collaborations, and mergers so that they can be more effective and better able to weather economic challenges, and the Social Innovation Roundtable, which looks to bring fragmented conversations on social enterprise and impact investing together so that coordination can make these activities more effective.

Effective coordination requires casting a large net, and that is the goal of another Forefront initiative Mr. Weinheimer highlighted, the #ILGive Initiative. It will take place on November 29 this year, with the goal of raising $9 million from new individual donors. All of these efforts, Mr. Weinheimer said, are part of Forefront’s obsession with “how we can engage new voices so we do not just learn together, but act together to affect the lives of not just hundreds of thousands of people, but millions of people.”

Both in his remarks and in his discussion with Yo-Yo Ma, Mr. Cooke reflected on similar themes of collaboration and partnership. “It’s a team effort, and it’s everyone in this room,” Mr. Cooke said. “We have learned you can’t do it alone, you have to work together and collaborate.”

Sometimes collaboration can involve losing control, but Mr. Ma emphasized that confronting our fears of losing control, rather than giving in to them, can encourage creativity. He said that in playing music, if he lets a desire to avoid mistakes guide his actions, the music comes out stilted, dry, and pedantic. The antidote is loving what you are trying to say so much that you are dying to share it with others, and that excitement lifts the music and the message, even if it comes with some mistakes.

“As a society, we have choices,” Mr. Ma said. “We either build walls, which is destructive, because it decreases creativity and understanding, or we can build bridges, bridges that build creativity, empathy, and better communication. It takes constant effort.”

View photos from the Annual Luncheon on Facebook or Flickr.

See what attendees had to say on social media on our Storify.

Read press coverage from Make it Better.

View the videos, including Yo-Yo Ma's performances on YouTube.