Opportunity Collaboration USA
by Shoniqua Kemp, FII-Detroit Family Partner
I attended the Opportunity Collaboration summit, a conference focused on bringing together leaders to build sustainable solutions to poverty with 3 other FII Family Partners from other FII sites. There were folks from everywhere–California, Cuba, and Ghana, just to name a few. And, of course, Michigan was well represented by Detroit. The majority of other attendees were Executive Directors, CEOs, philanthropists, and all mostly Caucasian. At first, I was intimidated by the setting. I learned very quickly that they valued my input. They seemed very eager to learn what people in communities like mine really need.
Attending this conference provided me the opportunity to meet some amazing people that seemed to genuinely care to effect positive change, starting with themselves. I felt like I was in the right place.
The setting was always round-table, peer circles. We started our mornings in group discussions that helped remind each of us how important it is to know yourself to understand your role or purpose. The remainder of the day was spent networking with other attendees and participating in small group conversations that focused on a variety of topics: race, economic standing, and oppressive systems of different kinds.
Although there were some challenging conversations, I noticed that there were also underdiscussed topics such as generational wealth, leveraging policies for social change, and importance of self care. I confirmed that we know what we need, and that professionals know we have the answers. They sought answers of “How to” and listened intently. Through my participation in these sessions, I learned that we ARE the experts and that FII’s model of investing and trusting in families is key and is what is missing in traditional approaches to both economic development and social justice. Opportunity is open to all of us but it’s how you leverage your opportunities that affect your life and the lives of those around you. I showed up at OC eager to extend my network and that of FII and discover willing collaborators who would extend new resources to communities in the city of Detroit.
After my first day, I was emotional—intrigued yet perplexed. At first, I wasn’t sure how my experiences would translate to someone else or how they could be used to inform and empower others. However, I learned a lot about myself, my expectations of others, and opportunity creation. I learned that your expectations are not necessarily reality. I took away strength, assurance, love, and endurance. And I learned not to let analysis lead to paralysis but have faith that things will work out.
When I returned, I felt an obligation to do more than I was doing before. My attendance and active participation there gave me insight on how to engage my community in underdiscussed topics, create solid solutions, and take positive action. It is my hope to organize monthly kitchen table talks, and create a viable strategy to work collaboratively with all members of the community to improve the City of Detroit. Communities and residents need to take the lead and organizations across the city need to be supportive.