Member Highlight: Lisa Adkins


We're just days away from the debut of SECF's new podcast, The Bridge, which will share stories of how foundations are using various forms of philanthropic capital to bring people together, bridge divides within their communities, and help spark dialogue that leads the way to solutions.

The inaugural episode of The Bridge features two community foundation leaders in the region: Betsy Covington of the Community Foundation for the Chattahoochee Valley in Columbus, Georgia, and Lisa Adkins of the Blue Grass Community Foundation in Lexington, Kentucky. Both talked with SECF President & CEO Janine Lee about the On the Table initiative, which began in Chicago and has since spread to more than 30 communities across the country.

On the Table aims to bring groups of people together for in-person conversations that take place throughout the community over the course of a single day. On The Bridge, Adkins said her foundation was stunned by the outcome the first time they organized On the Table in 2017.

"We had what we thought were wild ambitions when we first did this back in 2017 and we thought we were dreaming as big as we possibly could dream. Could we get 5,000 people to the table over a single day?" she told Lee. "When we were all said and done, that first year, we estimate that 11,700 people joined us at the table. It was double our wildest expectations and that's because it is so simple."

Simplicity, Adkins told Lee, is the key to convening a successful On the Table event.

"We had groups where everyone brought a dessert and the host put coffee on. We had groups where the host was responsible for the beverage and everyone brought a brown bag," she said. "There are a variety of levels at which you can do this."

The On the Table experience has also provided Adkins with some perspective on how to spark meaningful conversation. In a recent issue of Business Lexington, she wrote about how to apply the lessons of On the Table to workplaces and other organizations.

"A highly focused gathering will provoke more frank and passionate discussion," she wrote. "If you need help homing in on your purpose, reverse engineer the meeting's outcome: Think about what you want to be different because you gathered, and work backward from there."

She also writes that the ending of a meeting can often be just as important as the beginning.

"As a meeting facilitator, it's your responsibility to create an intentional closing that mirrors the opening," she writes. "Set aside a few minutes to reflect on what happened during the conversation and why it matters to your organization."

If you want to learn more about convening successful conversations in your community, keep an eye out for the first episode of The Bridge, debuting soon on SECF.org and all leading podcast platforms! 

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