A Note from Tanuja M. Dehne, President & CEO of The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation
Before Gathering Ground became the catalyst for transformative conversation and action that many of us have experienced and been inspired by, it was an idea. This idea was formed from a desire to scale the creative, innovative, and community-based connections that Dodge staff and trustees were privileged to initiate and see grow as part of their daily work. Through the seemingly simple act of inviting people from a variety of backgrounds to get to know one another, build trust, and share ideas, Dodge hoped that new collaborations, partnerships, and projects would emerge to benefit New Jersey’s communities. Ten years ago, the Dodge Foundation hosted New Jersey’s first Call to Collaboration which assembled 150 nonprofit leaders from throughout our state to grapple with the question: How can Creativity and Innovation Revitalize New Jersey? It was a dynamic meeting of people from different sectors, disciplines, and geographies. We couldn’t have envisioned at the time that this initial gathering would spark a movement that has helped to foster all kinds of community-rooted solutions and multi-racial, multi-generational, cross-sector partnerships.
Over the years, we have helped shape, support, and participate in numerous community-based Calls to Collaboration. Through these efforts, our team had the opportunity to build and strengthen relationships around the state while also deepening our understanding of the critical issues affecting communities—especially New Jersey’s communities of color. More importantly, we have witnessed participants deepen their own understanding of these issues, hear each other’s perspectives, and develop community-driven solutions.
Gathering Ground’s approach has had meaningful impact at the individual, organizational, and community levels. The work has sparked early-stage ideas that have grown into fully-formed projects, such as the new partnership between the Bangladeshi American Women’s Development Initiative and the Paterson Museum; and the resident-driven creation of the Atlantic City Community Fund, established to harness the power of local philanthropy and advance causes identified by and for the residents of Atlantic City, among others.
Ten years ago, Gathering Ground was itself an early-stage idea. We took a chance on investing in the design, iteration, and growth of this community-building model, which has been informed by the participation of thousands of New Jerseyans. It has become an egalitarian, democratic, people-powered movement, and in the past few years, it has supported people and actions that drive equitable change in organizations, collaborations, and communities.
We celebrate Gathering Ground as it marks its 10-year anniversary of being a leader in holding the space for complex conversations to occur. These conversations invite curiosity and imagination, open our collective thinking to unforeseen opportunities, and ignite personal agency and action. Gathering Ground’s efforts are part of the ecosystem that enables us to imagine a new way as we work toward dismantling oppressive systems and create a just and equitable society for all.
Here’s to the next decade of Gathering Ground!