The most important story I have so far from my internship at the Council of Michigan Foundations (CMF) in Detroit is from the 14th Biennial Family Foundations Retreat, which I had been working on programming for most of this summer. This retreat was just the first part of my internship, with the second part of my work revolving around engaging alumni of the CMF youth grantmaking programs.
For this Family Foundations Retreat I was tasked with creating programming for the young people that would be attending the event with their parents who are part of philanthropic family foundations. This means three days worth of meaningful and fun programming that teaches them about family foundations and grantmaking. After working so hard to create this programming which included three separate experience level tracks, site visits to possible grantees, tours of Detroit, and a real grantmaking opportunity, it was truly incredible to see everything come together before my eyes. The youth that attended the retreat formed close friendships and learned about their individual foundations as well as the foundations of others.
As for myself, I not only got to watch all this play out but I was also actively facilitating the youth sessions, site visits, and grantmaking process. I didn’t have to watch idly from the sidelines as all this great learning was taking place, but I actually got to aid in sharing the knowledge.
The retreat was definitely not without it’s fun moments. Every participant of this weekend event (youth and adult!) went on one of three special Detroit tours provided by the Detroit Experience Factory. I went with the young people on the “Downtown and Beyond” tour which made stops of the classic Detroit landmarks such as the Guardian Building, Belle Isle, the Museum District, and the Heidelberg Project. Regardless of how they felt about the city before, everyone on board these tours left the bus knowing that Detroit is an absolute treasure trove of history, art, architecture, innovation, and social change.
My favorite moment from this whole weekend was one of quiet reflection in a beautiful place. The Detroit Athletic Clubs sits like an old wise man in the heart of downtown. While the city has changed around it, with a plethora of new skyscrapers added to the skyline and the construction of Comerica Park right next door, it still remains there relatively unchanged (save for the inclusion of women in the clubs social and athletic activities!)
This was where the attendees of the retreat came together for a reception on the final night of the event. It was absolutely beautiful, but while most people were enjoying the view I was busy putting together a presentation of all the photos we had captured throughout the weekend. It was then as I was sitting at a table in the corner of the event space that I could see the full impact that this retreat had on the attendees and the knowledge they had gained from networking with each other and exploring the city of Detroit together. I could also see through these photos the intergenerational learning that had occurred. Parents, grandparents, and children were all discovering how to make their giving more effective and were sharing ideas from their own perspectives. I was so lucky to have this moment where everything came together because I could see the work I had been doing for the first half of the summer was important and actually impacting the lives of others.
While this first part of my work with CMF has come to a close, I’m excited to jump into my next big project and see where the rest of the summer will take me!