Presenter Q&A with Allen Smart: getting beyond social sector walls

Presenter Q&A with Allen Smart: getting beyond social sector walls

// By Jacqueline Brennan

Allen Smart, who’ll present the Upswell workshop, “Connecting With Rural Communities,” is a longtime foundation leader and current national rural philanthropy spokesperson who writes, presents, and provokes under his consulting practice, PhilanthropywoRx. He’s an expert on rural communities and philanthropy. He’s got a great speaking voice, too, which he used quite effectively in his past life as an on-air radio personality! Find out more about him, including his recommendation for everyone in the social good space.

Q: If you had a time machine, would you go back in time or into the future, and why?

AS: I am very forward looking, in both my work and professionally, understanding that my work and how I use my influence going forward is certainly framed by an understanding of the past of rural communities, but supporting their vision of where they want to go. I’ve seen some remarkable transformations of rural communities, certainly some of it fueled by philanthropy, and I really want to be part of that going forward. Much of rural work led by philanthropy, unfortunately, has harkened back to the past in these communities, and we really need to be helping them look forward.

Q: What one change can we make right now in the U.S. that would make the greatest impact to help people thrive?

AS: To have 100% affordable, accessible broadband available to every person in the United States. So many equity issues, and that gets into economic equity, education, transportation, is supported by high-speed broadband. And without that, you’re not participating in being part of something looking forward. You’re either stuck in the present or the past.

Q: What’s a skill that you wish you could use more often?

AS: I had a lot of experience in college and early career in radio journalism and being an on-air radio personality, and I would love to have the opportunity to pick that up again.

Q: What does it mean to live a good life?

AS: It’s funny, I was just talking about that with someone. The phrase I use to describe my intentionality about living my life is short and sweet, I guess, and that’s to be useful to others, in whatever context that might be, family, community, professionally. Not to be driven by my own agenda, but to really be in a position to respond to people to help them achieve their dreams, frankly.

Q: What’s one thing that every person in the social sector should know about?

AS: The one thing that people in the social sector should be thinking about and have front of mind is to be externally focused, rather than internally. Much of what you need to know is not within the walls of the social sector. It’s deeply embedded in community action and tradition and human interaction. And the social sector, for better or worse, has increasingly become internally focused. We are often consumed by internal organizational paralysis. More action — less planning, ruminating, and pondering.

1600 900 Jacqueline Brennan
1 Comment
  • The facts (and fallacies) about rural communities and philanthropy – Upswell

    […] Check out our presenter Q&A with Allen. […]

Comments are closed.

Privacy Preferences

When you visit our website, it may store information through your browser from specific services, usually in the form of cookies. Here you can change your Privacy preferences. It is worth noting that blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience on our website and the services we are able to offer.

Our website uses cookies, mainly from 3rd party services. Define your Privacy Preferences and/or agree to our use of cookies.