Kicking Off Upswell 2020

Kicking Off Upswell 2020

// By Christian Clansky

/ by Victor Reinoso /

We know what you might be thinking: didn’t Upswell Chicago just wrap up? If there’s just one thing to know about Upswell, it’s that it’s an ever-growing wave of energy. Or to put it another way, it doesn’t start and stop. Our shared opportunity — at Independent Sector and throughout the Upswell community — is to guide the incredible energy from Chicago right into Pittsburgh.

So, just just a few weeks after 1,500 changemakers gathered in Chicago, we kicked off Upswell 2020 in the heart of Pittsburgh’s community of changemakers. In conjunction with our December Board Meeting, Independent Sector connected 60 funders, nonprofit leaders, community activists, IS board members, and staff to meet, share experiences, and explore the issues that truly matter to people in and around the city of Pittsburgh.

The energy and enthusiasm were palpable. We are thrilled with the momentum that’s built going onto the third Upswell – and accelerating that momentum even more means deeply engaging with Pittsburgh’s residents, leaders, and changemakers throughout the year.

In a series of meetings and meals, we learned about the how the local community is envisioning the scale of Upswell’s positive impact on Pittsburgh, particularly as we host the summit in Nova Place, the city’s largest urban renewal project.

On Tuesday, December 10 we hosted several group meetings between Pittsburgh area leaders and our own board and staff. We met with folks representing business, nonprofit, and government. Some of the organizations represented were Casa San Jose, UrbanKind Institute, YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh, Highmark Foundation, and PNC Foundation.

That evening, we hosted an energetic dinner at the Mattress Factory where the meal was catered by the Pittsburgh’s Chef Claudy Pierre, who leads Eminent Hospitality Solutions Co. and the Empowerment Awareness & Training (E.A.T.) Initiative Inc. E.A.T is a nonprofit organization that envisions a world of fed and sustainable communities, and hosts hands-on cooking demonstrations and career development via hospitality training focused in food vulnerable families. At the Tuesday dinner, Upswell Fellows from Pittsburgh who attended Upswell Chicago were able to share their experiences visiting the Windy City.

“The dinner at the Mattress Factory was a good example of Independent Sector’s commitment to authentically connecting with and representing Pittsburgh in Upswell 2020,” said Jamil Bey, president and CEO of UrbanKind Institute. “Each of the Fellows that attended told me about the rich table conversations that they had with Independent Sector Board members and staff. This only added to the enthusiasm that we all have for making sure that the Pittsburgh experience sets a new standard – while accelerating our work for greater impact.”

“The experience I had at Upswell in Chicago was unlike anything I’ve ever had connected to a conference,” Lisa Schroeder, president and CEO of Pittsburgh Foundation, told the dinner guests. “It really is a community immersion experience, not a sit-in-a-chair and be talked at experience. The menu of activities was amazing – simultaneously, you can experience deep breakout sessions on serious issues, 10-minute idea sessions, luminaries on the stage, with wellness exercises and a 50-piece band marching through the lobby.”

Schroeder, who is a co-chair of Upswell 2020, said Pittsburgh will be a setting that fits the model. “Pittsburgh will provide the perfect setting for the next Upswell because our culture is defined by many diverse communities with a tradition of coming together in collaborative partnerships to serve the common good. We have a lot to share and a lot to learn through this event.”

“It is a privilege to support Upswell this year in Chicago, and the important work needed to strengthen the independent sector,” said Kabir Kumar, senior director of community at “The challenges faced by society are significant, and it takes a combined and thoughtful approach of government, the public sector and the private sector, working together, to help improve the lives of the communities where we live and work. We look forward to Upswell 2020 and continued progress, dialogue, and action that this important convening brings to life.”

“We say that Upswell is locally grounded and nationally relevant and the nature of the conversations in Pittsburgh last week made that really come to life,” said Jeffrey L. Bradach, chair of the Independent Sector Board, and co-founder and managing partner or The Bridgespan Group. “As a member of the board, we know that Upswell helps us listen to community and then make meaning from those interactions. It is clear we have much to learn from Pittsburgh, and at the same time, it offers a window on some of the sector’s most important national issues. We are excited to keep going.”

As we continue to find ways to engage local and national leaders ahead of October 14-16, be sure to check back here on for a huge range of opportunities to submit ideas, engage with the broader community, and get the latest on registration.

In the meantime, have a happy and restful holiday season and Happy New Year!

Victor Reinoso is Chief Operating Officer at Independent Sector

1600 900 Christian Clansky
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