Your space for making change

Upswell Workshops are designed for experimentation, creativity, and connection. They create an interactive venue for honing skills and rewarding curiosity. And they provide a platform for lively debate, collaboration, and brainstorming. Sessions are organized into four tracks:

The work we do as changemakers must be grounded in our humanity, and the humanity of those who touch and are touched by our work. Humanity workshops provide the chance to reconnect with core leadership values and to learn how to apply human-centered practices in pursuit of mission.

Racial Equity
Our country was founded on, and continues to perpetuate, systems of racism, oppression, and structural violence. Together, we must confront racial inequities. Racial equity workshops provide space to acquire new tools and techniques to advance racial equity in your personal and professional life.

Data and Technology
Technology continues to advance at a whiplash pace and touches nearly every aspect of changemakers’ work. In this track, participants of varying expertise will learn the latest trends and practices to leverage technology and data for greater impact.

Policy and Advocacy
Sustainable positive change can’t happen without public policy interventions. From Capitol Hill to City Hall, policy & advocacy workshops help seasoned experts and new advocates understand how to more effectively advance their cause.

A Decade Review of Philanthropy and Equity in California

Track: Policy, Racial Equity

Ten years ago, the philanthropy community in California banded together to defeat regulation from the state to mandate that they fund communities of color—opting to instead, self-regulate. How did that go? Did nonprofits run by people of color, serving communities of color get the money they would have if government mandated it? Which nonprofits benefited from “self-regulation” and which are still left out of the process? In this workshop, you’ll explore the opportunities and challenges with self regulating equity and how successes can be replicated elsewhere.


Aligning Organizational Ethics with 21st Century Challenges

Track: Humanity, Racial Equity

#MeToo. Standing Rock. Living wages. Black Lives Matter – complicated issues that challenge the meaning of being an ethical and responsible institution. This workshop’s interactive activities and group conversations will focus on reframing organizational ethics to align with 21st century challenges. You’ll also build deeper relationships and a greater appreciation for the complexity of social issues and the challenges in addressing them.


Applying Business Skills to Nonprofit Challenges

Track: Humanity

Should nonprofits run more like businesses? While service to others remains at the core, managing charitable organizations is growing more complex and demanding – and driving the question about the need for formal management training as a necessary leadership skill set. Can MBA competencies help us address our challenges through a business lens, without losing our service perspective? You’ll leave this workshop with greater knowledge of local and national community needs, and the importance of incorporating “business skills” without losing your nonprofit values.


Beyond Being an Ally

Track: Racial Equity

You feel like you have a good grasp of the data and some understanding of the history of race in America. You even know you have more to learn, that this is a journey. But knowing what that means in how you structure everything, from your org chart to your weekly meetings while creating an inclusive organizational culture, is still not easy for you. Learn how you can use what you know about race and power dynamics and be open to what you may not yet understand, to build an organization that makes a difference, while you are busy making a difference.


Building a Narrative for the Sector and Your Mission

Track: Humanity

Everyone’s got a story. Small business has a narrative. So do various for-profit industries. But what’s the nonprofit sector’s story, and what’s your best elevator pitch about the value your organization brings? Don’t miss this workshop, where you’ll develop, test, and refine compelling messages that tell the story about the sector’s social change brand, and drive home the importance of your organization’s work.


Diagnosing the Health of Your Organization’s Priorities

Track: Data/Technology

Whether you work at an organization or just interact with one, organizational capacity matters! Learn about the findings and vast array of tools that emerged from a landscape scan of organizational assessment tools. You’ll leave this workshop knowing how organizational assessment can help a nonprofit prioritize areas for improvement, and the factors that make an assessment more (or less) successful.


Extended Reality for Social Good

Track: Data/Technology

Like many emerging technologies, Extended (Augmented (AR) and Virtual (VR)) Reality has traditionally been viewed as a primarily private sector asset. However, as the private sector continues to develop AR to tell stories and sell products, the social sector is well poised to develop powerful experiences and campaigns that support equally powerful missions. Compelling use cases are beginning to emerge across three areas: Engagement, Education and Enjoyment. This panel of nonprofit executives will discuss how their organizations have effectively used Extended Reality to improve the lives of their beneficiaries and deepen the reach to their constituents. We’ll explore how this technology can enable your organization to create new experiences, reach new audiences in new ways, and position itself as a sector leader in the eyes of foundations and private donors.


Fostering a Healthy Democracy

Track: Humanity

In a world that feels divided socially and politically, it can be reassuring to know there are approaches you can implement today to make values-based connections. This workshop will provide a variety of ways that are being successfully used to bridge divides. Learn and experience ways to connect with others with whom you may disagree and how to find space to consider shared values.


Humanizing Public Policy for Better Outcomes

Track: Humanity, Policy

Taking a lesson from the story of Hidden Figures, this workshop teaches us how devising answers to some of our most vexing problems requires us to look at the people behind the policies. Human-centered design is a new approach to creating direct services that put people at the center of nonprofit work. Through two California-based case studies on homelessness and gun violence, this workshop will explore how we can apply human-centered design to create more successful public policies.


Leading with Compassion

Track: Humanity

Want to know the secret to making better decisions, building trust, growing your network of followers, and substantially increasing the impact of your work? Compassion. That might sound simple – and obvious – but as it turns out, most leaders think that compassion means “being soft or nice” or “loving everyone.” And most leaders are wrong! This workshop explores the theory and practice of compassion and teaches you exactly how to use it to strengthen your leadership (and achieve all of the things listed above).


Moneyball for Advocacy and Equity

Track: Policy, Racial Equity

Metrics aren’t just for baseball. The push for short-term returns on investments may drive improvements to direct service, but these types of philanthropic trends also may undermine long-term goals to change systems and empower marginalized communities. This workshop will use a case study about California migrant workers to draw lessons on how to prevent philanthropic barriers to advocacy and encourage all nonprofits to help their constituents raise their voices for themselves.


New Lessons from Social Movements

Track: Policy

Social movements are both an indicator of a problem that needs solving and a sign of a healthy democracy. What can we learn from this form of collective action, which increasingly is becoming the primary way for people to raise their voice on issues affecting their lives and communities? You will hear how movements like #MeToo and #NeverAgain are opportunities for the sector to capitalize on this momentum to support and sustain community-led activism to achieve real change.


Settling Differences, Making Change

Track: Humanity

Dialogue and collaboration are difficult in our ideologically charged world. How do we push past our discomfort and differences to begin focusing on collective action and shared solutions? Explore how to move beyond stereotypes and begin fostering the trust needed to work across ideology to tackle intractable problems.


Sustaining Collective Action Through Setbacks

Track: Policy

You are 10 years into your mission and the indicators of progress do not look good, but research has shown long-term policy gains can take 10-30 years to materialize. How do you persevere? Using case studies of homelessness in Los Angeles and Seattle and marriage equality in California, you will learn how to do all of the right things to assess, celebrate, and keep people motivated as you work for your mission.


The Faith Factor in Social Purpose

Track: Humanity

We all have faith in something. We wouldn’t be drawn to social change work if we didn’t. If our national narrative is a composite of its individual parts, then finding common ground in the hope it takes to transform our world is paramount. This presentation will offer a non-polarizing setting to learn what drives changemakers across worldviews.


The Impact of Millennial Mayors

Track: Racial Equity

Across California and the country, young millennial mayors are shaking up the relationship between government and community. Hear directly from mayors and community leaders about how local partnerships can be the key to bringing positive change to scale and making a real difference for communities often left behind.


The Pros and Cons of Benchmarking Changework

Track: Data/Technology

Just as fitness and wellness tracking programs help us “benchmark” our progress, tracking the nonprofit sector’s health and well-being can be a valuable resource for funders, policymakers, and advocates working to meet nonprofit needs and improve the environment in which we work. Join a team of experts for a discussion about whether an index to track the nonprofit sector’s progress is needed, and learn how early findings related to financial health, voting, and employment may be indicators about the road ahead.


The Race Equity Cycle

Track: Data/Technology, Racial Equity

The racial leadership gap is not a pipeline problem, but a structural problem that exists throughout the social sector. By first determining where your organization is strong, and where the opportunities for improvement exist, you’ll be on your way to achieving a not only diverse, but also equitable workplace. In this interactive session, you’ll utilize data from Building Movement Project’s Race to Lead, with Equity in the Center’s Awake, Woke, Work cycle, and leave the workshop knowing how to apply racial equity data and strategy to your organization.


Transformative Tech and You

Track: Data/Technology

How can tech change a nonprofit’s culture, vision, or impact? Founding partners of Independent Sector’s Tech for Common Good initiative share real stories about the most radical uses of tech to improve lives. They will discuss where they see the most opportunity and the most risk as the sector grapples with multiple technological advancements, and answer your questions about what all of this means to you.


Why Potential Supporters are Just Not that Into You

Track: Policy

Does it sometimes feel like the public or policymakers just aren’t that into your mission? More likely, you’re just not framing your mission to appeal to a broad audience. Communications experts will share their findings on how many of us communicate in values that only speak to a fraction of our community. You’ll leave this workshop with new tools on how to use values-based communications to build support across partisan divides and advance your mission.


Your 2019 Policy Game Plan

Track: Policy

Elections are out of the way and it’s time for a policy reboot. Download the latest developments in the ever-changing world of policy at the national and state levels to get you ready to tackle all of the issues affecting your organization in 2019. Join experts to develop strategies on issues such as charitable giving, political activity, and taxes. You will leave the session armed with knowledge of the playing field and equipment needed to win the policy game in the coming year.