The President's Message Fall 2017
The report on the party leads me to reflect on what LAFF is all about, and the people who make it possible. I’ll cite three—Michael Seltzer, Nellie Toma and John LaHoud—and then circle back to the work the Executive Committee is undertaking to strengthen LAFF and its appeal for current and future members.
Michael has been our dedicated program chair, conceiving and implementing an innovative and joyful set of periodic LAFF meetings in New York. He’s done this with creativity and verve, and the unfailing support of our Secretary-Treasurer, Nellie Toma. Michael and Nellie have ensured a vibrancy in the New York chapter, and we all welcome your thoughts on what kinds of meetings and events have worked best and will appeal most to you in the years ahead. We also are eager to help provide whatever thoughts and assistance we can to promote similar experiences in our chapters elsewhere in the United States and around the world.
Of course, part of the appeal of LAFF is the welcoming embrace it enjoys from the Foundation’s president, Darren Walker, and his staff. This coming together of LAFF and the Foundation is an extremely welcome development. It allows LAFF members to meet current Foundation staff (and future LAFF colleagues) to exchange ideas about Foundation programs and past experiences, imbuing our events with more depth than nostalgia and, as Darren reminds us, enriching current staff’s efforts with historic insight. We can and should make a special effort to bring current staff together with our LAFF colleagues as they travel to chapter designations around the world.
Which brings me to the third person I want to cite, our editor, John LaHoud. LAFF is, after all, an international organization, with four chapters in this country and five abroad. Our nearly 500 members are bound over time and distance by the news about each other and the Foundation that John puts together in the Newsletter and on our website with the help of Susan Huyser, our designer; Peter Ford, our web page administrator, and Nellie. The compliments we receive with each issue are testimony to John’s efforts, but we need our members’ help to maintain the richness and diversity of these important communications. We need a steady flow of content, and we need editorial assistance. So please write to John and tell him how you are willing to help.
Last month, the Executive Committee met at length to talk about the future of LAFF and how we can invigorate it in the face of ever new social media channels of communication, the changing demographics of our membership and philanthropy itself, and a deluge of distractions that pull us in different directions when we most need to come together. Our concern is not simply a matter of attracting new members, but providing a rich menu of options that can better fulfill our mission of “promoting social and professional contacts” among former (and current) staff of the Ford Foundation.
We brainstormed questions of structure and organization; enhanced and more interactive communications; outreach to colleagues beyond New York and the continental United States, including program assistants, consultants and administrative and support staff; and a variety of services ranging from consulting to mentoring to house exchanges. It was an eye-opening discussion, which we intend to continue and expand to ensure that the widest range of views and ideas inform our thinking. We need your feedback, not simply the welcome notes of appreciation for the most recent newsletter or event, which are most welcome, but your thoughts about how you see LAFF’s role in the years to come.
LAFF’s original purpose has altered over the 25 years since its founding. The culture of the Foundation has changed too. Social media have modified the ways we think about culture and politics, economics and the environment, and the ways in which we talk to each other about the essential matters of the day. Our institutional identities also shift with the times.
Where and how can LAFF continue to fulfill a vital role in your busy lives in the years to come? The Executive Committee fully believes that role is there to be played. We need you to help us define it.
Let me take this opportunity to wish you all a happy holiday season, and a hopeful new year.