Today’s post is guest written by Iain De Jong.
In less than a month, hundreds of folks will be gathering in LA for the National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness. Six months after that, several hundred more will gather in DC for the National Conference on Ending Homelessness in July. It is a huge undertaking for the Alliance to organize these conferences and find quality service providers, researchers, and consultants to provide the sessions. It is a big commitment on the part of attendees to take time away from their work to attend. In a time of fiscal restraint it is also a big deal for organizations to set aside funds for people to attend.
So why attend? Is the investment of time and money worth it?
Yes. Absolutely. Undoubtedly. Let me tell you why.
Of all the conferences that I attend throughout North America, I can say without a doubt that the Alliance is able to pull together premier speakers that exceed every other conference I have ever attended. If you want to learn from people who really, really know their material and are masters within their field and/or informing practice within their field, these are the conferences to attend. Does that mean you will love every session that you go to? Probably not. I’ve never been to a perfect conference anywhere. But I am convinced I have considerably less disappointment at Alliance conferences compared to others.
The speakers also have integrity and are doing it for the right reasons. To be transparent, I have been a speaker at their conferences for quite a number of years now. I don’t get paid a cent to do it. I do it because this is one of the vehicles I choose to use to give back to the profession. No one is paying me to say things in a certain way or to massage a message in a particular fashion. You get what I honestly think and have learned through practice and research.
There is a little something for everyone at the conferences, and it shows in how the agenda is put together. Consider the agenda for the conference in LA next month. There are sessions on everything from improving permanent supportive housing to the role of shelters in Housing First programs; from rapid re-housing approaches for people surviving domestic violence to employment strategies that work; from understanding what data is and how to use it to the HEARTH Act; from using new media to blueprints to ending homelessness for families and youth; from reunification strategies to the role of faith-based service providers; from protecting youth from sexual trafficking to working with mainstream anti-poverty organizations. And that is just a sample.
Alliance staff are worthy of my highest esteem and it shines at conferences. These are dedicated professionals who have made it their career choice to advocate, educate, research and inform service providers, elected officials and others on how ending homelessness is possible. They are remarkably intelligent. They are innovative in how they examine issues. They are passionate about ending homelessness, and it shows. It is energizing to engage with them.
And then there are the networking opportunities that happen on a scale at Alliance conferences that doesn’t occur at other conferences. When I was a direct service provider I was always able to seek out kindred spirits to share ideas and service approaches. We jointly problem-solved and collaborated. We share ideas to this day. As a consultant and educator nowadays, I am able to also connect with service providers, policy makers and others in the same field. Some of us will always be smarter than one of us, and I believe this is proven in spades at Alliance conferences.
I hope you or someone from your organization will make the trek out to sunny California in February and we have the chance to meet. Pop by my session on Data Simplified (one of the most fun sessions at the conference – yes, I make data fun!!!) If that isn’t possible, start saving your pennies now to come to DC in July. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
Iain De Jong is the President & CEO of OrgCode Consulting, Inc., an award-winning practitioner and policy-maker, a long-time friend of the National Alliance to End Homelessness and a frequent presenter at Alliance Conferences. Learn more about Iain and his work at www.orgcode.com or @orgcode on Twitter or www.facebook.com/orgcode