Today’s blog was written by Iain De Jong, President & CEO of OrgCode Consulting.
Over almost a decade, attendance at the National Conference on Ending Homelessness put on by the National Alliance to End Homelessness in Washington, DC each year has changed my experience in working in homeless programs and services for the better. In this guest blog for the Alliance, I thought I’d tell you all the reasons why you should go…
Why You Should Go to the Summer Alliance Conference on Ending Homelessness
You Are Not Alone – meet other people that do the same thing you do day in and day out. Realizing you are not alone is a good feeling and it can be empowering.
Smart People – I don’t know how they do it, but the Alliance does an amazing job attracting really smart people and speakers year after year.
Realizing You Are Part of A Movement Bigger Than Yourself – maybe where you live people cock their head sideways and think you have completely lost it when you speak of ending homelessness. The people at the conference? They get it.
Agenda is Content Rich – have you seen the agenda for the conference? You won’t find that much amazing content at any other homeless conferences.
DC Is a Great Place for a Conference – with all of the museums, great nightlife, and other sights to see, you’ll find your time pre- and post- conference well spent…and perhaps at the end of each conference day too.
Smart People – come share your brilliance with others and participate in discussions that are defining effective practices.
Newbies – if you are new to the field you won’t get an introduction like this one anywhere else. Deciding which sessions to attend will be the hardest part for you.
Seasoned Vets – stay fresh by opening yourself up to learning, and stay relevant by sharing your experience with people newer to the field. Open your mind to other ways of thinking about and practicing techniques that end homelessness.
Board Members – one of the best ways to find out if your organization is moving in the direction aligned with the greatest likelihood of success in service delivery can be found by attending the conference.
Elected Officials – learn the difference between which services in your community are best aligned with evidence and which ones could be improved where taxpayer dollars are concerned.
Frontline Staff – not only do you get to catch your breath from day to day service delivery, you’ll learn how to be better at your job.
Executive Directors – if knowledge is power, then the conference provides you the knowledge to lead a powerful organization committed to ending homelessness.
Policy Wonks – the bigger picture questions get their time and attention at the conference, working towards amending and shaping policy in the present and future.
Researcher Types – because where else will you find this many people that may open their organizations to have you do research with them? Plus there are sessions about sharing new research too.
Bureaucrats of All Stripes – if ever you have wondered if all you do behind the scenes to make public investment in services to end homelessness is worth it, you will find the answers at the conference.
Advocates – if you want to influence decision-makers, get the best ammunition to do so and chat with like-minded people to advance a unified position to impact change.
Past and Current Clients – every year there are some folks with lived experience that attend the conference and provide an important perspective in the workshops.
Renewal is Priceless – sometimes we need to go slower to go faster and the Alliance conferences sets up an environment for that to occur effectively.
Investing in Future Improvement – time and money spent at the conference now can save your organization, branch of government, foundation, etc. money in the future.
If They Put All This in a Book it Would be a Zillion Dollars – okay, so a zillion may be a stretch, but I don’t know how you quantify the value of not just the conference sessions but the networking, keynotes and pre-conference opportunities.
The Cost of Doing Nothing? – to me, not learning how to improve practice is again to investing the same time and money over and over again and expecting different results.
Are the Presenters Any Good?
World Leaders – one of the strengths about the Alliance Conference is that they attract the best and brightest speakers who are leaders in what they do.
Share and Post Presentations – almost all of the presenters make their materials available on the Alliance website after the conference, and a lot of them pass out materials during their sessions. Save room in your luggage to take a whack of paper back with you.
Dynamic – because the speakers are super-passionate about what they do, chances are you will be moved and anything but bored.
Pragmatic – one of the great things about the presenters is that you will actually gain very practical things that you can take back to your community and apply, rather than the learning just being conceptual or theoretical.
Evaluated – at the end of the conference you’ll have the chance to provide input on which speakers were the best and who should be invited back again.
Scale – the conference is HUGE.
Top-Shelf Organization – the conference tends to be impeccably well organized.
Best Pollination of Ideas – this conference shares ideas that transcend city, county, state and even country boundaries.
Main Currents of Thought and Practice – the material discussed and presented is in tune with the most current thoughts on ending homelessness and practices to achieve results.
Who Can I Expect to Meet?
Kindred Spirits – meet people who share your passion for ending homelessness and want to network with you regardless of where you are from to share ideas and practices. Do yourself a favor and make an effort to share a table at plenary sessions with people that you don’t normally work with.
Alliance Staff – they are the crème de la crème when it comes to subject matter expertise, facilitating networking, advancing good ideas, understanding policy, practicing advocacy and putting together a phenomenal conference.
USICH Folks – there is a very positive relationship between the National Alliance to End Homelessness and the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, so you can expect many of the pivotal leaders from the USICH to be in attendance at the conference.
Giants in the Field – from the leading researchers (folks like Dennis Culhane) to national movements focusing on ending homelessness (the amazing Community Solutions) to pioneers of practices that are proven to end homelessness (Sam Tsemberis has been known to be in attendance) to seasoned practitioners that have made a lasting difference in their community, this conference attracts them all.
Technical Advisors that Know Their Stuff – I’ve been to conferences where TA folks are trying to set their targets on new business, and it can feel a bit icky. The TA people that attend the Alliance conferences tend to do so because they have knowledge and strategies to share from their time helping other communities and organizations in the field.
Improved Advocacy – expect to have new data and strategies for advocating with the right people to advance the agenda of ending homelessness.
Smarter – you’ll have way more information than before you went to the conference.
Inspired – feeling part of a bigger movement and connected to people who share their passion for ending homelessness, you’ll feel inspired to do even better when you return home.
Improved Critical Analysis – it has been my experience that attendees of the conference are better able to review their own programs relative to the new information and examples they become privy to at the conference.
Renewed – there is a certain amount of renewal that comes from a few days away from the day to day grind.
Iain De Jong is the President & CEO of OrgCode Consulting and a long-time conference presenter at National Alliance Conferences. He will be making at least two presentations at the conference, and looking forward to learning much more from the other presenters and attendees. You can learn more about Iain at www.orgcode.com or www.facebook.com/orgcode or follow him on Twitter @orgcode