Annually, Gary Hubbell Consulting convenes and hosts a small hand-picked group of social sector professionals for three days of intense dialogue and critical thinking. We strive to create a thought-provoking, mind-opening, and stimulating conversation about the social sector, philanthropy, and leadership. This deep exploration of the nature and challenges of the environment is intended to engage, inform, and inspire senior leaders to be catalysts for change in their own organizations and communities of influence. With each Conversation, we seek to establish the seeds of a continuing and enriching network that nourishes us as individuals and helps each of us change how we converse, inspire, and seek new dimensions of impact.

Attending Conversation means taking your perspective to a new scale.
Check out or brief video introduction to Conversation:


What are Conversations?

Creating and curating conversations is the very essence of the work we do in philanthropy. Conversation is an open space for discovery, contribution, and dialogue. Representing a rich mix of personally invited participants from throughout the social sector, we gather people in search of new and deeper meaning; seeing with new eyes those topics we've long thought we know well- the purposeful work we do; imagining alternative futures; leadership from the inside-out*, systems thinking, and the ever evolving transformative power of philanthropy.
There are no presentations, no sponsored events, no vender meet-n-greets, and no chair-lined auditoriums. Participants are the program. Together, we determine the arc and depth of our discussion. Guided with an appreciative inquiry style, the conveners invite you to explore what it means to be in right relation to your work, what constitutes wise action and lasting impact, and what is possible through concerted action.

Writing and submitting an essay prior to the gathering fosters advance reflection and primes the pump. Informed and inspired by the collective of advance essays, we feel a sense of immediate community where familiarity is established and trust follows.

And then we gather.

Checking egos and titles at the door, we seek to evoke a clearing…an opening…an invitation…to test assumptions and to welcome some level of personal disturbance. Through a three day robust exchange among like-spirited colleagues in search of new meaning, we individually and collective walk into the disturbance and through it. Emerging grounded, reflective, energized, and recommitted…another knowledgeable, soulful node on a growing network for good.

Our friend and colleague, Musimbi Kanyoro, CEO of the Global Fund for Women, says of her two participations in Conversations:

"For me, it has been the safety of being away from my known circles of friends and colleagues and paired with people I usually don't meet….discovering that we experience certain similarities in our lives as we manage, analyze, interpret, and live our diversity in our callings. The space felt safe and it was like a strategic retreat for me; a space providing a shade in the heat of our daily work, a quench of water on the long walk in life's professions."

After several years, we have witnessed a set of characteristics among participants who seem to invest the most energy and derive the most benefit from Conversations. The most engaged participants are:

  1. Willing to hold loosely your organizational mission focus, to free yourself from organizational conceit, and to refocus your energies on the whole system.
  2. Willing to accept moments of 'profound disorientation,' in which your most taken-for-granted ways of seeing and making sense of the world come unglued.
  3. Interested in examining what society needs, working backwards from that; to be asking different questions of how our organizations should live in this world.
  4. Trying to catalyze a rich life of possibilities.
  5. Seeking to be part of a community of learners/a community of practitioners.
  6. Interested in exploring different ways of being, seeing, and doing.
  7. Wanting to stay professionally affirmed, renewed, energized, enthusiastic, and inspired.
  8. Willing to contribute the best of your knowing before gaining something from others.
  9. Willing to co-create a deep discussion and explore meaningful questions
  10. Comfortable or willing to embrace abstract thinking and deal joyfully with complex issues without the emotional expectation of immediate solutions and "how to" manuals.

*from Kevin Cashman's book by the same name

Interested in being invited to a future Conversation, or simply learning more about this unique gathering? Let us know.


Each Conversation builds upon and extends the "Hilton Head Affirmation" that emerged in Conversation 2011:

Catalyzing the Future: A Promise of Receptive Leadership
Our Hilton Head Affirmation

The future dawns.

We prepare by turning to wonder.

We understand that we are part of a current that began long before our arrival and will continue long after we depart. We do not control its course--so we must learn to flow with it.

We believe that world-changers are self-changers first. We lead not mainly by leaps but by small steps. They way may be uncertain, but the ground we share is hallowed. All we need is here, and it's all important. The greatest promise exists in the smallest seed. We belong to each other. We can feed each other.

We feel an energy around and about us that we don't necessarily understand and can't quite articulate--but which we can increase and extend by our presence.

We recognize that power emerges from spirit, from intention.

United by a sense of responsibility, and a desire to improve the landscape, we commit ourselves to dropping old baggage, opening fresh eyes, and finding new ways to examine, reflect, and shift.

Further, we pledge to:

  • Take the long view, adopting an unfettered vantage point from which to see the horizon.
  • Round the square tables, holding safe spaces where all are seen and heard.
  • Listen attentively and well, inviting and welcoming disparate voices.
  • Observe and discern wisely, knowing that some of our best teachers are least like ourselves.
  • Perceive that there is no such thing as failure.
  • Be worthy of trust, deeply reflective and authentic, flexible, humble, and grateful.
  • Remind others of their dignity and hold their stories tenderly.
  • Laugh heartily and often, especially at ourselves.
  • Act nobly--with care, compassion, respect, and grace.
  • Plant seeds, confident that they will germinate and blossom in their own time.
  • Become a liberating force, unlocking barriers to passion and unleashing the vitalizing power of creativity and courage.
  • Go gently down the stream, leaving only love in our wake.


In the following videos, two participants in 2015 answer three questions:
1) What is emerging for you at Conversation 2015;
2) What idea or perspective would you like to bring back to your colleagues; and
3) Why do you attend Conversation?
Their answers may help you gauge whether Conversation is the right fit for you.




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