Building Philanthropy to Build a Better Florida

Driven by: Mapping for change, powered by passion

March 08, 2018

I often find myself wondering how I managed before I had a map with me everywhere I go. I use this handy little mapping app on my phone in my home town, while away for business, and on vacation. It helps me find food, services, or entertainment “near me." I even use it to avoid traffic whenever possible. Mapping makes it easy to connect with and understand my surroundings in a variety of ways. It orients me and allows me to visualize my options as I navigate the world around me.

The theme of 10th Annual FPN Statewide Summit on Philanthropy was “Driven: What drives you?" After mapping my way to the impressive and historic Biltmore in Miami, listening to the inspiring speakers, and attending the variety of sessions, I started to realize we were creating our own map of connections in philanthropy. What would it look like if we “mapped” our individual passions to cause areas and could make collective change, together?

This idea was explored in many important and creative ways throughout the summit, fostering an opportunity for professionals to connect their passions, work, and ideas to something bigger. The topics were many, but the themes were the same from my perspective: Real change requires collective action; and, powered by passion, philanthropy is a necessary and important voice at the table when addressing local, regional, state, national, and global challenges.

It was my pleasure to co-present a session on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) alongside Natalie Ross, Senior Director of Global Philanthropy and Partnerships at the Council on Foundations. We had the privilege of explaining how a global strategy can and is improving grant-making and change-making, even at a local level.


photograph © Natalia Vásquez 2018
While Sustainable Development Goals are global, relevance for local communities is high.
Natalie Ross and Tessa LeSage share tips for using the Global Goals strategy to inform and improve Florida grantmaking. 

The concept was that using a global framework for more sustainable and resilient communities can catapult individual and organizational philanthropy toward impact at the highest level. The SDGs provide the map and our collective passions provide the fuel to reach our destination – impact! 

I had never met Natalie in person, but we connected quickly around our shared sustainability language. Because we work from the same framework, we knew what the other was thinking despite being from two completely different places. Natalie’s sustainability focus is global and mine is local and regional, but our common language and metrics quickly narrowed the divide. It was clear our focus is the same. We’re working from the same map. We are aligned and that is a powerful foundation for philanthropy and making our world a better place.

Every speaker and presentation began with the theme of “what drives you?” There were a variety of answers. Together, attendees even wrote a collective poem about this very personal topic. The result was a creative and powerful representation of a map for change. 

No matter your tool for mapping, there is value in examining your location and the direction you’re headed while remembering that it’s not just you on the journey. What drives you, also drives others, and leveraging that creates the best route to making the world a better place.


Tessa LeSage is Director of Social Innovation & Sustainability at Southwest Florida Community Foundation and a #2018FPN presenter and Emerging Leader scholarship recipient. #2018FPN Emerging Leaders Scholarships are made possible through the generosity of Central Florida Foundation and the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay.  

Download resources from Tessa's #2018FPN session with Natalie Ross of Council on Foundations: What’s in it for Everyone? Aligning Your Values to Global Goals

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