Convening the “We”: A Demonstration Project

What could the “We” look like?  How do we define how this “coming together” could look?

In my last blog titled:  Joining the We: Join the Conversation, I mentioned that PANO’s Annual Conference is a place where we will test this idea of what the WE can look like. This is no longer solely PANO’s conference.  In 2014, PANO’s Conference has become the Conference of The We—a convening of for-profit, nonprofit and government organizations who believe that change happens collectively. OUR conference is where we intend to test this idea of WE because WE together build thriving communities.


The purpose of the We Conference is to amplify the movement to build relationships, connections and trust within and between communities. And who is the WE? The WE is anyone who cares deeply about the greater good.

So what does convening the WE look like?


WE includes PANO but is bigger than PANO. The WE Conference includes two (2) other nonprofit organizations and three (3) for-profit companies—all coming together to benefit the greater community. The two nonprofit partners are Creating the Future and the The Community Foundation of Westmoreland County.  The three for-profit entities are Milestone Bank, Susquehanna Bank and Highmark Blue Shield.

Creating the Future shares PANO’s vision that together, we are better than we are separate. Creating the Future seeks to put vision first so that everything we do is designed to assist us in reaching for that vision of what the world can be. All partners believe that we need to move beyond transactions and into meaningful relationships, that relationship-building takes time and that in the end, relationships are what matter. The Community Foundation of Westmoreland County believes that their vision for Westmoreland County mirrors PANO’s vision for the state. Shared vision powers OUR ability to fulfill our collective mission.     

All partners are at the table so that they can:

  • Build relationships—not transactions
  • Invest in themselves as organizations/companies
  • Apply learning from this engagement to own organization
  • Contribute to the Stone Soup
  • Create thriving communities


The WE Conference demonstrates what WE can look like when WE explicitly and intentionally build trust, connections and relationships. The conference will not be the end-all-be –all, it will provide opportunities for people to join the conversation. It will be one stop on our Listening Tour—a tour to identify strengths, resources and needs of neighborhoods across the Commonwealth—a tour that begins to build critical relationships.


Starting with the Planning Group, The WE Conference intentionally and explicitly incorporates the elements required for building trust, connections and relationships into every aspect of the conference.  We are testing new language as we do so. For example, we are now calling our sponsors and exhibitors partners. We are designing venues for those partners to have conversations with each other (pre-conference Meet and Greet), with conference attendees (at Listening Tables) and to engage in all the conference workshops.

The workshops will be led by facilitators who have gone through a preconference training. Expectations will be set so that every workshop and learning lab will include opportunities for participants to interact with the facilitator, and with each other. We firmly believe that the “wisdom is in the room.” We will provide the venue in which people can learn from each other—not just the presenters. We will provide people opportunities to learn and interact in Learning Labs or Clinic Sessions.

We will be testing the idea of cross-sector work by intentionally and explicitly including speakers, facilitators who can demonstrate where this is already working within Pennsylvania. We firmly believe that we have abundant resources in our state to meet our needs, providing that every party, every sector, every participant contributes what they can to the Stone Soup.

We will also provide opportunities for you to give US feedback about what we have learned so far on the Listening Tour. We want to keep the dialogue open. We want to know if we are hearing you accurately.

When the conference is over, the conversation WILL continue—with ongoing stops on the Listening Tour, in communities of practice, through consulting and other needed services—all identified in our ongoing conversations with you—with the WE.

And finally, because we are using our conference as a Demonstration Project, WE will be testing the following:

  •  What Works
  • Why It Works

We will be documenting our learning so we can determine if this model can be replicated in other communities and/or expanded when the time for next year’s Conference rolls around.

We want YOU at the table. We want YOU to join the WE. And next year? YOU and your organization could be an official partner of the We Conference.

In the meantime, you can join TODAY by participating in our ongoing conference planning sessions which are being streamed live.  If you want to listen, check out the date and time for our next conversation which will be streamed live and also recorded on Creating the Future Blog.

 You can join the WE any day by:

 Join the WE. Join the Conversation. 

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