Logo for the Learning Conference 2017
GEO members talk outside at a GEO conference

The Learning Conference 2017

This event is sold out. The Learning Conference 2017 offers a range of perspectives and new ideas on learning for continuous improvement. Held in partnership with Forefront.

Where & When

As grantmakers, we want to know if our efforts are making a difference and how we can improve our work over time. Often, we are not getting the most from evaluation, because it is in isolation from grantees, communities and peers, and too few of us are sharing what we're learning, both in our successes and failures. Through a mix of session formats, speakers from inside and outside our sector, structured networking, and informal discussions with peers, participants will explore ways to design and implement evaluation and learning approaches that generate stronger information, decisions and performance.

May 31 - June 1 2017

Wednesday, May 31, 7:30 AM Central

Thursday, June 1, 2:00 PM Central

Westin Chicago River North

320 North Dearborn Street

Chicago, Illinois, 60654


Westin Chicago

This event has reached capacity.

Participant Roster

You'll be joined in Chicago by more than 300 of your peers, excited to uncover how to embrace a learning for improvement mindset.

See who's coming

Program Highlights

The conference agenda features a mix of session formats, structured networking and time for informal conversations with peers. Highlights include:

  • Pre-Conference Workshops: Maximize your time by registering for an optional two-hour workshop that provides a deeper dive into topics related learning continuously.
  • Breakout Sessions: Select from 12 breakout sessions, designed by members of the GEO community, covering topics from putting a learning culture into practice to using beneficiary and grantee feedback to improve our processes — and much, much more.
  • Opening Session: Join an interactive session to help you better understand your unique learning challenges.
  • Short Talks: Be energized by keynote style sessions offering fresh perspectives from thought leaders within and outside philanthropy.
  • Site Visits: Explore the vibrancy of the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors of Chicago by signing up for an optional, off-site visit to a local nonprofit.
  • Fail Fest: Raise your glass to and hear four grantmakers share candid stories of their favorite failures and hard lessons learned.

Click here to view the full Learning Conference 2017 print program

or scroll down to read conference session titles, listed in chronological order.

Tuesday, May 30

1:30 - 3:30 p.m. Pre-conference Workshops (optional, pre-registration required)
1:30 – 4:00 p.m. Site Visits (optional, pre-registration required)
4:00 – 6:00 p.m. Early Arrivers Happy Hour

Wednesday, May 31

7:30 a.m. – onward Registration
8:00 – 9:00 a.m. Continental Breakfast
9:00 – 10:30 a.m. Opening Session
10:30 – 11:00 a.m. Break
11:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Breakout Round A (choose one of six options)
12:15 – 12:30 p.m. Break
12:30 – 2:00 p.m. Plenary Luncheon
2:00 – 2:30 p.m. Break
2:30 – 3:45 p.m. Breakout Round B (choose one of six options)
3:45 – 5:30 p.m. Break / Active Hour #1
5:30 – 7:00 p.m. Fail Fest and Evening Reception
7:00 – 9:00 p.m. Dine-Arounds and Ambassador Program Meet-Ups (optional)

Thursday, June 1

6:30 – 7:30 a.m. Active Hour # 2
8:00 – 9:00 a.m. Networking Breakfast
9:00 – 9:30 a.m. Break
9:30 – 11:15 a.m. Short Talks (3 rounds with 2 speakers per round)
9:30 – 9:55 — Round 1
10:10 – 10:35 — Round 2
10:50 – 11:15 — Round 3
11:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Conversations with Short Talk Speakers
12:30 – 2:00 p.m. Closing Plenary Luncheon
2:30 – 5:00 p.m. Post-Conference Site Visits (optional, pre-registration required)

Networking Opportunities

Through both formal and informal activities, GEO conferences offer a great opportunity for participants to make connections with their peers, hear fresh ideas and ask questions related to shared challenges.

Check out all the opportunities


Conference Planning Committee

  • Meghan Barp (Chair), Greater Twin Cities United Way
  • Allison Barmann, Bush Foundation
  • Cheryl Chang, Sunlight Giving
  • Nancy Csuti, The Colorado Trust
  • Jon Goldberg, Surdna Foundation
  • Luz Gomez, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
  • Kim Ammann Howard, The James Irvine Foundation
  • Dahnesh Medora, Meyer Memorial Trust
  • Dawn Melchiorre, Forefront
  • Destiny-Simone Ramjohn, Kaiser Permanente
  • Liz Sak, The Cricket Island Foundation
  • Maurice Samuels, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
  • Donata Secondo, Democracy Fund
  • Rick Ybarra, Hogg Foundation for Mental Health

Conference Host Committee

  • Greg DiDomenico (Chair), Community Memorial Foundation
  • Heather Higgins Alderman, Illinois Children’s Healthcare Foundation
  • Gillian Darlow, Polk Bros. Foundation
  • Nancy Fishman, Grand Victoria Foundation
  • Michael Hennessy, The Coleman Foundation, Inc.
  • Mae Hong, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors
  • Grace Hou, Woods Fund Chicago
  • Peter Mich, McDougal Family Foundation
  • Paul Miles, Wheat Ridge Ministries
  • Cindy Moelis, The Pritzker Traubert Family Foundation
  • Mary O'Donnell, The Retirement Research Foundation
  • Marianne Philbin, Pierce Family Foundation
  • Unmi Song, Lloyd A. Fry Foundation
  • Beth Swanson, The Joyce Foundation
  • Jeff Ubois, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
  • Christy Uchida, The Brinson Foundation
  • Eric Weinheimer, Forefront
Westin Chicago North River

How to join us

All conference programming, with the exception of Site Visits, will take place at the Westin Chicago River North. There's a lot to see and do in Chicago, and we're excited to see you there.

Find out about travel details

About Forefront

Our Regional Partner

Forefront builds a vibrant social impact sector for all the people of Illinois. Forefront is the nation’s only statewide membership association that represents both grantmakers and nonprofits, as well as advisors, social entrepreneurs, impact investors and sector allies.

Learn more about Forefront
Forefront logo

Special Thanks to Our Sponsors

Major Supporters

Wait List

The Learning Conference 2017 has reached capacity, and we are no longer accepting registrations for the event. We have, however, opened a wait list, and interested individuals may add their names to the list. Please note that demand is very high, and we will not be able to accommodate everyone from the wait list.

Shantaé François

Have questions?

Contact Shantaé with any questions about The Learning Conference 2017.

Reach out

Conference Policies

Before you join us in Chicago, take a few moments to review the conference policies.

Click here