Women Donors Network is hosting our Annual Conference, WDN Connect 2016, in the city of Detroit, November 10-13. Just days after the elections, we will gather to reflect, analyze, and strategize in our efforts to build a more progressive and equitable future. We will also learn much more about Detroit, a city that is a case study for renewal and rebirth in the face of massive industrial restructuring, job loss, and environmental and education crises. We will hear from a range of community leaders who have inspired innovation and creative strategies to organize and rebuild. We will get out into the city with guided tours that will help us gain a better understanding of the issues facing Detroit. And we will engage with our grantees, WDN members, and other leaders to better understand our collective purpose and impact.

LIVE WITH LAURA FLANDERS: Inside the 2016 Elections and Beyond

In the critical days after the polls close on Nov. 8, we will dive into the issues sure to be on the agenda of the first 100 days of a new administration and explore how we can push for progressive change from inside and outside the political system. Acclaimed journalist Laura Flanders will join us to analyze the results and guide a discussion with top movement leaders as we reflect and plot our course under a new President and Congress. 

Pre-Conference Election Debrief & Strategy Session
Thursday, November 10, 12:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Laura Flanders

Laura is a best-selling author and broadcaster. After many years in public and commercial radio, she founded The Laura Flanders Show / GRITtv in 2008 to serve as an online channel for in-depth conversations with forward-thinking people from the worlds of politics, economics, business and the arts. 

Gabriela Lemus

Gabriela Lemus is the president of Progressive Congress. He has previously served as a Senior Advisor to Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis and Director of the Office of Public Engagement. She was the first woman executive director at the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) and chair of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA). 

Tracy Sturdivant

Tracy is co-founder and co-executive director of Make It Work, and a native of Detroit. She ran State Voices for many years and she serves on several boards including National Domestic Workers Alliance and Higher Heights for America

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Rashad Robinson

Rashad Robinson is the executive director of Color Of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization. As a force driven by over one million members, Color Of Change moves decision-makers in corporations and government to create a more human and less hostile world for Black people, and all people.

HEALING and hope

A Conversation with Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha

A pediatrician in Flint, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha discovered lead poisoning in school children and helped raise the alarm about one of the worst environmental injustices of American history. Laura Flanders will interview Dr. Hanna-Attisha about her story and her vision for building a healthy future.


Featuring Reflective Democracy Campaign Director Brenda Choresi Carter, Rep. Donna Edwards, who has represented Maryland’s 4th District in the U.S. House of Representatives for the past 8 years, and moderated by Rebecca Thompson, Director of Good Jobs Now in Detroit and host of the podcast series, Changing the Face of Power.

Brenda Choresi Carter

Director, Reflective Democracy Campaign

Rep. Donna Edwards

U.S. House of Representatives, Maryland's 4th District

Rebecca Thompson

Director, Good Jobs Now


WDN Senior Advisor Ashindi Maxton will lead this session delving into the newest strategy of the Jean Hardisty Catalytic Impact Fund: supporting Black-led organizing designed to bring more transparency and accountability to the increasingly important role of elected prosecutors in the criminal justice system.

Ashindi Maxton

Ashindi is an independent strategist and donor advisor with extensive work in democracy reform, racial justice, and education. She has developed funding strategy informing more than $100 million in investments from some of the largest foundations and individual donors in the United States including the Democracy Alliance, the Ford Foundation, and the Sandler Family Foundation. 


Alicia Garza

Alicia is an organizer, writer and freedom dreamer based in Oakland, CA. She directs We Dream in Black, a project of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and is an inaugural grantee of WDN's Jean Hardisty Catalytic Impact Fund. In 2013, Alicia co-founded #BlackLivesMatter, an international organizing network developed after the murder of Trayvon Martin, focused on combating anti-Black racism in all of its forms.

Circle Showcase

We will feature short talks from WDN members who have been leading intersectional and issue-based work in the Circles.


We will be joined by two influential Detroiters. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson will provide a primer on Detroit history: How has the city changed over the decades? What are the forces at play? What has his experience been like as he has witnessed the struggles of the city in which he grew up? Jocelyn Benson is the CEO of Rise to Win and Director of the Levin Center at Wayne State University Law School, will also join us as she shares her story and her vision for Detroit.

Stephen Henderson won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize Award for Commentary “for his columns on the financial crisis facing his hometown, written with passion and a stirring sense of place, sparing no one in their critique."

Jocelyn Benson CEO of Rise to Win and Director of the Levin Center at Wayne State University Law School.  She is a co-founder of the Military Spouses of Michigan and a board member of the Southern Poverty Law Center. 


Join us for a “living room conversation” with a group of dynamic women who are leading innovative efforts in Detroit on the issues of the day — including immigrant rights,education, anti-hate organizing, environmental justice, and the Movement for Black Lives.


Lacy Dawson

Lacy Dawson is the Detroit Field Director with Michigan Voice. Her passion is to engage and empower citizens throughout Detroit to make collective and individual strides toward eliminating social and economic disparities.

Rashida Tlaib

Rashida was the first Muslim woman elected to the Michigan Legislature. She currently serves as the Community Partnerships & Development Director at the Sugar Law Center for Economic & Social Justice and manager of the Campaign to Take on Hate

Marcia Black

Marcia is the Detroit Secretary for Black Youth Project 100 (BYP 100). BYP 100 is an activist member-based organization of Black 18-35 year olds, dedicated to creating justice and freedom for all Black people.



COLORS Restaurant in Detroit couples farm-to-table cuisine with sustainable wages for employees and training for hundreds of restaurant workers, and is operated by the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United.

Saru Jayaraman

Saru is the Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United) and Director of the Food Labor Research Center at University of California, Berkeley. After 9/11, together with displaced World Trade Center workers, she co-founded ROC, which now has more than 18,000 worker members, 200 employer partners, and several thousand consumer members in dozen of states nationwide.


What do we need to shift in our own lives to make meaningful change? How do we shape the future together? What does Detroit teach us about how to support real change that empowers communities? In this interactive session, we’ll unpack what we’ve learned over the course of our conference and discuss how we can apply our learnings to our own philanthropy and activism.

adrienne maree brown

adrienne is a writer, facilitator, doula, healer and pleasure activist living in Detroit. She is the co-editor of Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction from Social Justice Movements with Walidah Imarisha, and author of the forthcoming Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds (AK Press, 2017).


Democratic nominee for Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx will share her experience as a woman of color running on a police reform platform for election as a prosecutor – an office in which four out of five seats nationally are held by white men. 

Kim Foxx

Kim Foxx is the Democratic nominee for Cook County State's Attorney, the second-most populous county in the U.S. In March, Foxx won the nomination and beat the incumbent who was criticized by #BlackLivesMatter activists and others for mishandling and neglecting high-profile police killings.


Friday Afternoon

Witness some of the key issues that are at the heart of the challenges and triumphs of Detroit and the surrounding region in two distinct learning tours. Two tours will be offered on Friday afternoon, and you will have the option to choose one when you register for the conference.

Understanding the Arab American Experience

Hosted by the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS)

This unique tour is a special look at the experience of the Arab American community in Michigan and their contributions to the economic, political, and cultural landscape of American life. Guided by leaders from ACCESS, we’ll travel to nearby Dearborn and spend time at the Arab American National Museum, the first and only museum in the U.S. devoted to Arab American history and culture.


From Growing Our Economy to Growing Our Souls

Hosted by the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center

With tour guides from the Boggs Center, we will explore the rise and fall of the economic American Dream and changing epochs in Detroit’s history. We will discuss organizing and resistance in the city, including stops at the Packard Automotive Plant, GM Hamtramck, the Hope District, Feedom Freedom Growers, Heidelberg Project, and others.

EXPLORING DETROIT - Before and After the conference

Join us for THESE ADDITIONAL OPTIONAL tours. You can sign up for the following tours during registration. 



Join new WDN member and Detroit native Julie Fisher Cummings for a tour of some of her favorite projects in the city.



One of the top 5 museums in the U.S., the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) has one of the largest and most significant art collections in the country. The DIA features one-of-a-kind works by Mexican artist Diego Rivera and Vincent van Gogh and has been a beacon for arts and culture in the Detroit area for over 100 years. 



WESTIN BOOK CADILLAC DETROIT HOTEL, 114 Washington Boulevard, Detroit, MI, 48226


The historic 1924 Book Cadillac Detroit Hotel has been restored to its original splendor, featuring an Italian Renaissance design, expansive meeting space, and a convenient location right in the heart of Downtown Detroit.

Traditional Double and Traditional King, $169 plus applicable city and state taxes. To reserve your lodging at the Westin Book Cadillac, please call (888) 627-7150 or visit https://starwoodmeeting.com/Book/WDN for online reservations. Refer to the Women Donors Network for our group rate (subject to room availability). Make your reservation early for the best room selection.

Room cancellation charges may apply, at WDN’s discretion, in the event that the cancellation of your room reservation after October 17 causes our group to fall below our contractual minimum.

If you would like assistance with planning or need additional information, contact Kathleen Andreson at 415.814.1333 or kandreson@womendonors.org.


As we prepare for WDN Connect 2016 in Detroit, we would like to share some films, articles, and resources to help you learn more about Detroit's history and the people and projects shaping its future. 

American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs

Grace Lee Boggs was a 100-year-old Chinese American woman whose vision of revolution will surprise you. A writer, activist, and philosopher rooted for more than 70 years in the African American movement, she devoted her life to an evolving revolution that encompasses the contradictions of America’s past and its potentially radical future. 

American Revolutionary was produced with support from Chicken & Egg Pictures, a project from WDN member Julie Parker Benello. Watch the film on Netflix. 

 Carlos Osorio / AP

Carlos Osorio / AP

The Extreme Sacrifice Detroit Parents Make to Access Better Schools

Some parents have to travel six hours and take up to eight buses each day to take their kids to better schools outside of their neighborhoods. The Atlantic covers the challenges facing students and parents in Detroit's school system.

 Brittany Greeson / The Ground Truth Project

Brittany Greeson / The Ground Truth Project

How race, class set stage for Flint water crisis

Darryl Wilson is tired of fighting and scraping just to get what most Americans take for granted: clean, safe drinking water.

He wants to leave Flint for a while so someone can replace the pipes and fixtures in his house and the city’s lead and lead-soldered service lines that are leaching the poison into the water. But he doesn’t have the money.

  New Era Detroit/YouTube

New Era Detroit/YouTube


As Detroit, the most densely Black city in the country, faces water shutoffs, land grabs, and the displacing impacts of “revitalization,” a new generation of activists has emerged to join decades of liberation movements that came before them.



Donna Murray-Brown, CEO of the Michigan Nonprofit Association, lives the duality experienced by many Detroiters faced with tough decisions to make for the city’s economic recovery. On the one hand, she is a nonprofit executive, a public policy advocate, and—to some extent—a player at the table in the discussions of what Detroit needs to do to recover from the brink of economic collapse and chart a path toward citywide recovery; on the other hand, she is the daughter of a senior Detroiter whose retirement pension was reduced as one of the components of the partly foundation-funded “grand bargain” that became the blueprint for Detroit’s escape from a prolonged and debilitating bankruptcy.

  Photo: Louis Aguilar, Detroit News

Photo: Louis Aguilar, Detroit News

On a World Stage, Architects Imagine Detroit as the City of the Future

Detroit will represent the United States at the Venice Biennale. According to CityLab.org, "mention of the city that once stood at the heart of America’s lucrative auto industry now evokes bleak images of deteriorating buildings, vacant schools, and destitute neighborhoods. But associating Detroit solely with urban decay is like thinking in the 'past tense...' The Biennale allows urban planners and designers to pivot the conversation toward how architecture can help the city move forward. And it puts that conversation on a world stage."


15 Famous Detroit Movies

A unique metropolis, Motor City is one offbeat cinematic setting, far from the glamor of New York and the commonness of Toronto, Hollywood's go-to stand-in town. Only a handful of films have been set in Detroit (and even fewer have actually been filmed there), but we scrounged up an eclectic selection, boasting the likes of Clint Eastwood, Carl Weathers, Warren Beatty, and Eminem.