Uncharted Insider - February 2021
Welcome to the February edition of the Uncharted Insider.
- New Partnership: We secured a partnership with Chipotle for a third year to accelerate a cohort of early-stage ventures working on sustainable agriculture and next-generation American farming.
- Integrating technology: We’re piloting new online platforms to make our accelerators more transformational and intimate in a fully remote/digital format.
The messy middle of our antiracist journey
Like many of our peers, Uncharted is taking steps to become a more antiracist organization. We are determined to rise to the responsibility we have to fight systems of oppression, but we are also struggling. This work is complex, nuanced, and slow, and there have been times when we haven't known what to do. So to ask for help and transparently share our journey, we're inviting our community into the messy middle by publishing a series of posts over the next ten weeks that reveal the behind-the-scenes challenges we’re facing, the progress we’re making, and the questions we’re asking. Ultimately, we see transparency both as a tool for learning and a force for advancing equity. As Audre Lorde says: “There is no liberation without community…”
Later today we’re publishing the second post on the topic of inclusion in our series (two weeks ago we introduced the series here). Going forward, we’ll highlight other topics where diversity, equity, and inclusion intersect with hiring, hard conversations, culture, strategy, governance, power, and more. We earnestly hope that these posts invite conversations and engagement, and I welcome any feedback you have.
On a personal level, I am in the middle of some wrestling, searching, and confusion about what it really means to be a White ally, especially as someone who is in a place of positional power as a CEO. I’m attending an anti-oppression course on White allyship and exploring the ways oppression and allyship show up at the ideological, institutional, interpersonal, and internalized levels (the four I’s of oppression).
On uncommon execution
In his book How to be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi advances the empirical argument that we should evaluate racism through the lens of outcomes, not intentions: people with antiracist beliefs and intentions can still produce racist outcomes and racist policies. Ultimately, it is the outcomes from our actions and our policies that tell us if we have been racist or not. For those of us who care deeply about shared values, alignment, and integrity of process, it’s both a startling and refreshing viewpoint that basically says: “yeah, yeah, yeah, but show me the outcomes.” It might be tempting to focus on shared values and common beliefs as being sufficient to guarantee a good outcome, but often the path to something becoming mainstream is more a function of uncommon execution than it is merely a function of common beliefs. For example, racist ideas didn’t predate racist policies or actions. The execution and perpetuation of an economic system of oppression and enslavement required the subsequent formation of racist ideas, values, and the invented concept of "race" for the system to be justified. As Ta-Nehisi Coates writes in Between the World and Me, “Race is the child of racism, not the father.” To use a different (and positive) example of where execution expands the popularity of a belief or value, emerging workplace policies like working remotely, the 4-day workweek, and the growing momentum for a $15 minimum wage have all been powerful forces to socialize workplace values that embrace a human-first, parent-flexible, livable, and dignified relationship between work and life.
Maybe we have the order wrong: it is not ideas and values that spark action as much as it is actions and precedents that spark latent ideas and values. Maybe we’re spending too much time getting extra precise on our shared values, and we’re not spending enough time on the uncommon, radical execution of those values. Perhaps it’s time to invert our order of operations and let our actions help us understand what we believe.
Can you help?
- Social impact CEOs wrestling with race, allyship, and their role: As I mentioned above, I’m doing a deep dive into White allyship and I’d love to connect with other CEOs (who identify as people of color or white) to learn from them, ask questions, and explore paths forward.
- Case-studies: We are embarking on a study of the history of radical ideas and how they became mainstream, how they died, who led them, and what the conditions were that enabled their creation. We'll be publishing our learnings later this year. What are some case studies we should be researching?
- Referrals: Do you know of an early-stage organization working to address economic inequality? We want to know about them!
What I am reading
- The racial wealth gap hasn’t changed since researchers started collecting related data more than 50 years ago. Why our current approach isn’t working and why baby bonds might be a solution.
- One year ago, before the pandemic, more women were employed than men for the first time in history. But in the last year, the number of women in the labor force dropped to 1980s levels. The crisis amongst American mothers.
- How to persuade the unpersuadable. Tips from the organizational psychologist Adam Grant for managing up to stubborn, disagreeable, or overconfident bosses. Here.
- Where new ideas come from. The fitness, magic, and mystery of the eureka moment. Here.
- Buffer is moving to 4-day workweeks after a trial period. Check out their data, research, and announcement here.
For the past few Sundays, I’ve had the privilege of attending a poetry workshop hosted by the poet, David Whyte. The title of the three-Sunday series was Start Close In: Shaping A Creative Life Equal To The Challenge Of Our Times. Each Sunday, I would settle in with a ceramic cup of tea and my warm wool socks pulled high to listen to David as he recited his own poetry and the poetry of his favorite poets, all by heart. The series explored the relationship between the latent creativity we wish to channel into the world and the deep soul-surgery that is sometimes needed to manifest our art... whether that is co-building a company’s culture, writing a penned letter, posting a filtered Instagram photo, or experimenting with an iteration of a French mother sauce by adding just a bit more white wine, garlic, and sage. The most profound creative acts start close in with us exploring the connection between our interior landscape and the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. On week two, David said, “being at work is not passive; you are practicing the becoming of someone. Who are you becoming?”