Uncharted Insider - January 2020
Happy new year! Welcome to the January edition of the Uncharted Insider.
- We launched our first Collective Accelerator called At the Table. We’re focused on increasing the access of healthy food in one zip code in Denver. Unlike a traditional accelerator, residents from the neighborhood will form a selection committee to select the organizations they believe are best positioned to expand healthy food access.
- We launched Year Two of the Chipotle Aluminaries Project, our accelerator program focused on supporting the next generation of the American farmer. The average age of the American Farmer is 58 years old, and annually only 397 Americans between the ages of 25-34 become new farmers every year (compare that to the annual number of new entrepreneurs at 785,000). We're teaming up with the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation to find ventures that are supporting the next generation of farmers and making it easier for new farmers to become successful. Learn more here.
Ideas on my mind:
The Catharsis of Naming Failure: This month our team went up to the snowy Colorado mountains and spent two full days sitting around a big fireplace talking about all the possible ways our plans for 2020 might fail. It’s a practice called a pre-mortem where, before undertaking a project, a team identifies all the possibilities for failure and corresponding mitigation strategies. As an organization, we’ve done pre-mortems before, but we’ve never spent two full days sitting in a space of anticipating failure, and a few things stood out:
- Our team loved it and declared the retreat one of our most productive yet. People expressed catharsis in being able to publicly name anxieties and fears that often don’t get airtime. There are so many things that aren’t fully spoken but are fully felt. This retreat will become a blueprint for future ones.
- I personally struggled to sit for so long in a space exclusively dedicated to anticipating all the things that could go wrong. I realized how much I need to balance the anticipation of failure with the anticipation of success. I’ve found that the creative release of thinking of our work as art sometimes is greater than the cathartic release of thinking of our work as risk-mitigation. Fortunately, there are people at Uncharted who prefer the opposite, which makes us a good team.
- I am curious if there is a correlation between a team’s ability to sit in a place of anticipated failure and that team’s ability to take risks and more quickly bounce back from failures. Does the naming of failure de-stigmatize it and increase the collective risk-appetite of a group of people? We’ll see!
Cultural Neuroplasticity: The last few months have been a lesson for me in how the energy and spirit we, as humans, bring to our work gets transmitted onto the things we make, the programs we run, the culture we build. If I bring a spirit of fast-paced anxiety (which I sometimes do), that anxiety gets transmitted and imprinted. If I bring a spirit of poetry and creativity, that creativity also is transmitted. Our executive team grew from two to three people last year, and we’re spending more time consciously exploring the energy and spirit we bring to our daily work and our team. In the same way that a brain’s neuroplasticity enables it to be transformed, we’re curious about the neuroplasticity of our team. Can we change the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and about the state of the business such that we imprint creativity and possibility into our work? One of the ways we’re hoping our collective neuroplasticity will change is through how we pace the organization. We’re examining how Uncharted’s pace leads to a narrative of unnecessary, manufactured urgency and scarcity, and how urgency and scarcity then get imprinted on our work and culture. What might we build if we brought greater spaciousness to our work in 2020?
Can you help?
- We are recruiting mentors for the Chipotle Aluminaries Project (see above) that have expertise/experience working to support the next generation of American Farmers. Do you know of anyone who could be a great mentor themselves or knows prospective mentors working in next-generation American agriculture?
- We are looking for a new Treasurer for the Uncharted Board. Details can be found here. Do you know of anyone?
- As I mentioned last month, I am spending 25% of my time in New York City in 2020. I have the best apartment in East Village, and now I am looking for a desk (just for me) with the privacy to take a few calls. Many co-working spaces don’t structure anything for less than a month, and hot-desks start around $450/month, so I’m looking to see if I can find something for cheaper (or free). I am curious if any Uncharted Insiders knew of free or discounted space through an organization with an office in New York. Or maybe you have another idea?
What I’m reading:
- If the federal minimum wage in 1968 had kept up with inflation and productivity, it would now be $22 an hour. Instead, it’s $7.25. The unraveling of working class communities across the US. Here.
- How some farmers are starting to cultivate a new commodity: environmental services like carbon sequestration. Regenerative agriculture and the grassroots movement to incentivize farmers to fight climate change. Here.
- When asked what traits society values most in boys, only 2% of male survey respondents said honesty and morality. The narrow definition of what it means to be a man and how those rigid masculine norms stifle emotion and lead to loneliness and toxicity. The miseducation of the American boy.
- 0.6% of foundation giving was targeted to women of color in 2016. The massive philanthropic blindspot. Here.
- Book recommendation: White Fragility. As a white person, I often don’t see myself in racial terms and therefore don’t fully engage in dialogues exploring my own racial identity, which leads to a discomfort and fragility on the topic of race and an aversion to exploring my own complicity in racist structures and systems. This book is an education, and a must read. (I also took some notes on the book, which I’m happy to share as a summary for those who are interested).
I took a few hours off in the middle of last week to go to a Claude Monet exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. Wandering throughout the exhibit with the other Tuesday morning patrons, it struck me that maybe Monet was less interested in the subject of his painting and more interested in how that subject changed in an ever-evolving environment. The sun would set, a cloud would migrate overhead, water lilies would be illuminated by the late afternoon glow, London fog would roll in. Perhaps because he wasn’t painting subjects but instead painting moments, he could fall in love with the same subject at a different moment and become entranced by it all over again (like his collection of water lily paintings). Maybe that’s the essence of being an impressionist painter: not being obsessed with exactitude of a subject but more intrigued by capturing its fleeting essence…the impression of something that never occupies the same moment twice. It made me wonder if there is virtue in capturing the ephemeral thing imprecisely instead of capturing the static thing precisely. Maybe our pursuit of perfection gets in our way of noticing those in-between moments in ourselves, in our families, in our artwork when the light changes and the same thing is recast and new colors show through.
From New York City this time,