Uncharted Insider - June 2020
Welcome to the June edition of the Uncharted Insider. The months of 2020 feel so dense in their living, in their dying, in their marching, in their solitude, in their questions, in their masks.
- Committing to a DEI strategy: Like many, we are embarking on a more intentional and strategic investment in Uncharted’s approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion. With the help of experts we’ve hired, weekly conversations with our team, and a commitment from our board, we’ll be sharing our commitments in the coming months.
- Program Related Investment: We have raised a $248,000 Program Related Investment (PRI) from the Morgridge Family Foundation to fund our growth and impact in the next three years. It's been one of the best funding partnership experiences we've had in years.
- We've been hiring! We are in the middle of hiring three roles right now, including a Managing Director. See below for details. Also, if you're looking for the best recruiting agency we've ever worked with, check out Formidable.
- 4-Day Workweek: We are one month into our 4-day workweek experiment, and it’s going well so far. We recently published an update on our progress and were featured in Fast Company.
After almost six years at Uncharted, this is Sara Rodriguez’s last week. Sara joined the team in 2014 and has served in several roles, most recently as Uncharted’s Chief Strategy Officer. For three years, she and I have been business partners, steering Uncharted together (with the help of many others on our team and board). Sara has brought powerful leadership, strong voice, timely tenderness, and pointed questions as we’ve doubled our budget, tripled our team, navigated through difficult seasons, and done it all with a culture that aspires to put humans first. Sara’s impact on me has been powerful; I’ve often told people that I feel 5x stronger as a leader knowing I lead alongside Sara. She has this rare ability to believe in you, challenge you, and poke fun at you, all at the same time.
On those days when the impact felt distant, when the headwinds were strong, when I didn’t know what to do, I would simply remind myself to do everything I could just to make Sara proud. Every time, that was enough to propel me forward. Uncharted wouldn’t be what it is today without her, and it will go to far greater heights because of her. She is cc’d above.
Education as Unlearning
In Tara Westover’s piercing memoir Educated, she suggests a question: is education more about learning new things and adding new knowledge, or is it about unlearning old stories and once-certain truths? Our understanding of an education has big implications for our comfort and for our growth. If we choose to believe that an education is simply adding knowledge where there was none before, then our approach to learning will be inherently academic and de-personalized. But if we believe that an education has the potential to dispossess us of our current operating truth, our comfortable worldview, our curated identities, then we won’t be surprised when education deconstructs us. Westover might suggest that the depth of our learning has everything to do with what we are willing to give up. She might offer that an education is equal parts staring into a mirror as it is studying books. She might remind us that it has the risk of estranging us from those we love and distancing us from the safe, destined life we’ve been conditioned to accept. Her memoir is a study of the costs of her education. To read it is to understand what’s at stake.
So when it comes to racist policies, white supremacy, the oppression of Black people, and the complex, winding history of exploitation, privilege, and justice, what will our approach be to our education? I’ve been wondering this for myself; how much self-protection stands in the way of my education? As Ibram Kendi writes in How to be an Antiracist, the root of racism is not ignorance, it is self-interest.
Are you doing enough?
When confronted with COVID-19, with George Floyd’s murder, with 400 years of racism stitched into our history, many seem to be asking: “What can I do?” and “Am I doing enough?” These questions are the subtext to many of our conversations, they have the potential to shape our guilt and reveal our privilege, and they have me thinking about how our culture defines what doing is and is not. There’s this consensus that doing is an action. It’s movement, it’s the opposite of non-doing, it’s something relevant and provable when asked “What are you doing about it?” We order books, we issue statements, we create groups, we develop plans, we join webinars. But perhaps we are defining doing too narrowly. Maybe we need to expand our definition of acceptable doing to include some non-doing, some being, some slowing, some pausing, some sitting confused on the couch as we sip tea and ponder the questions we’re afraid to ponder. In the Jewish tradition, after someone dies, people mourn for seven days by “observing a shiva” where there is more grieving than planning, more sitting than acting, more remembering than Instagramming.
Maybe our obsession with doing is more for us than it is for the cause itself. Maybe it’s a way to avoid our grieving, our confusion, or the need for the slow, nonlinear work to explore, as my friend and coach Jerry Colonna invites us to ask, how are we complicit in the things we say we don’t like?
I interviewed Edgar Villanueva, author of Decolonizing Wealth on the Uncharted podcast last week. Edgar is globally-recognized expert on social justice philanthropy and how to bring race to the forefront of funding decisions. An enrolled member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, Edgar sits on many boards focused on indigenous rights and communities. In our podcast, he talks about the four ways that social impact leaders can apply a racial justice and equity lens to their work. Listen on Apple or Spotify and subscribe.
Can you help?
- Managing Director: We are hiring a Managing Director (job description here) to lead the day-to-day of the organization. Close your eyes right now and think for 20 seconds about who might be an extraordinary fit, and then forward this email. Thank you!
- Mentors: We are looking for people who have expertise in growing, managing, and supporting online/virtual communities to be mentors for a new accelerator we’re launching. Does anyone come to mind?
- Economic Justice: We are looking to connect funders working in the economic justice / economic inequality space. Do you know of anyone?
What I am reading
All hyperlinks to books in this Insider link out to bookshop.org, where you can find Black-owned booksellers to purchase from.
- On March 14th, 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote this op-ed in The Nation calling for people to “unite social and economic justice into a single package of freedom.” A contemporary op-ed on the same topic by Darren Walker, here.
- How a WNBA superstar retired at the peak of her career (4 championships and an MVP) to fight for criminal justice. The story of Maya Moore, one of the world’s greatest basketball players who gave it all up.
- Why we all need Brene Brown more than ever during 2020. The rise of “America’s therapist” and how COVID is a “lesson in collective vulnerability.” Here.
- How an Alaskan volcano ushered in the demise of Caesar's Rome. The relationship between political instability and volcanic activity. Here.
- Book: Braiding Sweetgrass. If you’re weary and seeking rest, this book will help you exhale. The secret wisdom of plants, written by an indigenous botanist who invites us to raise our ecological consciousness to appreciate the reciprocal relationship with the earth.
One of my closest friends, Bryant Mason, is a first-generation farmer in Paonia, Colorado. Bryant has one of the most brilliant, entrepreneurial minds I’ve ever met; give him $50, an internet connection, and the freedom to pursue his blooming curiosity, and you’ll have a $500,000 business in six months. In only a few years, he has become one of the leading voices across the country in soil health with his business Soil Doctor, and he and his wife have purchased land and are turning it into a soil laboratory and peach orchard in Paonia. I drove the 4.5 hours from Denver to Paonia two weeks ago to help him irrigate his land for a few days. We tilled furrows lined with cover crop, we lost battles with prairie dogs, we cleaned out drainages with the help of walkie-talkies. We talked about water rights, microclimates, floodplains, and draughts. We pondered how a farmer’s relationship to the land imprints itself under nails and onto jeans and into joints. We discussed racism and food justice and rural America, and all of it — the whole experience visiting him — had such an impact on me that, when I got home, I lasted a full 24 hours deeply admiring the residents of my kitchen-counter fruit bowl, my tomatoes and apples and bananas, as heroic travelers on a triumphant journey we call the agricultural supply chain. But then the entitlement of my urban existence took control once again, and I became annoyed that my Instacart delivery didn’t have the cilantro I ordered. I have some unlearning to do.
Our resilience is our choice,