Uncharted Insider - January 2019

Uncharted Insider - January 2019

Happy new year! Welcome to the January edition of the Uncharted Insider.

Uncharted Update:

  • New partnership on regenerative agriculture: We’re launching an initiative focused on regenerative agriculture that leverages our skill sets in collective impact and entrepreneurial acceleration.
  • We selected eight ventures for our Chipotle Accelerator: We selected and announced the eight ventures participating in the Chipotle Aluminaries Project. Check them out here.
  • Team Uncharted is growing: One year ago there were five us. Today there are 15—and we just opened up three new roles. Check them out here.

Two (related) ideas on my mind:

A mindset shift: It’s been a season of transition as we triple our team and nearly double our budget this year. What’s taken us here won’t get us to the next level, so we’re making some changes to our team structure. But perhaps the bigger leap we need to make is a psychological one: shifting from the mindset of “I need to brute-force hustle to make this happen...” to the mindset of “I have limited time, so I need to spend it at the leverage point that delivers the most value.” This is a shift from reactive to proactive, from working hard to working intentionally. It’s easier to make a structural shift to our org chart than it is to make a psychological shift in how I approach my work.

Culture in time of transition: I had a linguistic anthropologist professor in grad school who said: “There is no such thing as culture; just cultural practices.” Whether those practices are scripted or subconscious, it doesn’t matter. Culture manifests through practices. With a growing team, I’m curious to see how our culture is continuously expressed and recombined. But I’m also feeling a tension. On one hand, I’ve seen how familiar cultural practices provide a ballast to the team in times of transition; they anchor us amidst growth and change. On the other, ossifying old cultural practices makes them static and brittle. As new people join, the cultural practices of old might impede the formation of new practices that are championed by the current team. So how are we (not just the leadership but the whole organization) to think about shepherding culture in a time of transition? How do we hold tightly and hold loosely?

Monthly Rant

What is the point? Uncharted has an extraordinary human leading up our marketing (Ash Dumford). She’s brilliant and creative and skeptical and strong and a speaker of truth. Ash doesn’t let you get away with easy answers, so we’ve been exploring some big questions about the purpose of marketing. We're asking how Uncharted can avoid following the non-profit/social-enterprise/foundation marketing playbook, but instead tell stories that grip people and mobilize armies to march in the same direction. I don’t have good answers to these questions yet, but the playbook for marketing in our space is well-worn. It goes something like this:

  • Share organizational highlights and updates
  • Ask for money
  • Share a network opportunity
  • Ask for help
  • Invite you to an upcoming event
  • Remind you of some highlights
  • Tell a story of impact with a photo
  • Ask for money while thanking you proactively for giving money
  • Share an article the organization is mentioned in
  • Send out an exhausting long annual report that no one reads

First of all, this is boring. Is this the best we can come up with? Second, Uncharted has followed this playbook, so we aren’t above any of this. Guilty. But we’re looking to transcend what’s pedestrian. We—as a space—can do better at identifying a specific target audience and then making them the hero of ourwork. Who is doing this well? It doesn’t have to be in the non-profit / foundation space; we’re simply looking for anyone doing a masterful job at their marketing / storytelling.

Can you help?

Uncharted is built on a network of mentors, investors, entrepreneurs, corporations, foundations, and more. We’re currently re-examining our network strategy and curious to learn from other models that are brilliant at activating many different stakeholders towards a common goal. Are there any movement builders, activists, and decentralized networks that have been successfully mobilized?

What I’m reading:

  • The story of how two Google programmers code together from the same computer. The creative power of friendships (from Google to Monet and Renoir to the Beatles) here.
  • Patagonia is shifting its mission-statement to “save our home planet.” How businesses are taking a public stand (but not shifting their business model). Here.
  • The rise of superstar cities and how it is shifting how we work. The future of cities and inequality. Here.
  • When a black or Hispanic person is fatally shot, the likelihood that local detectives will catch the culprit is 35% — 18 percentage points fewer than when the victim is white. How shootings go unsolved in America.

Something personal:

We were a hockey family growing up, so I never learned to ski—until this year. I started with a beginner lesson in December (where I—along with five mothers from the Midwest—pretended to downhill ski on completely flat ground), and I’ve been skiing nearly every weekend since on slopes of increasing slope. And here’s the thing: I’ve made so much progress! Learning to ski has reminded me how much I love being a beginner at something. When you start from zero, the ego is detached from the outcome, and the rate of progress is often exponential. Somehow the physics of learning were designed so that the pace of learning slows over time while the ego’s attachment to outcome increases over time: beginners are explorers of new, unclaimed terrain; experts are protectors of existing, claimed terrain.


United in the common work,