Uncharted Insider - May 2020

Uncharted Insider - May 2020

Hi everyone,

Welcome to the May edition of the Uncharted Insider.

Uncharted Update

  • New Partnership with Facebook: Uncharted is partnering with Facebook on a new Community Accelerator launching this summer focused on helping impactful virtual communities to scale and create impact in a COVID-19 world.
  • New Cohort of 8 Ventures for the Chipotle Aluminaries Project: We selected eight unique, badass ventures that are empowering the next generation of farmers across the US to participate in year 2 of our accelerator with Chipotle.
  • At The Table: We have launched a rapid-response accelerator to help build resilience and scale for five organizations working on the front lines of food access and food security in one neighborhood in Denver.
  • Our Podcast: We launched Uncharted Territory, a podcast that combines big predictions on the future of social change with practical leadership tips for leaders and changemakers. From the future of philanthropy to caring for the mental health of teams, we’ve released 11 episodes so far. Subscribe wherever podcasts are.

Experimenting with a 4-day Workweek

This summer we’re launching an experiment to try out a 4-day workweek. Everyone’s salary is staying the same, but our team will work 32 hours every week between June 1st and August 28th (This is not four 10-hour days. This is four eight-hour days.). As an organization, we’re committed to the quality and quantity of our work remaining the same, but every person will get every Friday off. 100% pay and benefits, 80% hours, 100% contribution.

Our hypothesis is that we can deliver (at least) 100% of the work at 80% of the time, while increasing team mental health, reducing team stress, and maintaining team culture and cohesion. At a time when 1) people are exhausted by all the video calls and screen time, 2) it’s hard to work from home while caring for homebound children, and 3) our collective mental health is more important than ever, we’re wondering if we decrease the number of hours stuck to a screen, do we increase the chance that our team can live healthy, creative lives while also taking Uncharted to new heights? We’re launching a 13-week experiment (evaluated by a third-party evaluator) to find out. Learn with us this summer and follow along here.

On Intellectual Humility

In the March and April editions of the Uncharted Insider, I chose to share poetry over articles because I was overwhelmed with the amount of content being pumped out about COVID-19. Everyone has become an armchair expert predicting the future, and while one part of me is intoxicated with the witnessing and imagining of how our world will change, the other part of me believes that all of our predicting is nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt at reclaiming some sense of control and power in a world that has reminded us how little control and power we have. Is it possible that our desire to predict tomorrow’s future is actually a desire to feel safe and secure today? The French enlightenment writer, Voltaire, once said, “Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.” In the face of immense uncertainty and unpredictability, how do we act? How do we prepare? Intellectual humility seems essential; it is the basis for nimble leadership. If we’re too busy protecting our need to be right, then we’ll miss out on new patterns and trends that are unfolding. Ego puts us on our heels, curiosity puts us on our toes. Ian Wilson, a former executive at GE, once said, “No amount of sophistication is going to allay the fact that all your knowledge is about the past and all your decisions are about the future." This moment calls for the following leadership formula: curiosity + decisiveness + the intellectual humility to change our minds and course-correct.

What is the purpose of office space?

We have a 4,500 square-foot office space that we love in an old, industrial building near downtown Denver. We moved in less than a year ago, redesigned the space to our specifications, and furnished it with plants, leather ottomans, and fruit snacks. There are skylights and vaulted ceilings and tree-shaded parking. But we’re not using it, and it’s hard to imagine us rushing back into the office anytime soon. We miss our in-person togetherness, but we can also fully function remotely (as the last 2.5 months have demonstrated). What should we do? The purpose of office space might change in the future. Perhaps we’ll exchange designated desks for flexible collaboration spaces. Perhaps multiple organizations will share the same space and it won’t be one organization’s exclusive home. My (intellectually humble) prediction is that once there is a vaccine, having some designated space to gather and collaborate will be valuable (even if it’s not every day). So from a long-term, steady-state perspective, I don’t see the office fully disappearing from our work culture. But what should we do in 2020? I’d love to hear your reflections and ideas about the future of office space.

Can you Help?

  • Does anyone have a good connection at the Peery Foundation?
  • I am looking for people who can mentor me on how to launch a high-net-worth fundraising strategy.
  • We are going to be hiring 2-3 people in the next six months (roles are still finalizing). Can you think of someone who 1) is at least 10 years into their career and 2) is so extraordinary that we should have them on our radar? Let me know directly or add their name here.
  • I’m looking for constructive feedback on the podcast. What is the one thing we can do to make it better?

What I’m reading/watching/listening to

  • A memo on how to embrace uncertainty and practice intellectual humility. Written by Howard Marks from Oaktree Capital, this is a beautifully written commentary on uncertainty and the merits of intellectual humility (and one source of my musings above).
  • How COVID-19 is accelerating the demise and reinvention of higher education. The rise of the elite cyborg university.
  • Podcast: Against the Rules: This outstanding podcast by Michael Lewis (The Big Short, Moneyball) features the role of coaches in American life. From athletic coaches to college coaches, Against the Rules dives deep into why coaches exist, why they matter, and what they say about our society.
  • Documentary: The Last Dance: I am not much of a basketball fan, but this episodic documentary is captivating and brimming with applicable lessons. It is a study in leadership, culture, competition, ego, and big, baggy suits from the '90s. Worth it, even for non sports fans.

Something Personal

Not long ago, my friend Abi Ramanan shared the following quote “There are decades when nothing happens, and there are weeks when decades happen.” It has certainly felt that way in 2020 where each week is dense enough to comprise a decade of living. For me, May 2020 marks one actual decade from when I graduated college in May 2010. Just before we graduated, my group of friends made predictions about where we’d be in ten years. We didn’t write them down, but I remember many of them and most have been wildly wrong. I know amongst our group of friends there has been more suffering than we bargained for, and more undeserved delights too. I would guess that we have more doubt than we used to, and maybe less whimsy, but also more courage, and, for me, a sense of awe about how marvelously life plods along and then bursts forth. Sometimes when I’m paying attention and not too tired, I’ll lie in bed and think “if you would have told me when I woke up this morning that [unexpected event] would happen today, I would have said there is no way. But it did. It happened.” And somehow that encounter with the wondrous idea that our plans are no match for the day’s unfolding is enough to send me off into a night's sleep that, night after night, turns days into decades.


An ally in racial justice,