Uncharted Insider - November 2018

Uncharted Insider - November 2018

Hi everyone,

Welcome to the November edition of the Uncharted Insider.

Uncharted Update:

  • Selecting Food Entrepreneurs: We’ve partnered with Chipotle’s Cultivate Foundation on a major initiative to find and accelerate ventures working on the “future of food with integrity.” Our team has spent the past month in final due diligence and interviews with 30 finalists. We will select eight ventures in the coming weeks
  • Marie Hathaway, for the win: I want to take a moment to recognize Marie Hathaway, our Operations and HR Manager. 2018 has been a year of nonstop hiring, and Marie has led every hiring process for every role. From reviewing thousands of applications to leading hundreds of interviews, Marie has done extraordinary work managing the hiring process to double our team. We’ve been deep in interviews this month, and we’ll start the process all over again next month when we announce new roles.

Ideas on my mind:

The futility of social entrepreneurship and impact investing. Sometimes Uncharted encounters entrepreneurs who say some version of the following: “I was outraged by our society’s lack of commitment to fighting climate change, so I started an environmentally-friendly coffee company.” Our industry often acknowledges how these entrepreneurs are doing “inspiring work to change the world.” But there seems to be a disproportionality between problem and solution: your solution to society’s apathy towards climate change is an environmentally friendly coffee company? Really?

In Anand Giridharadas’s new book Winners Take All, he contends that the tools—like social entrepreneurship and impact investing—to change the world are not only ineffective at achieving major change, but that by directing time and resources towards private business and capital, aspiring changemakers are neglecting more effective, structural approaches through public policy and political arenas. Giridharadas suggests that so much focus on the conspicuous and sexy might be a way to avoid making sacrifices to do the slow, nonlinear work of changing systems and structures. I agreed with some of his conclusions and disagreed with others, but I found it overall to be a provocative read that both challenged and validated Uncharted’s approach to working at the intersection of structural change and entrepreneurship. Would love to discuss with anyone!

Monthly Rant

Stop taking, start giving. There is often a difference in the mentality of for-profit and non-profit social enterprises when it comes to fundraising. For many non-profits that rely heavily on philanthropic funding, the mentality is often dominated by being a taker of money, not a giver of value. The standard language is “asking for money” and “chasing” people named “donors” who “give.” The whole dynamic is structured around the non-profit being this passive recipient of someone’s generosity. This is dumb. Not only does it perpetuate an unhelpful power-imbalance, but more importantly, it reinforces a warped view of how non-profits see themselves: as a fortunate beneficiary. Regardless of legal status, social ventures are creating tremendous value measured in social impact. There is an impact return on investment. The conversation and dynamic change when a non-profit partners with a philanthropic donor to activate their intention for impact by generating a social return for their capital: “With a $100,000 investment (not donation), you will be partnering (not giving) to X non-profit to create 2,000 jobs. From a ‘unit economics of impact’ perspective, you’re able to create one job for every $50 you invest in our organization.”

Can you help?
I am able to identify organizational needs and opportunities, but I am bad at figuring out how those needs and opportunities coalesce into specific roles to hire for. Should x,y,z responsibilities go together, or should they be split up into two roles? We wrestle with those questions all the time. Are you someone (or do you know someone) who has experience in scoping roles for a growing business?

What I’m reading:

  • In the last 20 years, the population of monarch butterflies in the United States has fallen by 90% and the population of bumblebees has fallen by 87%. In China, human workers are replacing bees to pollinate flowers. The insect apocalypse.
  • Children with incarcerated mothers are five times more likely to end up in foster care than those with incarcerated fathers. America’s family separation crisis.
  • In the US, there are twice as many suicides as homicides. The best way to save people from suicide.
  • Should you march? How street protests are surprisingly effective at getting people to vote. Here.

Something personal:
I spent a few days in Vietnam this month and went to the War Remnant Museum in Ho Chi Minh City. The museum chronicles the “American War,” as it's known there, through an unvarnished and gruesome photographic exhibit. Catching a glimpse into the Vietnamese interpretation of the war was both heartbreaking and startling for someone like me, whose understanding of the war was constructed through American-centric high-school textbooks. Visiting the museum made me reflect on the narratives I allow to shape my view of the world and how incomplete they might be. Do I have the courage to unfurl the convenient narratives I clutch so tightly and surrender them to the disorienting light?


United in the common work,