Uncharted Insider - October 2020

Uncharted Insider - October 2020

Hi everyone,

Welcome to the October edition of the Uncharted Insider.

Uncharted Update

  • Fundraising for Wealth Gaps Initiative: In the last six weeks, we’ve raised over $3.3 million for our new initiative focused on closing wealth gaps in the US. We’re continuing to fundraise for a 2021 launch.
  • Team Mental Health: We've been thinking a lot about how to support the collective mental health of our team during the firestorm that is 2020. So earlier this month, we designed an "Election Month Care Package" that focuses on 1) care through information and activism, and 2) care through restoration and relaxation. Check it out here, and join us today at 3:30pm MDT for a free Zoom restorative yoga session. There will be a second session again next week on November 5th at 8:30am using the same Zoom link.

On Corporate Activism

We are officially in weird times when it comes to how corporations are exploring their political activism. We’re in the voice-cracking adolescent phase, replete with everything from peacocking to tone-deaf behavior from companies trying to find their voice and political identity. As one example, Expensify, an expense software company, sent an email to its 10 million subscribers last week urging them to vote for Joe Biden saying, “Anything less than a vote for Biden is a vote against democracy.” In contrast, Coinbase, a cryptocurrency trading platform, roused ire from many when its CEO told staff that they should leave the company if they disagreed with the stated position that Coinbase should not engage in broader social issues or politics because they were distractions. One can find fault with both approaches: neutrality is a fiction, every action is a political action in one way or another, and companies like Coinbase who bury their heads in the sand by proclaiming apolitical neutrality will struggle to quell employee insurrections and manage the bad optics of perceived tone-deafness. But Expensify’s email pleading its customers to vote for Biden also appears like a desperate, awkward attempt to test the reaches and methods of its newly-discovered desire not to sit idly by. Such sensational and public statements might also convince companies they’re off the hook from doing more long-term structural work. But on the whole, adolescence is a critical stage in any formation, and it requires bravery, experimentation, and awkwardness. What examples are you seeing of corporate triumphs and fumbles?

On Stories

One of my mentors told me once, “Don’t tell me about what you believe. Just tell me your stories, and I’ll learn everything I need to know about what you believe.” Listening deeply to someone’s story is a lost art in the present-day cacophony where we’re all clamoring for the space to air out our vindicating beliefs and interesting opinions. The trading of stories is the communicative equivalent of sipping down some chicken noodle soup when you’re sick, a salve for a year like 2020...salutary, intimate, human. Separated by screens and time zones, we’re trying out a new storytelling technique at Uncharted where our group of Directors is meeting on Monday afternoons for six weeks to listen to each other’s most formative stories. Each week a different Director has the floor, sharing moments from childhood, unexpected turns in their life, how their stories have shaped themselves, and how they show up at Uncharted. We’re not trying to heal any major divides internally, but we recognize that it’s so easy to work day-in, day-out with someone for years and never really know them.

On Intellectualism versus Bravery

We’re an organization that is on a journey to become more antiracist. We’ve been doing the expected things: reading books as a team, holding weekly space for discussion, partnering with an external Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) consultant, taking implicit bias tests. But I’m learning that while we’re growing in our intellectual education around topics of systemic oppression and structural racism, I don’t think we’re making as much progress in embracing the discomfort of making mistakes and getting it “wrong” in front of each other. It’s no problem to do a deep-dive into all the books and resources, but when it comes to saying that thing that might recast my own reputation with hues of ignorance and complicity, it’s easier to stop short. Ibram Kendi, the author of How to Be an Antiracist, says that it is self-interest, not ignorance, that perpetuates racism and maintains the power of white supremacy. As a leader at Uncharted, I realize I have more to do to model this vulnerable, open-hearted behavior, and I’m curious to learn from others who have navigated this similar stage on their DEI journeys.

Can you help?

  • Our marketing team is in the final stages of rebuilding the Uncharted website, and needs help with a few basic data entry tasks. If you know someone who might be interested in a short-term contract position, please have them get in touch with our Marketing Manager Anthony Verducci at anthony@uncharted.org.
  • We are looking for early-stage for-profits, nonprofits, and advocacy groups working to close wealth gaps in the US (race, gender, generational, and class). Who should we be talking to?
  • We are looking to be connected to someone at the Kresge Foundation, especially in the “American Cities” or the “Social Investment” practices. Do you know anyone?
  • Do you know anyone at Prudential Financial in their impact/CSR space?

What I am reading

Something personal

Every year, two of my closest friends (Sam, a filmmaker, and Bryant, a first-generation organic farmer) and I go on a week-long stand-up paddleboard trip down a river in the American west. This year, we ran a 60-mile stretch of the San Juan river in southern Utah before it emptied into Lake Powell, paddling through Class III and IV rapids with our gear strapped in drybags to our boards, breaking for peanut butter-banana sandwiches on banks at the base of leaning sandstone cliffs, and staring into outer space at night, tracking shooting stars and orbiting satellites. We tried to make sense of this unprecedented year, we sang aloud in canyons with ricocheting echoes, we transcribed intentions for our friendship into our dusty journals, and I’ve never felt more filled up by the austere beauty of the desert and by the richness that comes from decade-long friendships. Sam made a one-minute video of the trip with his drone here.


To our democracy,