My 2016 New Years Resolution to my Late Father

Leonard Caetano Mendonca (1934–2015)

2015 was a year of transition for me. Personally, it was bittersweet. My youngest daughter started her career, moved into an apartment, and Christine and I became empty nesters. My mother sunk even deeper into the irreversible depths of Alzheimer’s disease. Most sadly, my father passed away suddenly at 80. His father lived and worked with us on the farm until he was nearly 100, so I fully expected my dad to be with us for another couple of decades. He was an inspiration as a small businessman and farmer, public servant and community volunteer — and gone way too soon.

Caetano Mendonca and Leonard Mendonca

So, my 2016 New Year’s resolution for him is to get my book published and out right after Labor Day — by my dad’s birthday on Sept 9. In particular I intend to highlight lessons from the front line of my experience working on some of the most challenging issues facing our country; trying to write about what my dad knew intuitively and role modeled.

Professionally my 2015 was wonderful, and gave me a treasure trove of examples from which to draw. After 30 years at McKinsey and a mid-life gap year (highlighted by traveling with the SF Giants to ten different stadiums, and not seeing them lose on the road until game six of the World Series), I started my encore career as a tri-sector leader in 2015. I strongly share the view that the most difficult challenges facing our country will only get solved if we harness the strengths of the private, public and social sectors to collaboratively address them, and I wanted to demonstrate that personally.

The professional experience of transitioning from a long career as an advisor to a portfolio of private, public and philanthropic ventures has been enlightening and fun. I remain a deep believer in the power of the private sector as a force for good. After 15 years of building the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, and expanding it to a local Event Center, Boutique Inn, and Mavericks Beer Company, I have a real appreciation for the challenge of delivering a great experience every time for customers. I also have learned the power of using a business for purpose and not just profit. Whether it is as a community forum for Brews and Views, a cause related product with our Not For Sale Ale, offering training/scholarship support for employees’ education, giving back to the community philanthropically, demonstrating environmental sustainability as a green certified business, through using recycled grey water to brew a beer, or signing the Founders’ Pledge, we try hard to live up to our values. More to come on in 2016 as we expand our brewery, open a catering business and taprooms, support community issues from sustainable seas to education and women’s surfing, and brew beer from blackwater.

Half Moon Bay Brewing Company

I’ve also had the good fortune of investing in and supporting a great set of entrepreneurs who share those values, especially fabulous women like Debra Sterling at Goldieblox, Alexis Ringwald at Learn Up, and Jody Miller and Amelia Tyagi at Business Talent Group. I’ve seen the real value of new models of impact investing with Nancy Pfund at DBL, Brian Trelstead at Bridges Ventures, Dave Batstone at Just Business, Ron Bouganim at Govtech Fund, and Andrei Cherny and Joe Sanberg at Aspiration.

Philanthropy and the social sector has been the second leg of the stool that is been rewarding for me. I’m particularly proud of co-founding and chairing Fusecorps where our fourth year of fellows are active across California spending a year in public service (18 of them chosen from 800 applicants working on range of issues from overnight transportation for workers in San Francisco, homelessness in Los Angeles, public-private investment in Fresno, and open data in the Department of Justice in Sacramento). I’ve also had the pleasure of advocating for kids as the chair of Children Now and the Children’s Movement, and for California fiscal and governance reform and economic recovery as the co-chair of California Forward. I’ve also had the privilege of helping provide some guidance for new models of philanthropy from the leading donor advised fund platform at Fidelity Charitable and the Super Bowl 50 Fund.

As the first person in my family to go to college, I have a deep appreciation for the value of education, and I’ve engaged deeply across the spectrum from early education (as honorary co-chair of the Big Lift), K-12 results transparency at Campaign for Business and Educational Excellence and Educational Results Partnership, community college at California Competes, and higher education at Western Governors University, the College Futures Foundation, QB3, and the Coastside Promise. Bridging across the levels is an important focus of the Opportunity Institute.

The third leg of the cross sector approach that I’m spending time on is advocating for policy change in the public sector. That includes bringing business voices to long-term economic policy nationally at the Committee for Economic Development, statewide at the Public Policy Institute of California, and regionally at the Bay Area Council, Economic Institute, and Science and Innovation Consortium. Bringing new ideas is also part of the change process on domestic policy at New America, money in politics at Common Cause, leadership at the Presidio Institute and Junior Statesmen of America, or public engagement at the Commonwealth Club. Finally, in 2016 I’ll be taking a deep dive into addressing domestic inequality through teaching a class at the Stanford Graduate School of Business with Paul Oyer.

Presidio Institute

Finally, I’m speaking and writing much more regularly. I enjoyed putting ideas into the public sphere when I was at McKinsey, mostly on the US economy, strategy or public sector productivity. With more time and flexibility, I published something every 2–3 weeks in 2015. I wrote frequently when California was moving in the right direction, had opportunities to make positive moves, missed an opportunity, or risked botching good ideas with bad execution. Some of what I’ve written about is to get something off my chest like horrible customer service at United Airlines, why I invest in women, or what it is like to spend a day in prison (Definitely wouldn’t haven’t written those at McKinsey).

More fundamentally, I’ve developed a strong belief in the underlying renewal going on in the United States today. Across the country, we are reinventing the country from the bottom up. The mainstream media is missing the story. Too caught up in the drama of the presidential race where the odds-on favorite candidates for the GOP nomination are competing to see who can be more xenophobic and misogynist, we are told America is failing and we need to make it great again. I disagree. A few leading edge writers are starting to tell the story from Peter Sims and his Blacksheep Foundation, Greg Behrmann at Nationswell, The Atlantic’s CityLab, or Jim and Debra Fallows at American Futures. I intend to add my voice to that list.

Fulton Mall — Fresno: Part of Unseeen US Renewal

Together with Laura Tyson, we spent 2015 telling a series of stories about the success of progressive federalism. A new triangulation of private, public and philanthropic innovators are showing the way — moving away from an era of big federal government programs, regulated business lobbying government, and small nonprofit gap filling, to a new cross-sector problem solving approach. In areas from healthcare, job creation, breaking the prison-industrial complex, higher education, job training, worker protection in the new economy, leadership development, political reform, and impact investing, America is innovating its way to a new model. To come are stories about early success in early education, poverty reduction, infrastructure and how it is financed, climate change, ending the tragedy of gun violence, improving college success, the value of open data and more.

We’ll bring it to life with stories of innovators across the sectors, age, gender and political spectrum. Business innovators like Debbie Sterling, Alexis Ringwald, and Jody Miller and Amelia Tyagi are creating new business models. Social sector innovators like Catherine Hoke, Ryan Gravel, Peter Weber, Caroline Whistler and Amy Bach are showing new ways to solve public issues. Investors like Joe Sanberg, Nancy Pfund, John Arnold, and Mark Zuckerberg are funding innovation. Celebrities like Lady Gaga, John Legend, and Jeremy Afeldt are using their platform to raise awareness and resources. And public leaders like Ashley Swearingen, Gina Raimondo and Libby Schaaf are showing the value of policy change and great execution to deliver. We’ll discuss the role each of us can play as entrepreneurs, employers, investors, philanthropists, and citizens and voters can make to help these innovations scale.

In 2016 we will pull these together in a summary to be published by the end of the first quarter, and a book to be published by my dad’s birthday in September — in time for the Presidential election conversation. I wish my dad and mom could read it, but it will be dedicated to them.

I miss you terribly, dad. I’ll think of the example you set every time I write about what is making America great. Happy New Year.