Act I. Setting the table
“I’m clear why I’m here, how about you?” — Jay Z
1,000 Seats at the Table
Six months ago, I shared my two commitments to you as incoming CEO: to be real and unreal with you. Today, I'm excited…
The most important advice I would give to another first-time CEO is this: know what you want. You probably have an idea of what other people want. There are so many things you definitely don’t want. But it’s really hard to actually know and communicate what you do want. It takes time. Write it down. Share it with four trusted advisors. Refine it. Share it with more curious people. Refine it again. Look at it every morning.
Knowing what you want lets you be open and curious and secure. It keeps you real when others are telling you to be someone else. It also keeps you unreal when others are telling you to get real. It helps you find and attract partners who want what you want.
In January, we started drafting our prospectus for Fund III. Today, with support from the Walton Family Foundation and the Charles Koch Foundation, we are announcing the launch of our third fund. With this announcement, it’s important to restate and own who we are, why we’re here, and what we want.
4.0 is not a charity. We are not saviors. We are not the frontline leaders in every home, school, and neighborhood around the country doing the work that needs to get done day in and day out.
We are co-investors.
We exist because, for 8 years, we’ve seen the abundant and diverse pipeline of courageous leaders who are ready to reimagine teaching and learning. But, the status quo in philanthropy often pulls resources away from meeting talent where it’s abundant. Funders systematically miss the mark by making a few, late, large bets in the same institutional players. 4.0’s investment thesis builds on disciplined investment principles of making smaller bets, earlier, in more people to lessen risk and increase the prospects of sparking real change.
We are here to expand conventional wisdom in education philanthropy.
More specifically, we are working to systemically remove barriers and broaden the sector’s definitions of expertise, impact, scale, and speed.
- We invest in ‘experts’: And lived experience is an undervalued form of expertise. At 4.0, leaders with lived experiences that are grounded in the conditions they aim to improve — and the technical skills to execute on their vision — have room and resources to grow and lead as innovators. Notably, technical skills can be taught while lived experiences cannot.
- We invest in ‘what works’: And to find tomorrow’s proven learning models, funders must be willing to fund promising learning models today. At 4.0, people have access to cash, coaching, curriculum, and community to run humanizing pilots with a small group of consenting families who will ultimately be the judges of what works and what doesn’t.
- We invest in ‘what scales’: And scaling what works can and should take many organic shapes beyond replication. 4.0 focuses on scaling trust by intentionally cultivating relationships and critical densities over multiple generations of entrepreneurial leaders in multiple regions and across multiple issue areas to foster authentic collaboration at scale.
- We invest to see ‘outsized impact’: And philanthropy must follow, not lead. It should affirm, not dictate. At 4.0, we remove the pressure of unrealistic timelines, infeasible outcomes, and premature scale. We start investing resources in people at the very beginning of their entrepreneurial path. Then, we wait patiently and trust the people who are leading the work.
We believe that all people are capable of improving their own conditions. We believe that communities should own their visions of their futures. The problem we are here to solve is increasing their access to resources. We aim to reduce gatekeeping to the change we want to see in education.
We have been sharing the same prospectus with philanthropic foundations since day one of our fundraising campaign. With the support of our partners, we have now raised three-quarters of our $15 million goal and are working to close the full, four-year fund by December so that we can get to work.
We have raised these funds to pursue the following four impact areas:
1. Talent: we will catalyze representation in education entrepreneurship.
2. Ventures: we will increase diligence in the earliest stages of investment.
3. Ecosystems: we will promote community ownership of education reform.
4. Research: we will advocate for smaller-scale pilots as more ethical R&D.
Now, I have used the word ‘we’ a lot. I want you to know what I mean by it.
In the last chapter of his book, Decolonizing Wealth, Edgar Villanueva writes:
“When you look more closely, altruism is acually a fundamental reflection of the separation paradigm, the Us vs. Them mindset. Linguistically it’s literally about Other-ing — the word comes from the Latin root alter, “other.” Altruism also is a linear concep: it moves in one direction, from the Have to the Have Not, a one-way flow of resources. Altruism is the poster child for white saviors. The Native worldview shifts the focus from altruism to reciprocity. Reciprocity is based on our fundamental interconnection — there is no Other, no Us vs. Them, no Haves vs. Have Nots. Reciprocity is the sense that I’m going to give to you because I know you would do the same for me. No one is just a giver or just a taker; we’re all both at some point in our lives. This also reflects a cyclical dynamic, as opposed to a one-off, one-way relationship.”