Act II. Pull up a chair
“You just might be a black Bill Gates in the making. I just might be a black Bill Gates in the making.” — Beyoncé
Act I. Setting the table
"I'm clear why I'm here, how about you?" - Jay Z The most important advice I would give to another first-time CEO is…
In the last 8 years, 4.0 invested in 1,000 people across 40 states. Over the next 4 years, 4.0 will transition toward a distributed leadership model that moves all cash, coaching, community, and curriculum decisions and activities to representative alumni leaders in local communities across the country.
For years now, we’ve learned that this approach is strategic for four reasons:
- Increased capacity: rather than supporting hundreds of teams with only a small staff of 10 based in New Orleans, 4.0 also hires a distributed, part-time staff of alumni who share the fellows’ backgrounds, live nearby and work on similar issues.
- Increased quality: 4.0’s alumni are better coaches and content facilitators because they bring their first-hand experience as founders. They are better investors because they bring deep domain and technical skills. They are better community builders because they have a relatable story to the communities they are already a part of.
- Increased impact: For 4.0 alumni, flexible contracts help make the transition from side-hustle to full-time smoother. It puts money in their bank accounts without organizational mission drift. Over time, this means 4.0 will have more diverse success stories to tell. This reinvestment in the community and distribution of leadership fosters a culture of sharing social, financial, and political capital.
- Increased representation and co-ownership: hiring alumni allows 4.0 the opportunity to truly reflect the nuanced diversity of fellows, as well as the youth and families they partner with. When the people closest to the needs lead and make decisions that govern 4.0’s coaching, investing, curriculum, and community building efforts, 4.0 moves closer to an honest vision of equity and community ownership.
More importantly, it is the right thing to do because it models our vision for:
- Self-determination: people in the 4.0 community will have control over the decisions that impact them. We are all shareholders in the literal sense.
- Self-actualization: People in the 4.0 community will co-invest in each others’ learning and growth. We are all givers and takers at some point.
- Self-sufficiency: People in the 4.0 community will share the ownership of growing and sustaining the 4.0 community — on our own terms.
In practice, alumni leaders will drive decision across the 4 core impact areas:
- Talent: alumni leaders will coach each incoming class of fellows.
- Ventures: alumni investment committees will select and evaluate pilots.
- Ecosystems: alumni community builders will recruit future fellows and connect existing fellows within and across local communities.
- Research: an independent collaborative of researchers will study our work to provide transparency, accountability, and continuous learning.
This is not an easy path. We have had bumps and will continue to have more. But, to us, it is worth it. Because we know liberation begins and ends within.
To change philanthropy, we must fundamentally change ourselves.
I have always believed that entrepreneurship is an act of self-empowerment. I have seen it a thousand times and experienced it firsthand at 4.0. It begins with a powerful moment of deciding that your vision for your own (and your people’s) future matters, should be shared with others, and is worthy of investment. But no one alone can fix anything. There is already a dominant narrative of individualistic entrepreneurship that we don’t need more of. The persistent problems that marginalized communities face are results of systemic oppression. To address these issues, entrepreneurship must become an act of community self-empowerment.
This is the kind of power we are here to build.
In his book, Decolonizing Wealth, Villanueva cites the words of Jeremy Heimans on “new power:”
“New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many; it is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads and shares. Like water or electricity it is more forceful when it surges. The goals with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.”
In his latest audiobook, Power Moves, Adam Grant explains why this matters:
“One of my most vivid memories from middle school was a poster on the wall in history class. It said, ‘Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,’ quoting Lord Acton, a British politician. After staring in it for three years and studying lots of examples, I believed it. But now, I believe something different. Yeah, power changes the way we act. Sometimes, for the worse. But power doesn’t necessarily corrupt. Power reveals on the outside what was on the inside all along. That’s what psychologists have discovered over the past two decades. Gaining influence and authority frees us up to show our true colors. To act on our real wishes. It releases us from the shackles of social pressure. Power disinhibits us. It’s like an amplifier. Whoever we were before comes out louder.”