Top Innovator Insights

Here is a compilation of some of the most inspiring quotes from various Innovator Insights that we have collected over the years. We have learned from a wide range of philanthropists and entrepreneurs on topics ranging from best practices to entrepreneur survival tips.

Konda Mason, Co-Founder and CEO of Impact Hub Oakland:

My best advice is truly to start at the end. You can’t course-correct later; you won’t. You can’t sprinkle in women and color later. That’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about partnership with people who are different and doing that at the beginning: having all voices at the table. It makes you so much richer. If you miss out on those conversations, and you stay in your white male or even white female role, you’ve missed out on incredible beauty and will never know how much farther you can go.

Cheryl Dorsey, President of Echoing Green:

I believe that talent is equally distributed in this society, but opportunity is not. At the intersection of these two ideas is the work of Echoing Green. I am guided by a sense of urgency to help build opportunity on-ramps for next generation leadership who speak truth to power and see value where others see only challenges.

Laurin Hodge, Executive Director of Mission: Launch, Inc. :

Laurin and Teresa Hodge
Entrepreneurship is a tool to economic well-being in America. Wealth is built in this country a few ways and being the owner of a company with true market value is one. For many the dream of being an entrepreneur isn’t about becoming a billionaire. The dream is to be in control of what you can earn through cleaning houses, mowing lawns, coding websites, selling merchandise, or baking your neighborhood famous pies. Financial dignity is about having power — entrepreneurship is power.

Peter Buffett, Co-President of the NoVo Foundation:

“We recognize the power dynamic that is inherent in our position and take every measure to examine it and dissolve it wherever and whenever possible. Our responsibility is to constantly look at the structures that got us here and dismantle them (carefully) where we’re able — and always with the people with lived experience at the center of the work. We believe that girls of color are experts in their own lives and wield immense power to transform their communities and the country. We are excited to partner directly with girls of color and their advocates so that they can live in safety and peace, dream and imagine all the possibilities of their futures, access all that’s necessary to live in dignity and fulfill their dreams, and feel celebrated and seen through love and connection.”

Jessica Norwood of Emerging ChangeMakers Network:

A healthy ecosystem is fractal. In science, fractal theory is a theory based on relationships, emergence, patterns and iterations. This theory maintains that the universe is full of systems, weather systems, immune systems, social systems, etc. and that these systems are complex and constantly adapting to their environment. Therefore a healthy ecosystem is non-linear, always moving and evolving. People have a desire to have things be static and motionless because the predictability makes us feel safe and settled. But in reality, a system is most successful when it is evolving as a response to a good feedback loop. In order for us to emerge new strategies, we have to get comfortable with the constant motion of the system and we have to expect that the calls for improvements to the system can come from anywhere, at any time.

Kesha Cash, Founder and General Partner at Impact America Fund:

“From very early on my goals and my thinking have been, “How do I help others gain access who may not have it otherwise?” That’s what drives me every day. I don’t think I’m a genius by any means. But I’m a hustler and I know how to navigate landscapes and get access to resources. And so I think I’m honestly — until I figure out otherwise — I think I’m here to break down some of the barriers that prevent people from gaining access and exposing people to opportunities that they may otherwise not have been familiar with.”

Jennifer Bradley, founding director of the Center for Urban Innovation at the Aspen Institute:

I keep equity and inclusion fundamental by taking steps to learn from a range of partners, to make sure that I am inclusive myself in who I work with, partner with, invite to convenings, put in speaking roles, seek out as authors. The bottom line goal of the Center is to connect innovation and inclusion, so if I am not practicing inclusion myself, I’m not fulfilling my mission. The word “curation” is terribly overused (as is “innovation”) but one of my main roles is curating, which means making choices about what to highlight, what to lift up, and draw attention to. That’s one of my main avenues for being inclusive and making sure equity is a part of the conversations that I convene or spark.

Leah Hunt-Hendrix, Founder of Solidaire Network:

“The most important thing to remember is that individuals with wealth are just people, and have their own wounds and desires. We all want to live lives of meaning, to have a role in changing the world for the better, and to be in community. So often, fundraising is treated transactionally, and both the donor and the grantee are objectified. We try to avoid this by developing real relationships, being together in community, and growing together over time. It’s crucially important that we do this as a community of donors, and as a movement community, that bridges between donors and organizers. We are still looking for ways to avoid bringing organizers into our spaces, and instead bring our members into movement spaces.”

Sharayna Christmas, Founder and Executive Director of Muse 360 Arts:

It’s not me or any small black or female led organization that needs to change our mindset. It’s the people with the resources that need to change their mindsets. They can’t keep investing in these centers where leaders are living in poverty. Eventually those leaders are just going to have to leave, or the organizations will just fizzle away. I’ve talked to bigger organizations and realized I need to have a conversation with them and funders. I love what I do at Muse, I could do it with my eyes closed. But I need to talk to people and I have something important to say. It’s not about being confrontational, it’s about having an important conversation.

Dr. Yanique Redwood, President and CEO, Consumer Health Foundation:

To me and to our foundation, we have to begin asking our grantee partners regardless of whether the organization is people of color led or White led or whatever, to demonstrate that what they’re doing is advancing racial equity. And so it’s from a very practical standpoint that we begin using tools like a racial equity impact assessment to demonstrate that whatever you are working on, whether its advocacy or whatever, isn’t hurting and is also advancing racial equity people of color. I would also recommend an organization assessment tool to help an organization figure out if it still has racist practices. Is it paying attention to issues of diversity? Is it paying attention to issues of equity inside of the organization? Not what it does outside, but how it handles itself inside. Who they’re purchasing from, who are the vendors, who’s on the board, who do you hire? All of these internal practices need to be analyzed because if this country is built on this foundation of racism, that means every organization has a taste of it and has to be working actively to undo that.
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