Areas of active investigation – a big jumbled mess – I like to talk with people about these things – these are very rough notes
In 2016 I left the world of vc-backed startups and joined Khan Academy, an education nonprofit whose mission is to provide a free, world-class education to everyone. I turned to social impact because I felt a calling to play some role in addressing society's most pressing problems, and I wasn't finding that role within the venture ecosystem.
This transition turned out to be a challenging one. Underneath Khan Academy's crisp and inspiring mission was an organization that I experienced as chaotic and dysfunctional. As I heard from people at other nonprofits, I discovered that this problem was widespread across the sector.
Why is it so hard to create a high-functioning social impact business? I started to get answers to that question when I co-founded my own nonprofit, Hello World, in 2019. I experienced firsthand the challenges of fundraising; of hiring and retaining talent when you can't match market rates; of measuring impact with intellectual honesty; of building a culture that lives up to an aspirational mission. I now appreciate that chaos and dysfunction can't be purged from non-profits because chaos and dysfunction are properties of the environment that non-profits plunge themselves into.
And yet: I am even more convinced that non-profit organizations have the opportunity to lead the way in designing new organizational systems and processes that help clear the way for meaningful and fruitful work.
Today, social impact businesses are notoriously dysfunctional. What would it take for them to lead the way in organizational development and culture? To become places where people experience tremendous meaning, agency, and growth? Answering this question is of great importance if society wishes to inspire top talent to work on society's most pressing problems.
AI and the Brittle Age