Good morning! If you missed yesterday’s newsletter, you can find it here.

We want to start with a quick update from COP25, the climate summit in Madrid — despite Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, Nancy Pelosi went to make it clear that “The US is still in.”

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Let’s get into it!

Giving Tuesday

Today is Giving Tuesday. For those that don’t know what that is:

GivingTuesday is a global generosity movement unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world.

It was created in 2012 as a simple idea: a day that encourages people to do good. Over the past seven years, this idea has grown into a global movement that inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate, and celebrate generosity.

Last year, the US raised $400 million online, and we’re hoping that we can collectively raise even more this year. Here are some resources that may help:

  • “I care about the climate crisis” — if you’re interested in giving to a non-profit that addresses the climate crisis, you’ll find the best charities to donate to here.

  • “I’m not sure where to donate” — if you’re unsure where your money will be the most effective, check out this new organization that rates the effectiveness of nonprofits. Research and then give with confidence.

  • “I want to support my city” — we’re all about supporting local organizations. If you’re in NYC and want to help fund afterschool and career programs for youth in the city, you can give here

Building Sustainable Food Systems

dairy farm GIF by Anchor Point

Addressing global hunger and nutrition challenges requires the creation of sustainable food systems. Many countries are still very far away from building such food systems, as illustrated by the map we linked to yesterday — with Northern countries having a clear advantage over the Global South. Let’s dive a little deeper into this issue.

Defining a food system. A food system is “the entire web of food production and consumption from beginning to end — from growing and harvesting to processing and packaging, from transportation and consumption to the disposal of food waste.” 

Measuring sustainability. The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) measure sustainability based on twenty indicators across four themes: the environment, economic, social, and food security and nutrition. Some of these indicators include agricultural GHG emissions, size of the female food labor force, and obesity rates.

Building sustainable food systems. The World Economic Forum has laid out guidelines on how we can continue pushing the needle:

  • Alignment: There is no one-size-fits-all approach — countries and localities will need to design distinct systems that work best for their needs. Each distinct food system will need to work in alignment toward a common set of outcomes, especially considering the interconnected nature of global food supply chains.

  • Inclusiveness: People need to be central to shaping food systems. We need to create open dialogues about options within communities in order to ensure that the solutions are practical and incorporate the needs of all members of society. The unaffordability of the EAT-Lancet diet is an example of how things can easily go wrong.

  • Innovation: There are many scientific and technological innovations that can support developing regions, especially when combined with traditional farming knowledge and practices. We need to create infrastructure to help develop and scale such technologies, and we need to encourage collaboration across public-private systems.

  • Incentives: Food system actors (e.g., food manufacturers) face real costs that make it difficult to become sustainable while remaining profitable. Incentives need to be shift to enable an effective transition while addressing the costs incurred in overcoming barriers. This can include market-based incentives, blended financial mechanisms, public fiscal incentives, and grant capital. 

What’s next. The UN and other international organizations have made sustainable systems a high priority, illustrated by the recently announced UN Food Systems Summit in 2021 that aims to highlight the centrality of food system transformation to the achievements of the other SDGs. In the run-up to this summit, the World Economic Forum has launched the Food Action Alliance to act as a “large-scale partnership aggregator and project accelerator” to break down silos. 

Like climate change, creating sustainable food systems is critical to helping us achieve most of the other UN Sustainable Development Goals. We encourage anybody who is involved in the space — maybe you invest in food companies, maybe you work for a large CPG — to really think about the overall systemic impact of any business decision made. For those who want to continue pushing the needle, check out the Food System Vision Prize from the Rockefeller Foundation, a $2 million prize for the team that can create a compelling and progressive vision of the world’s food systems by 2050.

Rebuilding Cities with People

When building a product, one of the first things you do is consult the customer you hope will use it — even if that product is an entire city. Recently, Sidewalk Labs, the urban innovation arm of Alphabet, has scaled back their smart city project in Toronto due to concerns about tech’s ethics, use of personal data, and the failure to consult the local communities.

public transport animation GIF by palerlotus

Their dream. Sidewalk Labs began an ambitious project in Toronto to build a prototype of a futuristic city. They wanted one filled with smart power grids, underground tunnels for shipping, and countless other innovations. Unfortunately, Sidewalk didn’t include the people in their design process.

Caution. Not including people in the process of building public innovations increases the potential of citizen activism, new local regulations, and bad press about the companies. You don’t have to look far to find examples. Think of Uber and their fights with cities, Amazon’s departure from Queens, and WeWork’s fall. Social equity must become a foundation of projects that seek to provide new citizen services, solve local issues, reimagine urban infrastructure, and innovate the way of life in a place.

science fiction architecture GIF by palerlotus

A leading role. Prop up the citizen, for each one can play a leading role to ensure that urban innovation does not drive inequality. If certain groups aren’t considered, they can be left behind or negatively targeted as the urban landscape in front of them changes. Here are two examples that are citizen-positive:

  • DECODE: A project in Barcelona and Amsterdam that provides tools that put individuals in control of whether they keep their personal data private or share it for the public good.

  • Open Data Institute and London: The organization and city have partnered to create new solutions to civic challenges while maintaining the privacy of Londoners.

Tech literacy. While Big Tech works to alter the status quo of public life by launching civic projects that change how cities operate, governments are only reacting to the changes — they are scrambling to rethink regulatory oversight and how to protect their citizens from unethical technology. These public sector leaders need to become more proactive and work in concert with the changes that are happening in their cities. This begins with better education of the current leaders and the hiring of new public sector tech talent who have the ethical framework and technical knowledge to stand up to Big Tech. Until governments choose to invest in the technology and talent at comparable levels to business, private innovation for the public will outpace the government’s ability to protect its citizens. 

If a human builds something, there will always be inherent biases. In order to discover those and fix them, social innovation needs to begin with the people and communities it hopes to benefit. They need to be in the conversation as early as possible to continually give feedback. As the beneficiaries, citizens should be able and willing to confidently champion the innovations. Placing social equity at the center will not only increase the success of change but ensure more impacted and enriched lives.

Short Takes

Tomorrow Today: Intro to Unconventional Activism

🎟️ Thursday, December 5


Change cannot be achieved alone, only together. In that spirit, we are kicking off community events at our space in New York City. Eat some food, learn from some seasoned, unconventional activists, and meet others aspiring to change the world!

Our speakers:

  • Anjali Chandrashekar: Anjali is the founder of Picture It, a global social project that uses artivism to raise funds and awareness for various health, humanitarian, and environmental causes. Her projects have been featured by the UN, and she had the opportunity to present her work at the World Economic Forum at Davos in 2011. Anjali also works as an innovation strategy consultant at Doblin.

  • Karen Mac: Karen is a Business Development Associate at Acumen, an impact investment fund that invests in social enterprises that serve low-income communities in developing countries around the world. Before Acumen, Karen worked at the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship and has also spent time supporting female artisans in Bolivia and improving sanitation usage in India.

Why are we hosting this?

For us, community is the center of everything. In an age of prolific digitization, there's a great need for greater human connection. It's almost necessary to carve out time and space to purposefully engage in person. While it's amazing to be able to discuss and interact with multiple people online and exchange stories and insights, we don't think anything beats the experience of sharing a meal.

Igniting Tomorrow

💰 $100k-$250k Pre-Seed Funding

UPDATE: We’ve already had multiple people reach out and share their ideas. It gets us super excited to learn more about the projects and companies everyone is working on. Please keep reaching out. We’ll be releasing more information around this in the upcoming year.

Many of you are either already working on a number of world-changing things or have ideas bursting out of you every day. Our goal is to see unconventional activists like you succeed. Let us help connect you into the space and access the financing you need to get started. If you’d like to share your ideas (or know a friend working on something exciting), please reply to this email!

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