Rising From The Ashes: What We Choose Now Determines Our Recovery: Guest blogger, Karen Barnes

We recently held our, monthly Indeavor lunch, virtually of course, featuring two compelling, generous speakers and an amazing 56 attendees! It was an exhilarating day. We asked attendee and community leader Karen Barnes to share her take-aways from the event, as our guest blogger today. Enjoy!

Rising From The Ashes: What We Choose Now Determines Our Recovery

By Karen Barnes, Executive Director, Venture Café Winston Salem

In the latest Indeavor Lunch, hosted by Flywheel, guest speakers Donna Harris, founder of a pioneering startup accelerator and global investor, and Rick Leander, banking veteran and behavioral economist, shared frank assessments of what a recovery might look like, and why we shouldn’t assume the old “normal” was really working.

Harris, who possesses a keen sense of history, patterns and human behavior, pointed to decades of trends, all pointing in the same direction – toward a broken society, where the winners keep winning, the losers keep losing and the gap keeps widening. The gap between rich and poor. Republican and Democrat. Urban and rural. Old and young. Essential and non-essential. Male and female. The list goes on and on. We are more divided than ever.

But we’re innovators and entrepreneurs. We thrive on disruption. We can spot opportunity to solve new problems. And there are all kinds of old and new problems rising to the forefront every single day right now. There are open spaces in what Leander called “The New Now,” where we vacillate between fear and love as fundamental human responses.

Here’s one example: The social fabric of our community is in tatters. We don’t know or trust our neighbors, much less the folks who live in a different section of town. Much less elected officials who grind governance to a dead halt and perpetuate their own self-interest. Much less businesses who selectively serve some and ignore others, often those with the greatest need. That’s the fear talking.

But look around. Where once we outsourced caring for those in our community to professional non-profits, people are asking what they can do to help. The most vulnerable among us are, for once, a priority. We’re seeing that the virus doesn’t care who you are – when we exclude pockets of people, we risk creating a hot spot. Our true interconnectedness is on full display. True inclusion – this is the love response.

Here’s another example: Harris and her team spoke with their portfolio companies’ CEOs to gauge their response and resilience planning. Some had their heads down, deep in denial, not honest about their cash flow, not asking for help, not pivoting their models. The fear response. Others, however, were proactive – having cut costs to survive and understanding that their organization might look a little different on the other end. They love the ride, they love solving problems and they love being challenged.

To get through this, we’re going to need to unlock the full promise and entrepreneurial spirit in our communities. To break through the fear and release energy and resources into funding all kinds of new companies and social experiments. This should be the Wild West of innovation, Harris shared. We should be pouring money into promising ideas, big and small. That’s the love response. The fear response? Preserving and protecting resources despite having an abundance of them. Look at how many big banks have responded to the PPP loan program – instead of channeling money to those small businesses who need a lifeline, they selected larger companies already in their loan portfolios to mitigate their own future risk. This is not the time to keep the winners winning and the losers losing in a world where the winners control the rules, Harris stated. We need a tsunami of entrepreneurs. Are you ready to build something new?

Something built on love. Not fear.

So here’s to what’s next. I love you.

Karen