The following is a conversation between Wendy Guillies, President and CEO of the Kauffman Foundation, and Denver Frederick, the Host of The Business of Giving.

Wendy Guillies, President and CEO of the Kauffman Foundation

Denver: The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation based in Kansas City was founded in 1966. It works with communities around education and entrepreneurship to increase opportunities that allow all people to learn to take risks, and own their success. And here to discuss that work in more detail with us is Wendy Guillies, the president and CEO of the Kauffman Foundation.

Welcome to The Business of Giving, Wendy! 

Wendy: Thank you very much, Denver. Happy to be here. 

Denver: As you mentioned, the foundation was founded in 1966. It was founded by Ewing Marion Kauffman. Tell us a little bit about him and some of the history of the foundation. 

Wendy: So, Ewing Marion Kauffman, and he was known widely as Mr. K.  That was kind of his nickname. So, I call him Mr. Kauffman, but many, many people who knew him called him Mr. K. He was a really interesting person. He called himself “a common man who did uncommon things.” 

And so, he was born poor. He became an entrepreneur and a baseball team owner. He brought the Royals to Kansas City, and he ended up dying a billionaire. And the two things that made him, in his mind, successful were: getting a quality education and having the ability to start his own company that ultimately employed thousands of people. 

So, as he got older and later in his life, he wanted to give back, and he wanted to do that by starting a foundation that focused on those two things: education and entrepreneurship.

Denver: And particularly the latter, Wendy — entrepreneurship — there weren’t a lot of foundations back in the 1960s that were starting philanthropic organizations around entrepreneurship, correct? 

Wendy: Correct. In fact, that’s a really interesting fun fact about Mr. Kaufman is he was the first foundation donor to put his foundation on a major path to supporting entrepreneurship. We were the only ones for many years. And now, there are dozens that do this. We network with many of them. So, he had a lot of vision at the time, for sure. 

I feel like we do have a strong entrepreneurial spirit, but I think it’s just harder and harder to start a company. I think there are higher hurdles, and as you start looking at demographics and geography and gender, those hurdles get even higher.

Denver: A true pioneer. Well, let’s stick with entrepreneurship. And just from where I sit, I read a lot of Horatio Alger-type stories; inspiring stories. I’ve seen them in Entrepreneur or I see them in Inc., and then maybe sometimes I turn on Shark Tank and I see these pitches. So, what I would like to ask you, Wendy, is: What is the state of entrepreneurship in this country today? And is that entrepreneurial spirit as strong as ever, or not? 

Wendy: You know what? Contrary to what most people believe — because you see the Shark Tanks, and you see all the stories in magazines that are dedicated to this — we actually have been in a long-term entrepreneurial slump in this country. 

So, entrepreneurship rates today — so the number of startups that happen every year — is about half of what it was in the 1980s. We had a little bit of an uptick last year, which is a good sign, but that’s likely due to people starting companies out of necessity because they were laid off and didn’t have choices; we’ll see how that works out for this year. 

But yes, I feel like we do have a strong entrepreneurial spirit, but I think it’s just harder and harder to start a company. I think there are higher hurdles, and as you start looking at demographics and geography and gender, those hurdles get even higher. We see a lot of inequity when it comes to race, when it comes to geography, when it comes to gender. 

Denver: And geography, I think of venture capital. About 80% of it is California, New York, and Massachusetts. And that’s somewhat crazy when you stop and think about it, not to mention they have very low single digits for women and for people of color.

Wendy: Absolutely. Capital access is a huge, huge problem. And in fact, just for any entrepreneur, only a small percentage… like 1% of entrepreneurs… ever access venture capital. And then when you see where it’s kind of locked up, that doesn’t bode well for most entrepreneurs in the middle of the country

But the majority of entrepreneurs, 83% or so, don’t get venture capital or bank loans, so they’re left to their own devices — either their own savings or family and friends. And then you start thinking, again, you start looking at race and geography and gender, it’s even harder for people of color, for women to raise money, to get the capital they need to fuel their businesses. 

And so, a lot of the foundation’s work right now is aimed at kind of lowering those barriers and creating, opening up capital for more entrepreneurs, especially those who are left behind. 

Denver: Let’s talk about a couple of those programs. One of them is Kauffman FastTrac. Tell us about FastTrac.

Wendy: The FastTrac is not so much a capital access program, but it’s an education program that actually Mr. Kaufman started before he died. It was one of his last public appearances before he died. He did a big event to announce FastTrac in Kansas City. And the great story is there was a huge snowstorm overnight, and some leaders of the foundation thought we should cancel the event. And he’s like, “No. Even if one person shows up, it’ll be worth it.” And 800 people came. They came out in the snow to see him talk about this program. 

So, it’s an education program that helps people who have an idea for a business, take that idea and get it off the ground: a feasibility study; you come up with a business plan; you meet mentors; you learn from others in your classroom setting. You can take it in classroom settings. You can also take it online. And we’ve been doing it ever since.

Denver: Well, Mr. K was not only a visionary — he was an intrepid visionary. So, no little snowstorm is going to hold him back. 

Another one of your initiatives is 1 Million Cups. Tell us a little bit about the million cups culture. 

Wendy: I love million cups because it’s quintessential Mr. Kauffman in terms of what he wanted this foundation to do. So he wanted us to test things in Kansas City and if they proved to be successful, to replicate them, to spread them, to share knowledge and learning in other places. 

And so, 1 Million Cups started, I think, about nine years ago, in our dining room with a handful of our associates and a couple entrepreneurs. And fast forward to today, we’re in about 160 communities across the country. Every Wednesday morning or almost every Wednesday morning, these communities come together. You hear a couple entrepreneurs tell their stories. They ask the community for support, and that’s where you go– we call it the Church of Entrepreneurship. It’s where you go to meet other founders, to meet partners, to maybe get customers. It’s open access, and it’s a wonderful event. It’s a great way to get to know the startups and the startup culture in your community. 

Denver: That’s fantastic. One thing that I always know about the Kauffman Foundation, or at least had, was their Global Entrepreneurship Week. And I’m a little curious as to what that entails, and what are you doing now with this pandemic going on? How have you been able to continue that, if you have?

Wendy: So in my previous role, I was vice president of communications when we started Global Entrepreneurship Week, and I was heavily involved in that. So it’s run through a grantee in Washington, D.C. called the Global Entrepreneurship Network. A gentleman named Jonathan Ortmans runs that. We started in 2008, and we had about 75 countries that participated. It has now grown, and there’s so many tentacles to this. 

It’s basically a model where we have hosts in each country. They carry out the week in their countries. They get their own partners. They raise their own money for it. They plan their own activities and their celebrations. So, it’s very diffused, and I think that’s why it’s successful because it’d be customized to your country. And it’s huge. It’s 170 countries, I think. I don’t even… I think we’re almost tapped out in terms of how many are available. 

Denver: Well, you’re up there with the United Nations, that’s for sure. You’re pretty close. 

Wendy: We’re up there. 

And last year, it was all virtual. It was all virtual as almost every event was. So they managed to pull it off, and there are things that happen throughout the year to keep that network going. So, it’s actually called the Global Entrepreneurship Network now. And there is still the week that happens every November, but like I said, there’s a sticky network that happens throughout the year.

Denver: So what do you think is going to happen with entrepreneurship here as a result of both the pandemic and all the issues we’ve had around racial justice? Do you see it changing? Do you see the geography changing? Do you have any idea as to where it may be going? And I know you don’t have a crystal ball, but you might have an idea in terms of: What are some of the trends indicating?

Wendy: As I mentioned, in looking at the most recent data, there was a surge in the number of new business registrations in 2020. And that’s sort of like, “What? That doesn’t make sense.” But most of it was due to, like I said, necessity. So, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes amazing things happen when you don’t have other choices, and you just go for it. So I think we’ll have to see how that plays out. 

I do think, and I’m speaking for the foundation, but I think other foundations that are supporting entrepreneurship feel very much the same, is that racism, racial inequity has been with us for a long time. But a big, fat spotlight was shown on it in 2020, and the pandemic just further amplified those inequities. So we’re doubling down. We’ve been on this path of trying to support entrepreneurs that often get left behind, that are underrepresented– women, entrepreneurs of color, those living in rural America. 

And so, really, last year just reinforced for us why this work is important, and that we’re on the right path, and we just need to keep at it. And I feel like there’s an opportunity in this country for those who care to turn things around and to really try to create the conditions, and to try to rid ourselves of those systemic barriers that cause so much inequity in this country. And I have hope. I feel like there’s renewed hope. I hope it lasts to make real change this time. 

Denver: We do need to seize this moment. And I think what you bring up is exactly what a lot of people worry about, is that: What happens when we return to a semblance of normal? Do we get all busy again and fall into our old habits? Or do we remember this moment and what we need to do?

The other big undertaking you have is in the educational field. But if there was sort of a halfway house, if I could call it that, between entrepreneurship and education, it would be Real World Learning. Tell us about that. 

Wendy: I am so excited about this initiative. I actually think it’s a movement here in Kansas City, and we believe this is the largest and probably most comprehensive effort to reform what the high school experience looks like in the country. We are working with 30 superintendents, 30 school districts, in the six-county metro area, which, of course, crosses a state line, and a broad consortium of people — so superintendents, business leaders, educators, students, parents. 

We’re trying to make that high school diploma mean something more than it does. So trying to equip all students… not just some students, but every student, every high school student in this community, with the kind of real-world experiences they need to get a step ahead in life. So those are things like internships, apprenticeships, client projects. So when you’re in high school– doing a project for an outside organization, getting at least nine hours of college credit while you’re in high school, getting an industry-recognized credential. 

These are all things that make learning relevant and help you figure out what you want to do with your life. So, whether you go straight into the workforce after high school or go to a two- or four-year college and then go to the workforce, you’re going to be a step ahead with some of these experiences. And so, our goal in the next 10 years is that every student in Kansas City graduates with a high school diploma and one or more of these experiences, which we call Market Value Assets. And those have been vetted across this consortium of business leaders and educators, so one internship means the same thing as another internship. And that’s the important part.

So like I said, there’s a lot of momentum here. We see superintendents, and their boards, and their parents and students taking ownership over this and getting really excited about it. And it feels like we’re at the beginning of a really exciting movement. 

Denver: And I guess you see this scaling to other parts of the country based on what you’re able to produce there and the evidence that it shows. 

Wendy: Absolutely. I think that we are happy to learn what others are doing in this space and to share what we’re learning as well. And so, we want to be out there networking because I think there’s great ideas and I think people are experimenting, and this is kind of the new way, I believe. 

And I think this is also– even during the pandemic, our superintendents were just super committed to this, and they have not wavered because they know this is the future, and this is what we need to do to help position our kids for success.

Denver: Another area that you’re involved in education is in a public charter school effort, which you started, I guess it was about 10 years ago. I didn’t even realize that until I did some research for this. Tell us about it. 

Wendy: Yes. 2011 is when it opened to 100 fifth graders. It’s called the Ewing Marion Kauffman School. It is a highly successful public charter school, grades 5-12. So we’ve already had several classes of graduates, and it’s amazing. It’s about, I’d say, 90% students of color, about that same percentage of free and reduced lunch. Most of the fifth graders that come to us are reading at the second grade or third grade level, and the idea is by the time they hit high school, they’re at grade level. 

So, we got into this wanting to create a high school, and we realized to do that right, we’re going to have to start in fifth grade to get people up to speed — children who are behind. So, I think Mr. Kaufman would be proud of a lot of what we do, but I think he would just be over the moon if he was able to meet those children. They’re amazing! 

Denver: I don’t know much about the educational field, but I do know a lot about fifth grade, it seems like, and that seems to be the last moment when you can capture them. I remember when I was doing a lot of physical fitness work with the New York City Marathon and the Road Runners — if you wanted to get kids to get involved, you had to get them at that 10, 11, 12 age because after that, sometimes, they get too cool for this, and it’s too late. So this is the last moment, and if you get them on that right track, you can take them where you need to go.

Well, if you did this 10 years ago, 20 years ago you started Kauffman Scholars, right? 

Wendy: Yes. One of Mr. Kauffman’s true legacies is around college access and opportunity. So he actually started a program called Project Choice while he was alive, and he operated that program. It was to prevent high school dropouts. And he said, “If you abide by several rules, just sign a contract here, I’ll send you to college. I’ll pay for your college.” And so it was reasonably successful, but probably… return on investment, not as many students got through. 

So we revamped that into what’s called Kauffman Scholars. We started that in 2003. Took in eight classes of students in the seventh grade and worked with them in out-of-school time all the way through college. And when all is said and done, I think we’ll have about a 60% to 65% in aggregate, college graduation rate. And there were some hard lessons. It’s been a 19-year program. A lot of hard lessons about how to not just get kids to college, that’s the easier part; it’s to get them through. And what the role of the college university is in supporting that student, what kind of supports they need in college and before they go. 

And so, we actually then took those lessons and started a separate nonprofit called Kansas City Scholars. That launched in 2016. And it’s going to be even bigger. It’ll serve about 6,000 students, low- to moderate income. We also broadened the footprint. We’re in the six-county metro area. We’re serving traditional students, adult learners, and there’s also a college savings component to it. And we’re looking at it — the goal is to get a 75% graduation rate from college for these students. And for first-generation low-income students of color, that is multiples times greater than the national average in terms of college graduation. 

Denver: And one of the things that I’ve seen that has helped a lot of these young people get through college is nothing more than nudges. Often, they get just a little text message or things of that sort. And I think sometimes people think it has to be these huge upheavals, but a little bit of somebody caring and someone giving you just a little bit of a nudge can make all the difference in the world.

Wendy: Exactly, Denver. Well said. I also think it’s getting the right fit for college. It’s getting the right match. And so, a lot of time is spent in Kansas City Scholars on getting that right fit/match. There’s a network of 17 universities and colleges that we have in our network, and the Kansas City Scholar’s staff spends a lot of time helping them figure out which school is right for them. That makes the difference, too. 

And all these… I think the supports that these campuses provide are equally important in terms of giving that nudge, and someone who cares, and giving them the extra supports that they often need as first-generation students. 

Denver: I think that, Wendy, that if you would look at two fields of engagement that really are ripe for disruption, one would be healthcare, and the other would be education. And I think in healthcare, we’re seeing so much around telemedicine. What do you think, even beyond your work at the Kauffman Foundation, but what do you think we are going to see as a result of this pandemic in terms of changes in education? 

Wendy: I certainly think what we’re trying here with Real World Learning, I think there’s a lot of disruption that was already underway as it relates to colleges and universities. And that four-year degree… it’s still important, but there are so many other pathways out there. 

And at this point, it’s been pretty linear. You go to high school. Then if you go to college, you go to college after that. And now, people are looking at credentialing and micro-credentialing. And maybe someone goes straight to the workforce, makes some money, gets some experience, and then goes to college. Or gets a certificate and then goes back. 

There are so many different ways to do this. And I think we’re seeing, here in Kansas City and elsewhere, colleges getting into the credentialing and certification space because they want to serve students. They want to get people into good-paying jobs and careers. 

And so, there are multiple ways to do that now, and we’re seeing… I’m seeing the acceleration of some of those things. I think there are a lot of things that got accelerated in the pandemic, and people are starting to… things that were already kind of trending are now kind of just, like I said, accelerating.

I look at what this world did in terms of coming up with a vaccine in like unbelievable time. Look what happens when we all come together to do something. We had a common enemy. We had a common enemy in this pandemic. And if we could apply that same kind of will and collaboration and desire to other things like education or health care, there’s no end to what humanity can do. I think we proved that. So that’s my hope. 

Denver: Somebody said to me it’s like they went to bed, and then they woke up and it was 2030. And the things that they thought were going to take a decade are already here. 

Wendy: I’d also say, Denver, just in terms of what might be different, here’s one of my hopes in addition to equity. I look at what this world did in terms of coming up with a vaccine in like unbelievable time. And look what happens when we all come together to do something. We had a common enemy. We had a common enemy in this pandemic. And if we could apply that same kind of will and collaboration and desire to other things like education or health care, there’s no end to what humanity can do. I think we proved that. So that’s my hope. 

Denver: I think it’s well-stated hope, and I also think that it’s helped lift a lot of these self-limiting beliefs we’ve had, particularly for leaders of nonprofit organizations who figured they could maybe do this or that, but now, looking at things like that vaccine, will say, “Why aren’t we doing 10 times as many people?” It just has changed. It’s gotten into a 10X mindset because of what is possible, and maybe we’ve been holding ourselves back artificially based on what we thought we were able to do

Wendy: Absolutely. 

Denver: You recently introduced the 2021: America’s New Business Plan. Give us a couple of highlights from that, Wendy. 

Wendy: So, policy is an important part of what we do. We believe that that makes things sustainable. And so, America’s New Business Plan is a policy agenda with a set of ideas for local, state, and federal policymakers to help remove barriers and really kind of break down the systemic barriers that make it harder for entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses, and to realize their entrepreneurial dreams.

And so, there are four pillars: opportunity, access to funding, knowledge, and support. And again, there’s something there for everyone. We have a website. It’s And there’s a coalition of organizations and individuals who have signed on to support this — not financially, just to advocate. Because entrepreneurs need advocates. They’re too busy running their business. They need other people to advocate for them when it comes to entrepreneur-friendly policies. 

We need diversity and diverse perspectives in our knowledge creation, like we do everything else. And so, we’re trying to build that pipeline of researchers of color and that have diverse perspectives because we think the information that we get out of it is going to be more reflective of what’s going on in the country. And it’s going to make it stronger

Denver: There’s been so much discussion about inclusion of late, but you’re one of the few organizations that I’ve known who have talked about inclusion in research systems. Share your thoughts on that.

Wendy: So, when you think about research is knowledge creation, it helps drive programming. It helps drive the field, shape the field. But if you have a mostly homogenous set of researchers, there’s bias that comes into play. There are samples. There’s … with their methodology. I’m not saying it’s wrong. I’m just saying we need diversity and diverse perspectives in our knowledge creation, like we do in everything else. 

And so, we’re trying to build a pipeline of researchers of color and that have diverse perspectives because we think the information that we get out of it is going to be more reflective of what’s going on in the country. And it’s going to make it stronger

Denver: We don’t talk enough about rural America, but you have something, I think you call it The Heartland Challenge. Tell us about it. 

Wendy: Yes. I’m a child of the middle. I talk about that a lot. The middle of the country is really important to me. I grew up in a very small town. 

And so, The Heartland Challenge is… Heartland can be defined in lots of ways. We’re defining it very narrowly. It’s Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, which stands for MINK, the MINK states. And so, The Heartland Challenge is a call. It’s an RFP for organizations that are supporting entrepreneurs and those who are trying to lower barriers for entrepreneurs of color and people in rural America.

One of the challenges was around organizations that can provide education around business transition. And because there’s a lot of small businesses in these small communities that the owners are aging out, and they want to keep their businesses in the community, but they’re not large enough to attract private equity. So things like turning them into employee-owned businesses, ESOPs, co-ops, things like that; some of the organizations are helping organizations and businesses figure that out because these are important to small communities. 

There’s this mindset or this thinking that you have to be some sort of extraordinary person to do something amazing. And my message is that there are everyday people that are doing amazing things every day in their communities and making a difference.

Denver: I watched your TED Talk, Wendy, from a few years ago. I think it was called The Middle is the New Edge. And I thought it was a very thoughtful and very practical approach to define common ground to bring change in society. But as you know, these days, that message is sometimes not always that well-received. What are your thoughts about that? 

Wendy: I define it in several ways. I think about the middle. I think about it in terms of geography because I feel like there’s something special in the middle of the country that often gets overlooked. And I think those of us who live here know that it’s a special place, and there are smart people everywhere. 

And when I think about middle, kind of middle mindset, what I don’t mean is we all conform to the norm or you can’t have opinions that are different from others. I’m just talking about trying to find common ground where there is some, respecting people’s differences, obviously, and their different perspectives, and really more about just practical solutions and collaboration to problems.

And I think there’s this mindset or this thinking that you have to be some sort of extraordinary person to do something amazing. And my message is that there are everyday people that are doing amazing things every day in their communities and making a difference. And that’s really the message I’m trying to get across.

Denver: I think it’s a great message. I sometimes think the media doesn’t help at all because they want polarizing voices because it makes good television. Now, I’ve always looked at newspapers as being a cool medium where you can have sort of thoughtful discussions, but on TV, it’s a food fight. And you want that, but that doesn’t bring us together in any sensible way.

Wendy: Yes. And I think it’s just– there are so many choices now. And people, there used to be, back in the day, just your newspapers, and there was editing that happened, and there was a diversity of opinions and you could educate yourself. And now, you can go and watch only what you want to watch to reinforce your beliefs that you already have. 

Denver: Exactly.

Wendy: And you can do that online, on Twitter, on… and so it is. I think at some point last year, I was glued to the news at the beginning of the pandemic, and then I just had to turn it off because it was making me feel really, really, really mad. It wasn’t helping. I was getting the news that I needed to get, but I think there’s a point where you get too much, and it’s not healthy.

Denver: Absolutely. I think a lot of people, if you took the last year of their life in the news, will say, “Do you realize you could have learned how to speak Mandarin in the amount of time you spent looking at almost the same story sometimes?” They just play it over and over and over and over again.

What have you found to be the hardest thing, the biggest challenge, Wendy, for you during this very extended period we’ve been living in? 

Wendy: I think it’s… gosh, a couple of things. One is maintaining relationships and those connections while you’re looking at someone on screen. We’ve all worked very effectively, remotely. We’ve been able to do all of our work. We’ve made all of our grants, and we’re fortunate in that way that we can do our work from home or from anywhere. 

But I do think things get lost. I think there’s fatigue that sets in. I can walk down the hall in a normal day back in the day and say something to a colleague or meet them in the hallway… or unscheduled things, I guess. And now, everything has to be scheduled. You don’t have those little hallway encounters. 

And so, I think collaboration and planning and strategy has been much more difficult online in our virtual environment, and I think also just trying to figure out what the future of work looks like for us. So we are wrestling with that right now. We know we can’t go back to exactly the way things were, but how can we kind of, to say the cliche, how can we have “the best of both worlds” by being together, but also having some of the flexibility I think we’ve all enjoyed in working remotely?

Denver: I have also noticed that with Zoom, sometimes things can fester. So when somebody says something on Zoom that doesn’t sit just right, what you normally would do is you would just go down the hall and say, “Hey, just want to clear something up,” but you can’t do that. You almost have to make a production of scheduling a phone call with them or a Zoom call for them. So what happens is that it kind of just builds up inside a little bit. 

Has there been anything at being a leader that you’ve had to unlearn this past year and replace with new kinds of behavior? 

Wendy: So we’ve been on a– we call it REDI — racial equity, diversity, and inclusion. We’ve been on this learning journey for about three years now. And last year, we really sharpened our focus, obviously, and are, like I said, doubling down in this work. 

And I’d say in general, not just last year, but for the last three years, I’ve had to learn an awful lot about things that I didn’t know, my own biases. And so, we’re looking in the mirror at the Kauffman Foundation with “We want to facilitate and foster and support equity in our external work; we know we have work ourselves to do inside.” We are looking at our practices, our policies, our behaviors, our procedures to make sure that equity is baked in. And we’re having hard conversations, and it’s been messy but I think it’s the most important work we can do.

So I’d say if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there’s a lot I don’t know, but I’m super curious about it, and I’m committed to doing better. 

Denver: I admitted to you before we began that I’ve never been to Kansas City, so much sheepishly, I will admit. But tell us a little bit about Kansas City for somebody who hasn’t been there. As a native, what makes it such a special and distinctive place?

Wendy: So my opinion, it’s a great… it’s a big little city. So it’s big enough that you have the amenities. We have sports teams, world-winning sports teams, I should say. We have arts. We have great restaurants, shopping, and such. But we’re also a small town. You can get anywhere in Kansas City in like 30 minutes, so it’s manageable. 

People who come here from other places to live or to visit, and I know people say it’s about a lot of cities, but I hear it over and over again that we are incredibly friendly people. It’s a super friendly city. And the last thing I say is: it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful trees and hills and architecture. We have an area called the Country Club Plaza, which is patterned after Seville, Spain. So, people are surprised when they come here. So lots to do, and I encourage you to visit, Denver. You got to get here. There’s good barbecue, too. You’ve already heard that.

It’s a challenge and opportunity for foundations. We have money, but money is not our only asset. We have power, and we have influence. And I think it’s imperative for philanthropy and foundations to… rebuild better and to look at what we can do within our own portfolios, our own mission areas, to do things differently and to really get at those root causes.

Denver: OK. OK. You couldn’t have done any better than the Chamber of Commerce, let me tell you that. OK? That was pretty good. 

Finally, Wendy, what role do you see philanthropy and foundations playing as we go forward in terms of getting this reimagination and this design right to assure that we have a fair and equitable and just society?

Wendy: I think it’s a challenge and opportunity for foundations. We have money, but money is not our only asset. We have power, and we have influence. And I think it’s imperative for philanthropy and foundations to, what we like to say at Kauffman, is to rebuild better and to look at what we can do within our own portfolios, our own mission areas, to do things differently, and to really get at those root causes.

 One of the many benefits of being in a foundation is we can take the long game. We can go to those spaces and places where others aren’t intervening and do something and take our time and be patient about it. And I feel like we need to turn our attention to this because we can influence many other people in doing so.

Denver: That would be super because this is a country that is not looking at generational change. Our politics are pretty much from one voting cycle to the next voting cycle, and our businesses from one quarter to another quarter. Sometimes you need some institution or some part of society that can take 10- and 20 years and begin to say, “Let’s be patient, and let’s stick with the plan; adjust it along the way to get the kind of outcomes that we really need.”

For people who are interested in learning more about your work, the work of Kauffman Foundation, tell us a little bit about your website and some of the information that they can find there. 

Wendy: We have a wealth of information. It’s We have a blog called Currents where we write thought pieces, and we have guests write thought pieces. You can learn about our programs. We have videos. All sorts of things. You can spend hours and hours on it, Denver, and learn all about what we do. You already know quite a bit. I’m impressed. 

Denver: That’s because I spent hours and hours on it. Well, thanks, Wendy. It was a real, real delight to have you on the program. 

Wendy: Thank you so much for the opportunity, Denver.

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