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Reflections on home

“Home is where the future is.”

That was the mic drop response shared by Noubar Afeyan (the inventor and entrepreneur who co-founded Moderna) during a fireside chat at the Clinton Global Initiative conference earlier this year.

He was responding to a question about the lived experience of refugees and asylees, and about how fleeing one country for the safety of another can rob you of your sense of home.

“Home is where the future is,” he said in response; and the simple elegance of that statement has stayed with me ever since.

In Afeyan’s view, home is not so much the brick and mortar of a place as it is the comfortable confidence of knowing a future can be built there. The visualization of you as part of a community on the rise because you are a part of it. Home is not the nostalgia of the aromas of your mom’s kitchen, or the kids you used to kick it with on the block, or the lamp that is so ugly it’s somehow beautiful again. Home is the spaces and places in which we feel safe and seen.

What many of us may take for granted about the power of being (and feeling) home can elude so many other of us for generations. And as I conclude my first year in the seat of CEO of REDF– this beautiful organization that dedicates itself to backing enterprises that ensure our country’s overlooked talent is truly seen—it seems no coincidence that I’m in my own reflection of what and where I call “home”. On my worst days, I wax melancholy about missing the fall colors of Chicago, or the pristine snowfalls best for snow angel making, or the posse of people that have become family by choice. But on my best days, I sit with Afeyan’s incredibly wise words, and I realize that home is everywhere and anywhere we stitch community.

Home is yesterday morning when one of our entrepreneurs told me this is a community where, in nearly thirty years, she has felt the most seen. Home is this afternoon when I’ll toast with a few colleagues in recognition of a hard-fought year, wearing slippers not stilettos because my dogs are tired too. Home is looking away from the zoom room and letting your mind wander to the wonder you helped to create this past year.

And as I sit in that space of wonder, I know that among the many things we’re proud of from this past year (sure, we built skills, street cred, and traction for the field) is the fact that we were able to get proximate with our entrepreneurs. That after so many years of physical distance, we were able to dream, build, and imagine futures together, riffing off each other’s ideas like what happens in shared living rooms, or at the kitchen table, or in all ways home. We did Accelerators in person, and broke bread and built community together in droves – and at each step, we leaned on each other for insights on how we grow our businesses and rev up our onramps to economic mobility.

We were reminded that as we continue to emerge from the global pandemic that was the prism of our lives the last few years, we can actively resist the temptation to “go back to normal” (a normal that wasn’t always built for all of us), but instead commit to create a new next.

The last few weeks of the year can often be muddled by the hullabaloo of holiday. It’s our hope at REDF that you find deep within those days the slow, delightful peace of this season, too. The peace of reflection and restoration, the peace of a future inside an economy that works for everyone, the peace of recognition of what is and what will become: home.

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