A Million in Motion

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Nerd alert. I’m a big player of the New York Times Spelling Bee.

I’d best describe this word game as what would happen if Words with Friends and Wordle had a fly, fabulous baby.

Spelling Bee gives you seven letters and your job is to find as many words as possible among them – short words, long words, and everything in between. You can use each letter a bunch or only one time. The only catch is that one of the letters must be in every single word – not as much of a problem when that letter is a T, but when it’s like a J or an F, oof.

Last week I was served up this sexy bevy of letters: M N H O L T I.

And I saw them in the most magical week of my year.

Magical because I had the enormously good fortune of being with 150 social entrepreneurs from around the country who descended upon Minneapolis for our favorite event: the REDF Community Retreat.

Over the next three days, we dished on the rising tide of employment, the ways to meaningfully expand our enterprises while honoring our missions, the roles we can play in the future of climate and infrastructure, the struggles we face as leaders in a rapidly changing world, the broad shoulders on which we stand, and the exquisite honor we have to hoist others up on our shoulders too. We were as unconference-y as conferences go – intentionally creating space for the entrepreneurs to lean on each other, and learn from each other, and for us to listen and learn deeply too.

Somewhere between the stage that was set and the sheer humility of the leaders in our midst, people shared what they were screwing up equal to what they were crushing. Leaders swapped life hacks and work hacks as those little gems of what converts principles into practice. We dreamt big about the country and the role we have to open onramps for so many left out, and we dreamt specific about what we can do – each in our own cities to be part of the flywheel of change.

There I was with our own little beehive of incredible entrepreneurs – each one with as much ferocity, creativity, and passion as the next. And I couldn’t help but think – dang, these folks are ready to change the world.

To say that I was blissed out would be the understatement of the century.

And when my eyes finally drifted back to the Spelling Bee, here are two of the many words that floated up.

First, M I L L I O N.

  • Like the 10 million people who’ve been boxed out of the economy due to barriers like justice system impact, housing instability, or the challenges affronting opportunity youth – the very barriers that we seek to overcome as a community through the power of employment social enterprise. I walk away from a week like this and I know – like in-the-pit-of-my-belly-know – that this community will not only make a radical dent in this number, but kickstart a revolution that will tear paper ceilings and redefine what talent looks like in our country.

Second, M O T I O N.

  • Like the motion you feel underfoot when you know you’re on the precipice of change. When you’re surrounded by entrepreneurs who are walking in their genius, using their gifts to build businesses that help people not just have access to work, but onramps to economic mobility. 100,000 people so far to be exact have been brought back to work already by this community. 100,000 moms, dads, sisters, leaders, neighbors. 100,000 new beginnings that spur the countless new beginnings of the many around them.

So there you have it. We aspire to bring (a few) million in motion. A few million moms, dads, sisters, leaders, neighbors.

In a time when our country feels fractured and separate, we stand arm in arm, backs arched, shoulders broad – ready to share ideas, push our systems, and lift up our people. Because we believe as I’m guessing you do too: that the world moves better when we swim in an economy that works, for everyone.

A million in motion indeed.

Maria Kim