Making the best use of the next 8 months is where its at

Alright, this is the last post of this 6-week series on exploring the CPA model for me personally and Miami as well. There’s a bittersweet feeling in having this experience end, but at the same time it is clear that nothing is really ending, we’re just beginning.

As many of you know, I’ve been embarking on a sort of personal journey in parallel that predates the adventures of CPA, which is applying for my MBA. Assuming I end up going, I have about 8 months to get CPA to a meaningful place before I have to disengage (at least partially) from it. So this post is not only going to be focused on the planning for how to get CPA Miami off the ground, but it will also be my own personal plan for what I personally hope to achieve with CPA. Felipe and his team have placed a great deal of faith in me and I want to honor that to the fullest extent of my abilities.

Since we’re tackling CPA as a project within our organization, there are distinct benefits and challenges to incubating in this manner, so I’ll also be drawing on Prompt #3 to take a look at our edge as a geography and as an organization.

Action 1

For this part of the Prompt, we’ll be looking at the feasibility study spreadsheet (link) on the Juan/Sheila – Miami Tab.

This exercise was based on a top-down market sizing effort of Miami’s faith-based institutions, charter schools and retirement/assisted living communities (a huge market in Florida).

In summary, we found 270 houses of worship in Miami, 140 charter schools and close to 900 assisted living facilities (I’m having our analyst double check for hidden duplicates, because this seems like too much).

For a quick estimation exercise, we assumed that the faith institutions and charter schools accomodate to the following size distribution:

  • 50% of them are “small”
  • 25% are medium
  • 15% are large
  • 5% are Very large
  • 5% are very very large

Then, it is a matter of thinking realistically how many institutions we can engage, enroll, and maintain relationships with in the first year and then each year thereafter.

I’m going to assume that, in a year, we can get 20 of each on our side. This means we’ll have 60 total users. Then if we assume that the conversion from users to members is 33%, which is the approximate ratio CPA operates at in D.C if I recall correctly, then we’ll have 20 member owners. To get 60 participants is going to involve getting 5 to sign up per month on average. Given a conversion ratio of 33%, we would need to have 15 intro meetings per month. This may seem ambitious, but we may get a good set of intros at the beginning that could launch us in that direction.

I’ll give all of this a little more thought in the coming days and probably for my reflection, but I’d like to sit down and run this by my team and then go from there.

Also, a little extra side note: I am thinking about how we can get additional organizers to give us introductions and get some skin in the game when it comes to connecting us with other potential members for CPA. Along these lines I am considering an incentive scheme like what Isaac from Boston suggested at annual meeting.

I know the most interesting one I’ve seen is AFLAC, where they give ~50% of the commission for 3-6 months to the person who closes the deal, then 25-30% thereafter provided they are “managing the account and relationship”. We could do something similar here but split between the multiple roles (connect to decision-maker, close the deal, process the contracts, nurture the relationship while, on the MBE side, establish relationship with vendors, negotiate and execute the deal, monitor the working relationship between provider and member + conflict resolution). Also there could be multiple outcomes to target beyond closing contracts like securing membership (and dues), and for group meeting attendance. This would also allow us to financially motivate other organizing groups to lend their contacts and open the door for us.

It’ll take some number crunching to see if/how this could make sense, but it could lead somewhere.

Action 2:

For the next part of the prompt, I’ll detail my planned next steps for the incubator:

  • As you think about your next 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, what support and resources do you anticipate would be most helpful from me/Felipe & the CPA national team? 
    • In the next 3 months, I want to deep dive on the relational meetings. My goal is to have all the relational meetings needed to get a clear sense of who the early adopters will be (recalling the threshold tests developed by CPA’s board in 2017). 3-5 meetings per week for 12 weeks should give us a good sense. In parallel, we will be gathering information and building out network of MBEs and double down on funding efforts. I expect our first group meeting to happen hopefully within this window or the next.
    • In 6 months, I want to be knee deep in establishing the first set of contracts between these institutions. I also want to have a clear sense of where we are on capacity building partnerships that can support us in delivering the value to the institutions.
    • In 12 months I’ll probably no longer be physically around, but for the last set of months I’m there I’ll want to help train the next person and handing off all the knowledge I can. In 12 months I’d like to have several contracts already active and have strong momentum when it comes to finding new institutions and establishing new contracts.
  • Would you like to keep relating to other participants in this incubator? What could you imagine that looking like to be most fruitful for you? 
    • Yes, we think we’ll end up having a zoom check-in twice a week. I think it’ll also be useful to drive accountability and have a peer group whose knowledge and experience we can draw from and contribute to.
  • One of my main projects over the next 6-12 months will be initiating and developing funding relationships with investors, lenders, and foundations. What resources do you think would be most helpful, that you realistically can deploy and on what time horizons? 
    • We’re going to be sending out grant applications as soon as possible. Any past grant applications or documents made for funders that we could use as a template would save us time.
    • Any actual funds we could get from CPA centrally can greatly accelerate our efforts. As mentioned in a prior post, my organization is becoming more and more used to the idea of this project being one of our cores moving forward, but since we’re an actual organization, we have a “heavy” structure that needs funding to be maintained. While we may not be the lean mean 1-man shop Felipe was at the time, we have a powerful starting point with my boss’ connections, my drive and wit, and our analyst’s sponge brain. Any request that CPA may have for us to help them make the case to funders, we’re on board to support.


Which leaders at key institutions do you know already or do you know you MUST get into relationship with that will make your critical path much easier?

  • PACT Miami, a faith-based organizing group and other related groups are key, including the archdiocese of Miami which my boss has deep connections with.
  • (More groups in the coming days)

More than likely, it’s going to be you. Do you need to be the leader/organizer/agitator/visionary/fundraiser/doer to make this happen?   

Thresholds and timelines

As with any start-up or new venture, there are always a series of benchmarks or thresholds that you usually set out — if we get to there, we’ll have made it. If we don’t get X by Y date, then we’re not likely to be able to get to where we’re going, so it would make more sense to stop — versus continue down a trajectory that wouldn’t get us there. What are your threshold goals for yourself and on what time horizon?  

  • These can be inferred from the timeline set out, but will elaborate more on the rules of thumb I use to cut a project half-way through later.

What specific contracts and which specific decision-makers and which institutions need to be part of the first 3-6 months and 6-12 months? What key thresholds do you need at what specific points to show that you’re making it to break-even? How much time and money do you need to get to the key benchmarks that make sense for you and your region? 

  • Will elaborate more on this later.

Do you believe in your own leadership and entrepreneurship enough to take the money and then be able to repay it — perhaps on a 4-10 year time horizon?

I have nothing else but the faith in myself and my word. Of course I’m coming up against fear as I write this. Of course my monsters emerge when I set out to do this work. We all know why this work is important and meaningful and has a place in the world right now of all times. If we fail, let is be spectacularly, but not because we did not try. It will be after having given it everything we had and with no regrets. And when we succeed, it will be transformative for how these anchor institutions see themselves in their communities and society. It will be transformative to the MBEs who will be able to hire and support the institutions they frequent every day as part of their lives as citizens. This will be an example of the power of collaboration and decisiveness for an otherwise silo’d and incrementalist group of anchor institutions and social impact initiatives.

Arguing that which has no(t as much) defense

Hi everyone! Sorry I’m late again with this week’s post. A lot of travel has been messing up my schedule. 

Anyways, I’m writing this post from my flight (now delayed and needing to switch my connection, smh 🤦🏻‍♂️). Because of how late this post is, I had the chance to skim some of the other posts before writing this one and I particularly liked Jonathan’s recount of class struggles and how they conflict with the notion of empathy.

While this exercise seems simple enough, but I can’t help but feel that this just barely scratches the surface. I imagine scenarios where people have conflicting interests that come from legitimate places where empathy can’t be divorced from compromise. 

Regardless, I think empathy is probably a powerful ingredient in consensus building, especially in topics outside of work (though we all bring our emotional irrationality to work, no doubt). 

I recall, throughout my life and recently as well, scolding people for their demonstrated lack of empathy. This has been especially common with the men in my life in the context of someone approaching them to talk about their problems. We men seem to have this almost knee-jerk reflex to try and solve someone else’s problems when oftentimes they just want to be heard and feel taken care of. But what happens when there is an ideological disagreement beyond a particular situation? 

Now, in the context of this prompt, I’m going to analyze a particular scenario I ran into a few months back with the Trump-voting, climate change-denying, “came from nothing” (I hear this one too much in the U.S, as if they weren’t born with their privilege 🤷🏻‍♂️) father of this guy I’ve been going out with. 

My first instinct is to say “you’re everything that’s wrong in the world”. Then I breathe (goosfrabba, for those who get the reference) and think “bless your heart, you’re just dumb as rocks”. Finally, when I get past that point, I usually try to fact check and educate to only realize their arguments are not actually grounded in facts but are entirely emotional. They find “logical” arguments to match their emotions even if the facts don’t add up or without bothering to do research to back up their positions. When I figure this is the case with someone, I’ll respectfully de-escalate because I consider them a lost cause. 

In this exercise, I’m going to try to empathize on a new level. I’ll take a look at 3 separate cringe-worthy (for me) qualities of this person, dig down to the whys underneath the whys and attempt to conciliate. These are: Voting for trump, denying climate change, and saying they come from nothing. 

Voting for Trump: In his case, I don’t find it hard to understand why he did this. He is a 55 year old man in IT who lost his job and is now having to work several temp jobs to make ends meet. Trump’s entire platform was appealing to the “overlooked, forgotten” masses in industrial and rural areas of the country, away from the technocratic, highly educated, better off progressives living in larger cities. He promised jobs and prosperity after a crippling crisis of which we were still kind of recovering from. He also addressed the issue of trade, corruption in Washington and its effects on jobs and even stoked the fear of mass immigration to the country. It was all based on fear. Fear that this man knows all too well because he lives it. In the end, I think voting for trump was a cry for help. Not because a wall or travel ban may be the best solution to immigration or a trade war the best way to bring jobs, but because they felt scared and then heard for the first time in a while. 

I’m sure many of them had higher hopes for this administration, but alas, the recent elections show that people are acting in their disappointment towards this guy. I get it. In his shoes, I might have done the same. Even if it were just to give a big middle finger to the system (and seeing what’s happening in Chile, we may expect more than just a rude gesture in the coming future). 

Climate-change denying: ugh, this one is tough for me to justify. I say this as I drink soda out of a single use plastic cup in an airplane, so the hypocrisy is not lost on me and maybe I’ll use this angle to argument on his behalf. 

The truth is that our entire way of life has been engineered around convenience and not having to pay for “the true cost” of things. By this I mean that, in a perfectly designed economy, we would all be internalizing all of the externalities our actions create into the cost we pay for the goods and services we purchase. For example, if using a plastic cup costs me 5 cents but recycling this cup further down the line costs 10 cents, I should be paying the 15 cents at the moment of purchase. If transporting this cup to the plant costs another 5 cents, I should pay for that too and so on (and not through recycling subsidies which are invisible to my decision making process). But because we aren’t used to it, and we’re so predisposed to want immediate gratification, we’ve been accustomed to living a life style that is not sustainable for our planet. And it’s hard because, by definition, this means we won’t be able to live like this forever and we’re going to have to give it up at one point.

While many of us try to do the best we can, that’s often not enough and we still find ourselves using our cars, taking planes and using single use plastics much more than we should. Now if I put myself in the position of a man who is struggling to make ends meet, who is not finding professional fulfillment like he used to and probably deriving a larger share of the pleasures of life from activities and things that some people are claiming to be “threatening our existence as a planet” when it’s just a coffee from a Keurig pod, maybe I’d be pissed and a little incredulous as well. Then hearing these same people espouse a theory about changing climate over decades would seem even more far fetched. 

If I also consider, in the back of my mind, that the effects are very long term, so much so that I may not even be alive to see them, then yeah…screw that. I’d be inclined to blissfully and with willingfull ignorance continue to eat my double beef patty burger, and not even bother to care about how cattle farming is one of the top drivers of deforestation. Oh well, maybe we humans are too short-term thinking to be able to make it out of this one. Many parasitic organisms and diseases operate the same way, eventually killing their hosts and themselves with them. I guess this is just the way of nature. 

“Coming from nothing”: While not precisely white, he is a white presenting Puerto Rican from New York who is used to the hustle mentality, and he admits to have grown up in a low income family. I don’t deny that he worked hard to be able to forge his path in the world a raise his family. I won’t also deny that he had a good head start because he was a white presenting man. 

But looking at this item, I can’t help but recall a particular argument I had with an ex in Chile where he basically said , supposedly not including me in this, that the achievements by anyone in upper middle class in Chile were moot because of their privilege. While I remember tearing him a new one for 1: excluding himself because he worked in the religious non-profit world (martyr mentality much?) but conveniently forgetting the fact that his entire professional life was a hand-me-down from his religious network from the small town he grew up in after bombing his college admissions, that he has fancy-last name privilege (our version of white privilege in Chile) on top of the fact that he went to the top school in his town and 2: for pretending that there is no dispersion within any given group of people. Specifically, while I was born with privilege, I have far outperformed and outworked 90% of my peer network from Chile from a professional and social-contribution standpoint ever since I was in high-school while he was basically the epitome of small town religious nepotism. 

Recalling this argument, I know that whatever privilege this man has had in his life probably doesn’t discount all of his struggles. It also doesn’t diminish his sense of achievement at all. Many people with more of a head-start did not do as well and I don’t feel inclined to take for granted that raising and providing for a family is trivial for anyone, even the most privileged. But as he’s gone through losing his job in his 50s, having to reskill to do other things, and continue to look out for his kids and grandkids, I can’t help but feel a lot of warmth and compassion towards him. We may all end up in a similar spot further down the road, where ageism becomes a real barrier to finding work. I hope he fares well moving forward. 

Anyways, that’s my post for this week. Oh well. I feel a little more compassion and understanding at least, but I struggle with justifying some actions, especially the ones that most impact climate just because of the massive danger it is proving to be. 

Anyways, I hope this wasn’t too tiring of a read. Until next time! 

RS: so as I think through the comments this week, my conclusion is that, other than M and J being right about the corporations’ ploy for lower and middle income scapegoats for the climate problem, is that I needn’t be so visceral on my judgement about people and that a little distance and time would favor me when coming up with responses to conflicting postures. I could imagine this being a useful skill when meeting religious leaders. We will probably have differences in ideology to spare. But I don’t need to get hooked on or react immediately to them. I can afford myself time to kill over and empathize, away from the sense of fake urgency that seems to plague our daily lives. I want to believe that we have more in common than different and that’s what gives me hope that we can find a solution to this and many other critical problems of our time. I hope we realize this soon.

To (M)B(A) or not to (M)B(A)

Image result for difficult decisions

Alright, Post #4! We’re doing this thing! So yeah, despite the fact that I’m late on this post (fell asleep reading work stuff last night…), I’ve been thinking about, playing with the idea of, and dreading this exercise all week. This post is also going to be my most -stream-of-consciousness style to date.

The reason why has a lot to do with the particular decision I’m going to analyze and how I’ve been trying to avoid analyzing this decision as of late.

Because I resent unsolicited suspense-building, the decision is:

To accept an offer to start an MBA on September 2020, moving away from Miami for 2+ years


To stay and see my current social impact work to the end (CPA very much included, by the way).

The vision for CPA Miami has actually been a pivotal factor towards actually making this a decision I’m struggling with.

So, more context – Since January of this year, I’ve been preparing myself to apply and begin to work on an MBA degree. This involved over 10 months of work with varying intensities, involving:

  • Doing a surprising amount of research
  • Paying for and studying 3 months for the GMAT exam (traumatizing experience, by the way, especially when you’re not satisfied with your score like me)
  • Apply for an MBA prep service for minorities (and get rejected…)
  • Wrestling with whether to retake the GMAT or not (and eventually deciding not to).
  • Pestering my universities in both Chile and Australia for my official transcripts (again…ugh).
  • Applying to 6 schools, which means:
    • Including researching schools
    • Paying and using a web-service to help me prepare my pitch to the schools
    • Adapting my story for each school
    • Writing multiple essays for each
    • Harass my recommenders for letters
    • Record videos
    • Pay application fees (6 schools add up)
    • Travelling to the campuses for interviews (4 schools so far, could be 5)

I’d only heard from people how exhaustive and stressful this process could be, but I admittedly shrugged it off by thinking “oh please, how bad can it be? write a couple of essays, prepare an interview and get over it”. Nope. Lesson Learned.

So far, I can’t complain with the support I’ve gotten along the way and my results so far:

  • My boss has been incredibly supportive, both in being my recommender, advising me on how to shape my story and my vision for the degree. Hats off to him, especially considering that he’s helping me make a decision that involves me not working for him anymore.
  • My other recommender and network have also been super supportive, allowing me to bounce ideas off them and refine my stories.
  • So far, I’ve secured 4 interviews with schools comfortably within the top 10 in the world and an offer letter from 1 of them (the interviews for the other 3 have yet to happen at the time of writing this post). I’m waiting to hear back from the last school.

Further considerations on this include the fact that I’m evaluating whether to apply for a public policy dual degree as well. However, since the timelines for both applications do not overlap, I’ll probably only apply to the public policy program of the school that I actually end up going to for my MBA (if I go…more on this later). Still, its very painful to write yet another application and especially one focused on something so different to my background.

Given the results so far, I have the very real option to go back to school, starting August/September of 2020 (the lag time is pretty wild, right?).

Al throughout writing this recount of everything I’ve done, I can’t help but feel very victim-y for all the work as if it justifies a potential decision, but then have that wrestle with the notion of sunk cost. In other words, all that work and money is done and paid for, so all I really have to evaluate is whether to go or not (as opposed to having to decide between applying or not, which is wildly different because of the extra work and uncertain outcome).

Nevertheless, there are still very real costs for doing the degree even after having gotten the acceptance letter(s):

  • Tuition, ranging from $0-160k, depending on school, fellowships and merit scholarships. Expected value as of right now is about $120k
  • Living costs for 2-3 years in a new city which will probably be around $50-60k per year
  • The opportunity cost of NOT working for 2-3 years (and at 30 years young, that’s a big thing)

Anyways, let’s get down to applying the decision making process in the prompt and see where that goes.

  1. Write down your goals, the outcomes this decision is supposed to produce. What is this for? You’re putting time and effort into this choice, why? What outcome do you seek?

Alright. Even though the whole process of preparing for and doing an MBA requires that we develop a vision for ourselves in the future and eloquently articulate the reasons for undergoing such an investment, I’m going to shy away from regurgitating that version of the pitch and I’m just going to stay higher level simply because, for the purpose of analyzing outcomes, the why is more important than the how. Also, I’m not going to go into detail analyzing which school I’d go to. The outcomes I’m looking for are:

  • More opportunities to develop and grow into my leadership potential.
  • Ability to command a higher pay, so that raising a family becomes financially feasible in the medium term.
  • A process of intense intellectual and experiential growth and renewal.
  • The opportunity to participate in an experience and environment of constant growth and reflection, outside of my traditional comfort zone, geography and people, regarding my path moving forward.
  • A solid network that includes an inner circle of like-minded professionals who have similar passions, lived experiences and ambition.
  • “Insurance” as I call it. Having a big brand educational institution in my resume also protects me, in part, from professional upheaval and opens doors.
  • Peace and fulfillment with my professional life.
  • Another idea I’ve been playing with is potentially transition out of consulting in general. Maybe I’m just ready to be part of a “thing” and not just an adviser/hired hands to other “things”. This goal is the opposite of why most people do an MBA. Many want to transition into consulting through an MBA as a stepping stone. Honestly, I’m a over the big brand consulting and ready to go deep.

I realize that some of these outcomes are kind of like matryoshka dolls in the sense that they are intermediate outcomes that could lead to the final outcomes.

Distilling only to final outcomes, then I end up with 3:

  • Money to raise family and stay independent
    • as a single father, since I am not looking to have to depend on anyone else, financially, to do it. If someone comes along who wants to do it with me and we get to that place, that’s a different conversation.
  • Peace and fulfillment
  • Constant growth
    • this might not sound like a final outcome, but for me it is important to cultivate a lifelong habit/ mindset of growth.

2. Aggressively and promiscuously list every possible choice that’s available to you. Not just the few that fit your current frame. By writing down something like, “quit and go home,” it opens up options you were ignoring. Force yourself to unframe the problem before framing it.

  1. Do the MBA and transition to something else entirely (probably govt, NGO or something along those lines) in Miami or not (2 choices)
  2. Do the MBA and work on social impact but not CPA (in Miami or not).
  3. Do the MBA and work on CPA somehow (Felipe has expressed openness to this possibility, so that’s something that could be explored) and after graduation continue in social impact (in Miami or not).
  4. Stay and continue to work at Future Partners and CPA.
  5. Stay and quit Future Partners and just do CPA.
  6. Defer the MBA and do option 4 or 5 for a year and then do the MBA*
  7. Quit and do something else entirely, probably in Miami.
  8. Quit and go live a simple life working at a hostel at a beach in South-Eastern Australia called Byron Bay (if you’ve been, you’d know it’s totally THAT kind of place).
  • * This one is very tricky. Many schools will not even consider this unless there are exceptional circumstances. Also, I am not even open to the possibility of not doing it now and having to reapply all over again some other time. NO.WAY.AM.I.GOING.THROUGH.THIS.AGAIN. It’s now or not in the foreseeable future (executive MBAs don’t count right now).

3. For each option available to you, list the dependencies, the things the outcome is contingent on, the events that have to happen for that option to be a good one.

Alright, 8-ish options, some will have overlapping dependencies. Let’s see:

For my desired outcomes to be realized under option 1 and 2, I’d need to:

  • Choose an MBA that is a good fit for me and make good use of it (likely)
  • Land a good internship and job coming out of the degree (this becomes less likely if I narrow my choices down to only Miami in the field I’m interested in, I’m not considering the possibility of working for the multinationals in Miami or the cruise lines).
  • Do well at this and subsequent roles (completely unpredictable, but I want to be optimistic).

For the variant that any CPA related option provides, the dependency is that CPA is successful here in Miami (which I attribute increased probabilities if my current boss is involved) and that it and my job in general provides me the financial resources for my other life goals.

4. [Optional and advanced, but worth a glance] The Decision Tree:

Alright, for the first version of this one then I’m going to stick to my 3 final outcomes as variables that will determine which options are better. I’m assuming the first two outcomes ($ and happiness) are equally weighted and then the 3rd one of life-long learning is weighed at 50%, because having the other 2 at the expense of the third might not be that bad of a trade-off, at least for now. I’m also just going to consider the % chance of things going my way and some ranges. I’m also not going to branch out the possibility of everything blowing up and ending up a hippie pariah somewhere…oh wait, Australia….that’s plan Z.

In the spirit of Halloween, I will now summon a power point slide (boo! I’m sure Jonathan is cringing! ha ha):

Legend: $ is money, heart is happiness, brain is growth, calculator is probability and the = is the final score. To reach the final score, I kept the number values of the scores but without being percentages. I then added the midpoint of all 3 indicators (but the second weighed by 50%) and then multiply the summation by the probability of success.

For example: For the first row we’d do 135 (midpoint between 120 and 150) + 70 (midpoint between 60 and 80) + 35 (half of the midpoint between 70 and 80) * 0.75 = 180.

Obviously, and as is evident by this process, we humans are (I am) awful at calculating expected values from any potential decision because:

  • We can’t reasonably assess the probability of practically anything meaningful happening or not
  • We can’t reasonably size the impact of anything even remotely complex. Especially a decision like this whose results can be measured through many variables, many unmeasurable (happiness, fulfillment etc.)

The value I did find from going through is that there is a scenario in which I could “have it all”, but it would require that I double down on CPA for these next 10 months. However, and I’ll risk saying this publicly, but we’re undergoing turbulent times at my job right now (a coworker just quit, certain recurring frictions with a certain someone, general stress and nervousness at all levels etc.). In this scenario, the MBA also serves as my insurance should things take a turn for the worse there as well.

Also, this makes me realize I don’t have a clear idea on what the potential upside for people working in/on CPA is. Probably need to find out/think how negotiation could work for the scenarios (PS: my boss tried to convince me to not go to the MBA today…again…but he’s been my #1 support to get this far. Hats off to him on this, right?)

Also, a critical thing I’ve realized while going through this exercise is how important the timing of this decision is. I don’t strictly have to make this decision until like, July of next year. I could, in theory, pay all the deposits and make all the arrangements to go and decide last minute that I don’t want to go.

Also, the fact that class starts in July/August of next year means I still have another 9-10 months to set up CPA here in Miami and leave it in a place where it can continue without me (and maybe that’s enough for the universe right now). I could also continue part-time either supporting Felipe with something else or supporting CPA Miami remotely (I can imagine training or other kind of remote consultant-like support).

It also seems that writing this post has inadvertently trapped me in a travelling gravitational anomaly that seems to have moved me 8 hours into the future… what did I get done today? ugh…

Hmm…Looks like maybe the running decision is that I should take the plunge and get my degree while trying to support CPA Miami from behind the scenes while I’m away….

What do you all think?

RS: alright, so it was really fun and heart warming to read all the comments from my cohort (also now friends 😍).

If I go to the root of their comments, it was all about ditching the numbers and thinking about what I’m feeling and what I want truly.

what will make me happy and why? I honestly think an MBA is one of the biggest gifts I can give myself and I am fortunate (privileged) enough to be able to consider it, apply, get in and then actually go through with it. I also think I deserve it (I say this completely without arrogance).

I deserve the opportunity to undergo a new process of intense intellectual and emotional renewal, a new adventure. An adventure where I will make deep friendships, discover new interests, contribute in new ways.

Even if I consider some of the absolute worst case scenarios (like being stuck with debt for a loooong time or failing at work or not enjoying the experience that much), I’ll at least won’t be stuck with the “what if”.

I’ve heard a lot of things about people reaching the end of their lives and regretting more the things they didn’t do than things they actually did. I don’t want to be one of those people.

I think that, no matter what, I’ll be happy I did it. I’ll be happy I took the risk and saw the possibility and decided to play big. There is no reason to engineer smallness in my life.

I’ve often considered that much of my professional life is marked by a series of repeated “failures”. That I’ve come up short over and over again. That I try and constantly punch above my weight class and pay great prices because of it. But one thing no one can say about me is that I’ve been risk averse or a coward. If anything, it’s because I’ve been brave and willing to put myself out there that I’ve failed spectacularly, but I’ve picked myself up and found other successes that o couldn’t have imagined. Today, I’m undoubtfully better because of it, even though it has hurt like HELL.

This is how I’ve grown and this is what feels right. Even if I never make it, I will never be among those who didn’t think they could try. Maybe one day I’ll realize what my place actually is and that feels right, but until I get there I want to follow my heart. And my heart says I’m ready for a new adventure and level up this way.

And by the end of it, who knows? Maybe find a special someone. 😬

The Cult for a Conscious Economy

It’s going to be the second post in a row where I start off saying that this week has been pretty intense in terms of learning and reading 📖 . I realize, this is bound to be there norm for the remaining 3 weeks and I’m glad, even though sleep has been scarcer.

This week in D.C was definitely a turning point for my CPA experience (yes, another one 😅). I attended the full day of activities that Felipe and his team (and dad 🤩) prepared us.

The takeaways seem too many to list. I filled out 4 pages of my notebook with tidbits of knowledge, experience and concerns that resonated with me 🤓. As I write this post, I’m being intentional about not having my notes in front of me so I can just let out and reflect about what’s already digested , be aware of what is still needing to settle in to articulate properly and what will need additional reflection and reading before becoming part of my mental models around CPA and the goals. The takeaways were as follows:

  1. Radical Transparency as a way to add value, regardless of outcomes.

    I recall this point first emerging from Felipe himself (multiple times over the course of our conversations, but it landed differently this time.
    Sheila and I also spoke about this at length during our walk to the school for the annual meeting.
    Even though Felipe spoke to this point at the speed of an Eminem rap solo 😛, the general way a meeting could go is as follows:
  • Start the conversation centering around values and building relationships
  • Size them up and get key info regarding the scale of their operations
  • From there, begin sharing what you’ve seen works for others, what they can pay, what discounts can be achieved, what businesses can be supported and all the benefits/opportunities available to them.
  • Once their interest has been piqued and they get that there’s a real opportunity for them here, ask them for their invoices, what vendors they like and which don’t they like. Begin gathering information with a real aim to add value for them. (note to self: you can also enlist another member to share their experience or invite them to a peer support group to hear it from “someone like them”)
  • Finally, you can ask them: who else would benefit from this? Who are 3 other administrators you know from other places that you know are struggling with (some) contracts.

We tied all this back to his our culture has given itself the right to dictate what we can and should ask about and what we can’t (taboos). Things like how much you earn, pay for a given good or service, death, sex, these are all topics that our culture has oftentimes deemed disrespectful to even ask about. In professional spheres, these taboos extend to what is “sensitive” information (like what you pay for anything/anyone, what you charge in B2B cases, etc.).

The whole point Felipe was making was that, by sharing your knowledge openly, you can immediately assert yourself as an ally and add value to many organizations for whom their facilities contract can be a burden. Then, regardless of whether they join you or not, you’ve added value and that makes the whole conversation worth it, in my book.

2. We are not just a mash up group of random (and surprisingly tall 😱) people implementing in geographic silos, we’re a carefully curated network made to support each other to collective success.

This became evident to me in several ways: My conversations with The Pauls (Hazen and Alexander, Hi! 👋) about the perspectives of institutional administrators, the Essicas (Yessica and Jessica 😻) on values-based purchasing and business modeling respectively, Michelle on my story of self/now and the need to juxtaposition between having all the steps mapped out before making the first and proper planning, Carrie and Tony on our growth as professionals and people over fancy coffee (😋☕️), Merald on what honesty, vulnerability and success look like (and what they don’t), Boris and Joe on origin stories leading to work on climate change and so much more. I wish we would have had more time to connect with everyone, but these interactions were enough to make me realize this is a wacky bunch, but interlinked by a shared vision for what could be.

3. Successful realization of this work is as much personal transformation and team building as it is planning, having the right tools and execution.

I notice how sometimes I have come to resist the notion of “the entrepreneur” as the center figure for change or creation. Anyone with practical experience knows that it’s all about the team (and team of teams).
Having said that, when we look at Felipe’s experience with CPA, I’m reminded of the sheer magnitude of momentum a single person can generate. This is both empowering (if he can, we can) and conflicting (ugh, will I end up not relying on others to drive this and not just “support”).

Regardless of what the answer is, it’s helpful to remember Felipe’s starting point is different than ours in ways both beneficial and detrimental to us. That, coupled with the flexibility, support, potential funding and other aspects that compose our individual context and circumstances will be supremely useful to the extent where we, as people, are willing to transform ourselves into those who can make the best use of them. Each of us knows (or will have to figure out) what success looks like for us and our regions and by when. Are we the ones to make it happen? What is it going to take in terms of commitment? What fears do we know we’re going to come up against? Are we willing to face them this time around? If not, how can we work around it? Who can handle those fear-conjuring milestones for/with us? Transformation can start with the answers to these questions.

4. Sheila and I will benefit from patience and practice before tackling the big anchor in our sights.🤫

This also came out of our conversation outside the school before the annual meeting, when we also learned you’re not supposed to loiter on elementary school property as an adult 😅.

We’ve been playing detective for a couple of months trying to figure out what it would take to get decision-makers within a big anchor to sign on to our vision, which could be catalytic for our endeavor. During our conversation and the workshop session, we figured we should practice understanding and working with the smaller anchors first to develop an expertise and muscle memory of what/how can be done. Given that the big anchor is such a critical relationship, we definitely want to get it right with them. I reckon we could be both seen as experts in this work pretty quickly, but the daunting task of getting this anchor on board can also be an excuse to avoid making progress in quicker work streams that could trigger the momentum we could benefit from to enroll the big anchor.

what do you think? 📝

5. Even though the model (and the services they provide as hooks ⛓) can seem like a no-brainer for many member institutions, there are still important barriers to adoption, as expected. 🧐 Now I’d benefit from hearing the perspective of an organization that chose not to join, or has kept their participation on the lighter side.

I came to this further realization after speaking to 2 founding members (Sandi and Paul) and a couple of newer members at the annual conference.

In my initial conversations with Felipe, I happened to just voice a laundry list off the top of my head of all the objections I could think of for these institutions NOT joining CPA, ranging from indifference and avoiding perceived additional work by administrators to cultural, values, bureaucratic, and intellectual reasons (I’ll admit, I was feeling particularly cynical that day because of some now insignificant developments in another project 👻). Not only did Felipe echo back to me that many of those were the precise challenges he’s come up against in the past, but now I got a glimpse of it in person. As I write this, I think a quick one-pager on Typical objections from admins and rebuttals would be pretty useful. I’ve seen this technique used in sales a few times and, when you think of it, this is an exercise in sales with a strong values perspective.

As I read through this list over and over again, I notice how many of these takeaways are “soft” in the sense that they’re not technical. For a very large portion of my life, I was indoctrinated in the notion that technical prowess is critical, that complexity is king and that finding the best solution was the ultimate measure of success (I’m looking at you, engineering school 😒)

Over time, I’ve learned that the best solution is not the most technical of complex, but rather the most practical to implement. That technocratic solutions often fail because most people don’t understand them or how to implement them. Similarly, when dissecting the real reasons why projects fail, I’ve seen that 9 times out of 10 the root is in the soft skills gaps that were made evident during implementation (I’m pretty confident most would agree with me on this 😬), but it’s funny how traditional case studies which we were educated with don’t often highlight this. They lean on some random technicality that supposedly blew the whole thing up, without taking into account that connected, committed, well-supported and high-performing teams are often capable of finding workarounds, adapting, pivoting or mitigating the effects of unforeseen technical gaps. Nevertheless, I spent a few minutes doubting my most evident takeaways because there weren’t enough technical items. I guess that’s the result of growing up in a culture that makes you think that smarts equates to success.🤐

Alright, turns out I was able to regurgitate a lot more info than I expected in one sitting with so little cumulative sleep. Can you tell where I ran out of steam? Hope you enjoyed the read! 🙃

Reflection Script.

Alright, this reflection is all about elegant next steps, key identity traits from my past lives that I plan to make good use of in this work, and foreseeing key differences for anchors of different scales.

Elegant next step for the MVP: get an institution to say: we want in. This would be the very first threshold to surpass and I’m confident it can catapult my level of trust in myself to carry much of this work forward.

Parts of my identity I want to carry over: As an engineer, I want to be rigorous and thoughtful. My engineering training has taught me about being rigorous in terms of how we experiment and what we consider to be an adecua result based on tangible outcomes we can measure. In a way, it calls me to avoid the tempting excuses of what can be called an intermediate success and focus on creating results that matter.

As an entrepreneur, I want to be oriented towards value added and contribution to the world. In this sense, I want to be focused on how the work we’re doing can be a before and after for an entrepreneur, family and a community. That the project only makes sense and will be successful if and only if the value is there for everyone. This includes members, vendors and community at large.

Finally, about key differences between small and large anchors. I think that they’re critically different but the practice towards generating the relationship and getting a grasp with the larger aspects of the work is very transferable between the two, in my eyes.

The core and the challenge

Phew, this week’s readings were intense. Between the Prompt, the Movement Ecology, the (old) Feasibility Plans and the 2 pager, I have to say I’m pouring A LOT of info into my (coffee and Cheetos-powered) head. But it has been great food for thought and will definitely help guide conversations moving forward.

So this week’s prompt is all about relationship building. I’m tempted to do a retrospect of the meetings that I’ve already had, but I also don’t want to feel like I’m cheating by not scheduling new meetings. I also have to be realistic and acknowledge I won’t have 3 such meetings this week (just a little overworked at the moment), but I will have many next week in D.C at the CPA conference and will soon have a way to set up many more through my extended networks (ie: my amazingly well-connected boss who needs just a little prodding 😅).

The relational meetings I’ve already had in the context of this project have been with:

  • Sheila M., Professor of Social Work at Barry University, who has since joined this incubator (Hi Sheila! 🤩).
  • Santra D., Programs Officer at the biggest anti-poverty foundation in Miami and her two new team members incubating coops in Miami.
  • Dale H., Professor of the School of Business at Barry University, introduced to me by Sheila and I’m now building a relationship with him and his entrepreneurship lab.
  • Mike R., from the City of Miami, who leads community partnerships.
  • Ibon Z., Social impact manager for Mondragon Spain’s consulting arm.
  • Michael P., Co-founder of 1worker1vote, major activist group pushing for (unionized) co-ops nationwide.
  • Ines H., Community Development manager at Citi Bank

Next up, I’m planning meeting with:

  • Mike R., from City of Miami to follow up and zoom out to have a more relational conversation (tomorrow). He’s offered me introductions to other people so we may hone in on those next.
  • Follow up with Santra D.’s team, since I want to get to know them better. They’re incubating a co-op that a CPA Miami could help grow.
  • Also, organized a meeting for Sheila with Patrick H. on Friday. He is my direct supervisor and partner at the firm I work for. This one will be crucial since I’ll be needing her support to keep him motivated in supporting me/us while I/we do this work! 🙂
  • Juan S., one of the lead organizers for PACT (People Acting for Community Together) which aggregates faith based institutions, through which I hope to have several intros (Last week of October, Introduction by Patrick H.) .

I realize that almost all of these relationships are not with people who do purchasing themselves or even have that much purchasing influence within their organizations BUT they have or can develop access to purchasing folks and other even more influential actors in their organizations, which I think is better in the longer-more strategic term as we try and build out a membership base. OK, so now for the questions:

  • What information or stories from your background do you plan to share with the person you’re meeting with so your meeting feels relational, rather than transactional?  

OK, this one will obviously vary with each meeting, so I’ll have to reflect on this point for each of them. As a general framework, I tend to share my lived in experience that draws me to this work in a somewhat chronological way.

  • The fact that I’ve lived in Miami in my early childhood
  • Wrestling with being an engineer but seeing and wanting to solve injustice all around me, but feeling like my training fell short
  • Working in hardcore corporate sectors to learn and grow but longing to do work that was more aligned to my values.
  • Working with former Obama administration officials to create economic development in communities of color (always an eye-opener)
  • Moving to Miami to be closer to family and reconnect with a community that always felt like home
  • Where will you take a risk? How you will you model vulnerability in a way that invites a deeper more meaningful sharing from the other person? 

OK, for this one, depending on my audience, will involve different versions of my story of self.

  • Feeling unfulfilled at work that was not aligned to my values
  • My family splitting up when I was a child and then my mother struggling to find work after having to return to the workforce
  • The massive High-school and college student marches 2006, 2011, 2013 in Chile.
  • Being gay, the process of coming out in a conservative society, and not having any kind of role model and then becoming one through my activism work (maybe not the best one for houses of worship, but could work great for charter schools).
  • stories of my everyday work trying to create economic access and opportunity for firms owned by ethnic minorities.
  • People like to talk about themselves. What questions about their background do you plan to ask? What are you genuinely curious to know? How will you move on if they’re talking too long? 

OK this one is easier. I like to ask them: how they got into their work, how their field and organizations have evolved since they started, where do they see it going and how would they like to shape it.

With community-oriented issues like this one, I also want to hear their thoughts on the big troubles of the community and how they think the needle should be moved (and then subtly plug that into the vision for CPA).

If they’re talking too long, I’ll just use my go-to “oh! that’s fascinating! Building on that point, for (project) we could see that working like A,B,C. What do you think?” and then just casually steer away in another direction.

  • How do you balance the relational versus transactional nature of your work today? When are you good at this? When do you struggle with it? What would you like to get better at?

So, in these first meetings, I want to be entirely relational and enroll into the big vision and what could be. I generally don’t like to enter transactional conversations without the other party knowing there will be a transactional component, and I wouldn’t even feel comfortable nowadays going into the transactional side without building solid rapport. I guess that would be a point of struggle, but if this work is so relational in nature, I’m inclined to believe this approach is more cautious and slower but bound to be more effective.

Luckily, in my time as a corporate consultant, I’ve grown very good at getting information and numbers from people in a very conversational way, so I doubt that will be an issue once the other side knows, accepts and expects the conversation to head in this direction.

I guess the transition between relational and transactional needs to be careful. Fortunately, I think it can be handled well once the relationship feels solid. I recall times where I’ve said “Alright, then let’s get to the part where I concretely help you save/earn/learn/add value. What would you say your spend with X is? Since when? Why them? etc.

  • Are there any people in your life who are really good at this? People with whom meeting feels more like a joy than a chore? What do they do well? How could you emulate them?

Hmm. This is an interesting question just because the people I work with do this well in general and the joy I feel when they’re at the meetings is actually the relief of not having to facilitate and manage the meeting myself (an introvert who plays extrovert all day gets tired, you know 😤). I get to just poke holes, fact check, take notes and stick to the details.

I understand this can be a little lazy on my part, but it basically means that the people in my life who are good at this stick to the strategic, aspirational side, actively look for something in common with the other person and are looking to keep the doors open for additional conversations. What they are NOT that good at, in my opinion, is leading to closure or extracting key quantitative information.

The way to emulate them, while still keeping sight of the fact that there will be a strong transactional component to these meetings at a later stage, is recognizing the need to be strategic, aspirational and relational at first and then peppering in the transactional side that they’re more averse to later.

Yeah, this prompt was hard work, but it was extremely valuable to pre-think these meetings. I see a lot of value doing this pre-thinking in a line of work that is 99% relationships. Note to self: Gotta grow comfortable in this new skin.

I realize how nervousness builds in my chest while thinking about these meetings. Somehow, I also have the feeling that this vision is compelling, my passion is palpable, and nobody wants to see me or this fail. Everything will be alright. OK, its go-time!

Reflection Script

So for this week, a lot of the comments and my own reflection in the following days has had to do with leveraging perceived weaknesses or areas of development as strengths.

As I prepare to write the elaborate reflection I had prepared, I’m tugged at my heartstrings with what’s going on in Chile right now.

For those who don’t know, There have been huge protests in Chile since yesterday that, on the surface, appear to be about a rise in public transport fares. It takes only a little bit of reflection to notice this is just the tip of the iceberg.

For those who don’t understand Spanish, let me translate:

  • It is not about the subway
  • its about health
  • education
  • pensions
  • housing
  • politicians’ salaries
  • electricity prices surging
  • gas prices surging
  • the robbing done by the military
  • the carte Blanche for the business elite.

Sound familiar? It doesn’t take a lot to notice that almost all of these points apply to the U.S and that we too face severe inequality issues where the less affluent communities (at, around or under the median income levels) are being, little by little, getting the life squeezed out of them.

In Chile, this has reached a tipping point más massive protests have evolved into destruction of public and private property. I could only watch in awe yesterday of a video of the building of Chile’s largest energy generation and distribution company completely engulfed in flames (I worked there for over a year while in college).

It can be so tempting to think that everything we’re doing is trying to solve or move the needle on the inequality issues here in the U.S. But I also fear we may be part of the problem. By actively trying to use the tools of this flawed economic model to try to create prosperity, we may be just stretching the life span Of this dying and corrupt system when, in reality, it should collapse and disappear as soon as possible (I guess Anand Ghiridharatas mixed with the Joker (2019)).

I’ve been under a lot of distress these past couple of days. I can’t help but be on the verge of tears as I see all the videos, posts on social media and recounts by all of my friends and family still there.

What should we do? Should we mobilize and, with the same pitchforks, rise and seek to topple the system? Or should we keep working within its bounds, trying to find the best technical solution?

I guess I have much more to think about and this probably goes beyond the bounds of CPA. Maybe the introvert in me can find conciliation within this Internal conflict?

Setting a goal that scares my socks – and other undergarments – off.

Entering this process, the “long-term” objective is pretty clear. I want to establish, what I see as, a key piece of the potential co-op and minority-business enterprise ecosystem here in Miami.

In my eyes, the ground is fertile (i.e. the businesses and potential worker-owner-entrepreneurs exist), but there has not been enough water and sunlight (economic access and relationships) to ensure that local, minority-owned firms and co-ops can grow and scale past a point that ensures their survival and resilience in the face of potentially upcoming economic and social upheaval.

After a year and half in the U.S and more than a year working with Future Partners, a social impact consulting firm started by former Obama White House officials that focuses on creating economic opportunity between minority-owned businesses (MBEs) and large corporate/institutional buyers, I’ve realized that it can be an extremely uphill battle to scale your business as a minority founder in the U.S.

Our work is centered often around using an organizing approach to inspire many levels of an incumbent organization to approach minority-contracting in a different way. We ultimately try and veer them away from the compliance side of it (if it exists in their particular industry/geography) and more towards an aspirational view. This then leads to initial traction and the ability to implement policy change that opens the floodgates for new opportunities.

This approach is very new to me as a former consultant at The Boston Consultant Group and an engineer by training. I have literally no organizing experience other than what you might see happen in a traditional consulting project. However, those situations are vastly different simply because you have a top-down mandate you can lean on and point to should anyone resist (people have and did get fired for resisting).

I realize then, that my assertion, or world view, for this work should be something like:

If we know there is persistent discrimination towards minority populations (racial, ethnic, gender identity, you name it), and we know that this discrimination affects their ability to create economic prosperity, and we know that this, in turn, also causes their health and quality of life to be inferior to what it could be, and we know that this is unfair and inhumane THEN we can help address these issues by creating a mission-driven vehicle that promotes and directs economic influx to these communities.


I can’t hold any illusions that this will be a silver bullet that solves all the problems for everyone everywhere. Or any of the problems for anyone anywhere. But I do believe that it is a step in the right direction. I believe that communities DO want to look out for each other in this way. What I see in the CPA approach is the means to have them do precisely that.

For this goal, of establishing a CPA in Miami, I’ll use Zig Ziglar’s 7 steps, but then I’ll break this down into SMARTER goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound, Evaluated and Readjusted) for 6 months, 3 months, 1 month and 2 weeks (I know, bear with me).

1. IDENTIFY THE GOAL: Start CPA in Miami. This will mean full-time staff, a formal balance sheet (but can be housed within another organization), contracts facilitated, a growing network and funding to move forward.

2. LIST THE BENEFITS? There are several outcomes I’d look forward to seeing. First, moving the needle on a key social justice issue that, frankly, makes my blood boil. Then, creating an organization by minorities, for minorities to take charge of this issue, provide meaningful employment, foster development opportunities, and foster quality of life. Last, and most certainly least, it provides me an avenue to continue developing my professional impact.

3. LIST THE OBSTACLES TO OVERCOME: I can already foresee a ton of them: Time is the first big one. Until CPA has funding, I have to continuously convince my supervisor(s) that I’m engaging in business development work that could potentially be lucrative for them. The tension exists, however, when I’m engaging in this work during time that I’m not dedicating to their other projects with certain revenue schedules. The second one would be the relationship building itself and all the challenges that come with it. The third would be the process of finding and developing relationships with the MBEs. This last one can be particular challenging as a Latinx man in Miami (often seen as majority, even though I’m not Cuban). Finally, as we scale up the organizing, finding and training new staff.

4. LIST THE SKILLS AND KNOWLEDGE REQUIRED: For starters, organizing and relationship building skills would be very useful. Also ability to facilitate and navigate these conversations. Fortunately, CPA’s material and Felipe himself have been overly generous with material, templates, action plans, best practice, process and anything “technical”.

5. IDENTIFY THE PEOPLE AND GROUPS TO WORK WITH: Fortunately for me, I find myself in a stage of my life where support is abundant. Not only do I have the CPA incubator team and Felipe himself, but I also have my firm who is genuinely interested in this work. I’ve also become part of an additional leadership development program that runs parallel to this, called Maven Leadership Collective. I spent all of last weekend with them on a first of 6 retreats over 6 months developing myself and this idea for maximum impact. Finally, I’m counting on the Miami Global Shapers network of young professionals, all highly skilled and socially committed, to support me as their passion and time permits.

6. DEVELOP A PLAN OF ACTION: This is the project plan I’d like to work on as soon as next week. In place of it, I’ll leave my shorter term, intermediate goals further along the post.

7. SET A DEADLINE FOR ACHIEVEMENT: For CPA itself, as my vision states it, 1 year. For the intermediate goals, read further.

So, for the intermediate goals, my 6 months goal looks as follows:

To facilitate 1 contract that aggregates 3-5 institutions and that is awarded to 1-2 firms, one of which must be minority-owned, a co-op or majority ESOP (employee stock-ownership) within 6 months (by March 1st, 2020). The contract must provide savings for the institutions and must be profitable for the new firms.

In 3 months, it would be then:

To identify an actionable opportunity for 3-5 institutions to pool their buying power and get them on board for a joint RFP process.

In 1 month it would be:

To establish relationships with 3 institutions that are enrolled with the CPA model and are open to doing a contract with others in the short-term. Based on initial conversations on facilities categories, identify a shortlist of firms that COULD service these contracts.

In two weeks it would be:

Establish a relationship with 1 institution that is enrolled with the CPA model and open to doing contracts with others in the short-term.

Oh snap….this got real. This may be sabotage, but I’m also open to them being re-evaluated (hence the ‘R’ in SMARTER), but I know myself enough by now that I work better under rigorous accountability. This work is worth it. Now, I’m off to find more allies.

Wish me luck team!

Reflection Script (RS)

So for this part of the exercise, I’m hoping to reflect back on the learning over the past few days, many catalyzed by the comments of my peers on this post and others that emerged through my process of reading and commenting on the posts of my peers.

My first obvious reflection is how I tend to isolate myself and forget about the allies who are on my side. I’ve noticed I constantly reinforce the illusion of separation in my life as a way to justify that nagging feeling that I’m not enough or that I’m going to fail again.

Concretely, I did it this time but not even bringing up my newest and most potent ally in Miami for executing this work, who is also engaged in this program.

Funny how it didn’t even occur to me to bring her up then. That is not a reflection of her capabilities or commitment or anything. It’s my own tendency to forget my allies in the face of the big challenges of my life.

Of course I could blame it all on the late night writing, my workload, trying to get this done, Mercury being in retrograde (or was it Saturn this time?) or whatever. The truth is that would be a missed opportunity to shine a light on this tendency to isolate and feel like I have to do everything myself and alone.

I’ll have to be extra careful to make it a point to reach out, enlist support and recognize I don’t have the time or expertise to make it all happen beautifully by myself.

The second reflection is the additional layer of challenge that I’m placing on myself when it comes to relationship building, but the powerful support I’ve enlisted for this. Specifically, the Maven Leadership Collective is an organization that supports Queer and Trans People of Color (QT-POC) and allies to develop their leadership, technical skills and networks to augment their social impact initiatives.

Being able to work with them was a process I had to apply for, with a very intense and vulnerable application process I might add. In my interviews with them, they challenged me to go one level deeper in the sense of how this initiative could be harnessed to also support QT-POC. While my initial response was something along the lines of “gee, I guess we’re not there yet”, they challenged me to look at the disparity within the disparity. The Executive Director, a Black, Queer, Gender nonconforming man himself, spoke to me about his experience in the Black community and how the prevalent image of the Black man, even within the Black community, is antagonistic to homosexuality and queerness in all of its forms. This leads those individuals to suffer additional challenges and disadvantages.

His experience, insight, and message are incredibly incisive, powerful and deep. Being generally proud of my ability and disposition to incorporate new points into my thinking and change my mind if I consider I’ve been proven wrong or ignorant, I conceded to his reasoning and asked for their support in finding and developing relationships with QT-POC owned businesses who could potentially serve CPA institutions.

So far, they’ve been an incredible resource for deepening self-care, challenging my limiting beliefs, organizing next steps of my work, and even introducing me to new contacts that can help CPA flourish (such as people in the City of Miami and other non-profits who can fund this effort).

My last piece of public-facing reflection for this topic has to do with what makes this work so important to me and how I see it evolve in terms of “who I’m building it with and who will I enroll to sit at the table”.

Recently, in my work with the Maven Leadership Collective, I finally understood something about myself I had not before. Throughout my life, I have witnessed all sorts of injustice, but oftentimes it would never involve or affect me directly.

As many of you know, I grew up in Chile and spent part of my early childhood in Miami. My parents were both upper middle class, college educated, white-presenting people with a lot of privilege that was obviously passed down to me.

Growing up in the better-off suburbs of Chile, a rather conservative, westernized and politically stable society, I can’t say my story was one of resilience per se (at least not at that point).

I was, however, exposed to several traumatic events in my life that began to chip away at this apparent fairy-tale childhood I once had:

Did you know that when we experience trauma, our brain’s structure fundamentally changes?

Did you also know that hearing about the trauma of other’s can provoke that exact same effect? Basically, our brain doesn’t know the difference between hearing trauma and experiencing it for yourself.

My experience suggests that not everyone processes trauma the same way, BUT if you are a deeply empathetic person, who is known to feel and absorb frustration, agony and pain that others feel, then maybe, just maybe, you feel in your soul as if the trauma and the injustice is being inflicted to you as well.

Maybe, if we consider that our souls do not care for the illusion of separation this material world insists on, then not only do we acknowledge that the trauma of other’s is also our own, but our very being pushes us and mobilizes us to react and commit towards doing whatever we can to help remedy this.

I’m deeply convinced I am such a person, and I have become more attuned to this side of me over the years.

That’s why I’m convinced this work is a step in the right direction and it matters to me. In a way, it is a component of a structure that can help solve the trauma that is the lack of economic opportunity and the tragedy of unfulfilled potential in communities that have been suffering persistent disparities.

I also believe this work should empower and build-up the communities we’re trying to serve, as opposed to playing (white) saviors.

Whether I am or not a person of color depends on who you ask. Even if I am, I have not experienced the same level of disadvantages others have by nature of where I was born, how I grew up and what I’ve done since. However, and this was pointed out to me by a close friend here in the U.S. who studies discrimination in the context of global politics, the signs of discrimination are oftentimes subtle and my own implicit bias may make it easier for me to see when others are being discriminated but not myself. While I’m not exactly sure how accurate this notion is, I also know it’s not entirely inaccurate, to say the least.

I also think that allies (in this case, people not of the same minority demographic but are also committed to moving the needle on the issue), are crucial to making this and any social justice work a success. Taking down an oppressive system, in my mind, requires both those oppressed and those who have benefited from the system to tear it down. We’ve seen it in the American Civil Rights Movement, we’ve seen it in the Women’s Suffrage Movement and countless other times.

My vision for CPA is that it should eventually be run and expanded mostly by people who have suffered these persistent disadvantages and who have deep ties to the communities around them, either by virtue of having grown up there or being close to those who have.

While my first allies and I may not necessarily be those who have suffered the disparities, we’ve come to care about these communities as our own, and that puts us in a position to help enlist and empower the rest (I have my eyes on 3 residents of Overtown who are enormously driven and resourceful. I’ll be sure to approach them when the time is right, but the relationships are there at least).

So Sheila and team, we’ve got our work cut out for us. Thanks again for all your faith and trust. How about we knock this one out of the park? 🙂

Oh shoot….I think this reflection is longer than my original post… oh well.