• Social impact and sustainability

We made a mistake. We fixed it. Now we learn from it and move forward.

Karen Greve Young | August 6, 2020

Just last week, we had a virtual meeting in which our Futurpreneur team members from across Canada discussed our new Diversity & Inclusion commitments.

As we talked about the next steps on our journey, I shared a thought with our team: “We will do our best, and along our journey to be a more diverse & inclusive organization, we will make mistakes. We need to learn from these mistakes so we can do better.”

It isn’t that I want to make mistakes, I have just learned over time that if you are working toward real, meaningful positive change, missteps will happen on the path to improvement, and I didn’t want our team to be discouraged when we took our first wrong turn. How we learn from these moments, adapting and pivoting our approach, plays a vital role in our learning and growth.

Well, yesterday we discovered our first mistake on our Diversity & Inclusion journey.

As our core values also include accountability & transparency, we are sharing our misstep and our course correction, in hopes that sharing our experience will benefit our entrepreneurs, mentors and partners on their respective journeys.

In early June, one of our team members received an email from an entrepreneur that contained screenshots of social media comments from one of Futurpreneur’s 3,000 volunteer mentors. The comments, made on a public Instagram discussion thread, were the mentor’s views – which Futurpreneur does not share – about police action and the Black community.

Although the entrepreneur was not a Futurpreneur client, our senior leadership team took this seriously and acted quickly to understand the situation. Based on our review of the full Instagram thread and the mentor’s broader social media presence, his mentor record at Futurpreneur and several conversations with him, we understood that:

  • The mentor believed in equal opportunity regardless of race (which he shared on the Instagram thread). He said he was open to becoming more informed about the impact of systemic racism and oppression, which he disregarded as a factor based on his current understanding.
  • The mentor’s Instagram comments appeared to be an isolated incident. It occurred outside Futurpreneur channels/programs on a platform on which he didn’t identify his Futurpreneur affiliation. There was no evidence of other mentions of race-related topics.
  • The mentor had dedicated significant time to helping Futurpreneur’s young entrepreneurs (including at least one person of colour) over a four-year period, with positive reviews from all four entrepreneurs he had supported.

After evaluating the situation and weighing four years of the mentor’s positive Futurpreneur experience and professed openness to learn, relative to what appeared to be a single instance of misinformed rather than malicious comments, we made the difficult, measured decision to continue working with him.

This wasn’t an easy decision or one we took lightly – it was one we made based on our understanding of the situation and our commitment to learn and grow, which also means encouraging members of our community to learn and grow. In communicating our decision to the mentor, we asked him to be mindful of his comments going forward and informed him that we would review our decision to keep working with him if necessary.

Yesterday, we discovered from a third party that the mentor had posted a long, detailed blog on a public channel on July 6 – several weeks after our last interaction with him – basically reiterating his perspective that systemic racism is not a factor in the policing of Black communities. Instead of listening and learning, as we had hoped, he intensified and amplified his argument.

Within an hour, our senior leadership team unanimously decided to end our relationship with the mentor, effective immediately. Within two hours, we communicated to the mentor that while we appreciated his past support of entrepreneurs, his post was inconsistent with our values and we would not continue our relationship with him.

Diversity & Inclusion are very important to Futurpreneur, including equity and anti-racism. We strive to be a learning organization, focused on continual improvement.

It turns out that we made a mistake in continuing to work with this mentor. Although I’m disappointed and frustrated, it is important that we learned about his subsequent post, so we could take the appropriate action to end our relationship with him.

As our Head of Diversity & Inclusion, Kevin Garcia shared his thoughts with me about this situation: “The success of a journey is not determined by new obstacles we encounter but rather by how we learn and persevere through them as an organization. Obstacles do not define our character but rather develop and strengthen it for the journey ahead. We cannot ignore this obstacle, or the large positive strides we have taken as an organization to implement our diversity and inclusion commitment.

“Our Diversity & Inclusion commitments were created by many who have firsthand experience in racial bias and other systematic disadvantages. Together, we (our BIPOC, LGBTQ+, white and other diverse staff) will continue to learn and bring about positive change as we support diverse, young aspiring entrepreneurs & new business owners.”

Yes, we will.