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Becoming The Good Work Institute

Back in the fall of 2014, I began conversations with Etsy, Inc.’s CEO, Chad Dickerson, about creating a separate foundation that Etsy would launch in conjunction with its upcoming initial public offering. Etsy has always pursued, and continues to pursue, its own ambitious mission- and values-focused work as part of everyday operations. etsy.org served as a separate opportunity to further Etsy, Inc.’s mission to reimagine commerce in ways that build a more fulfilling and lasting world.

Now, just over a year after the IPO, it has become clear that greater independence from Etsy, Inc. will allow etsy.org to most adeptly fulfill its mission to develop business education programs that enable us all to work in ways that regenerate our lives, our communities, and the planet.

So, today etsy.org becomes the Good Work Institute. Etsy, Inc. has voluntarily removed itself as the sole member of the Good Work Institute’s board, and has granted full independence to the organization. While we are already a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, this shift will allow us to transition from a private foundation to a public charity, which we believe is more in line with our mission and mandate.

To help guide us through this process, and to maintain the partnership between our two organizations, Etsy, Inc. will maintain a dedicated seat on the board of the Good Work Institute. To that end, we are thrilled to welcome Heather Jassy, Etsy’s SVP of Values-Aligned Business, as our newest board member.

So, why did we do this?

Mostly, being called etsy.org was actually causing a great deal of confusion.

Most interactions I was having went something like this:

Everyone I talk to: Hey, how’s Etsy.com?

Me: Actually, I left Etsy.com?

Everyone I talk to: What? really?

Me: Well sort of, I left Etsy.com to lead etsy.org

Everyone I talk to: Oh, cool! Is that Etsy’s foundation? I have a project that would be perfect for a grant from you all.

Me: Well, actually Etsy provided us with seed capital but we are, in fact, independent organizations. Also, we don’t give grants. We build and run our own programs, for which we need to generate our own financial support.

Everyone I talk to: Oh, I see (disappointment only slightly concealed). So, your programs are to help creative, artisan business sell on Etsy, then.

Me: Actually no, Etsy, Inc. has a whole team of folks devoted to that. Our programs focus on providing educational support to all kinds of businesses, for profit and non-profit, so that are they are able to positively contribute to building inclusive, compassionate, and regenerative economies.

Everyone I talk to: Oh, interesting… Wait, just so I’m sure, you are not going to give me a grant, right?

It became clear that we needed to change what we are called… not just to avoid confusion, but because we needed a name (Good Work Institute vs Etsy.org) and a structure (public charity vs. private foundation) that could better explain what we do, and better position us for outside support.

I want to thank Etsy, Inc.’s board of directors for the tremendous opportunity, the generous support and commitment to getting this organization started, and their willingness to grant us the independence we need to ensure it thrives for years to come. At the Good Work Institute, we look forward to continue working with Etsy, having Heather on our board.

I also want to thank Kristina Salen for all of her help and time – Kristina, your guidance and support has been indispensable. Finally, a thank you to all of my former Etsy colleagues – I have loved working with you over the last ten years, and I look forward to seeing and supporting the good work you do. Finally, I want to thank Chad for continuing to prove to the world Etsy’s commitment to doing business as unusual.

Good Work, everybody.

-Matt Stinchcomb & the GWI Team