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GWI Just Transition: Part 3 – A Letter from Matt: My Own Just Transition

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The conversations exploring what would one day become the Good Work Institute began in September of 2014. At the time, I was the VP of Values and Impact at Etsy.com, and tasked with determining what a non-profit spin off of Etsy could or should do.

At the time, Etsy’s mission was to reimagine commerce in ways that build a more fulfilling and lasting world. In short, we believed business could be a tool for creating a more connected, resilient, and joyful world.  However, generally speaking, business was not generally practiced with an eye toward such an end. So, I figured if we are seeking to reimagine business, we needed also to reimagine business education.

And with that, Etsy.org was created. 

In early 2015, I was asked to head up this new organization, and soon left my job at Etsy to become the Executive Director of Etsy.org. Within about six months, 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. 

Over that time, our mission and focus also evolved to expand beyond only working with businesses to explore how we might foster systems change on a local level.

And with that, Good Work Institute was created. The organization pulled up its stakes in Brooklyn, set them down in Kingston, and has spent the last four years running programs to cultivate, connect, and support a network of local community members who are working to build a regenerative future in the Hudson Valley. 

Now, nearly five years into this endeavor, It is time for yet another transition, my own.

I have now stepped down as Executive Director of Good Work Institute, and taken on the role of board chair. Replacing me, will be no one. Or more accurately, it will be everyone. As we mentioned in our last post, GWI has recently transitioned to a Worker Self-Directed Nonprofit, a distributed, democratic governance model that offers significant autonomy and flexibility, and allows us to work in integrity with the principles of Just Transition (discussed here).

The decision to step out of a day-to-day role at GWI was a very difficult one. I am committed to and love this organization- its people, its community, and its mission. Being just outside the center of the action will be hard, and I am sure I will long for it on some days. Nevertheless, I have repeatedly learned in profound ways, the wisdom of not holding on too tightly to things… to let go when one knows in their heart it is time to let go, and always, when presented with the option, to create opportunities for others to lead.

I leave today with the solace of knowing that the organization is in a strong position- we have financial resources, an excellent team, an amazing new governance structure, and a clear and thoughtful vision for how we intend to foster Just Transition in the Hudson Valley. 

I wish to thank my colleagues, past and present, our community of fellows, our board, our funders, and the fine folks who gave me this opportunity almost five years ago for all they have done to assist me and the Good Work Institute. As a new, independent board member, I look forward to doing all I can to support GWI with my head, heart, hands, and dollars… And, of course, urging you all to do the same!

I can still be reached at matt@goodworkinstitute.org.

Thank you for everything.