The other day I wrote a post about how 2017 has felt to me so far and how I’m trying to manage my own psychology.

This post isn’t about that. This one is about what I’m actually paying attention to, and what I’m doing about it. (And what I’m trying not to focus on.)

[Side note: I’m using the first person singular in this post, but a lot of it — most, really — is shared between Kathy & me.]

Here are the areas I’m thinking the most about (in no priority order):

  1. Protecting people. Lots of categories, but in general, thinking about how we take the best care of our most vulnerable citizens and residents; people trying to build their lives, do their jobs, and contribute to society.
  2. How we govern. We’ve gotten ourselves to a place where we just aren’t very good at governing to create the society that we want. Lots of things we can do here and should. One of the main ones, I think, is to work to strengthen local and state governments, who are stressed and underfunded — but they’re more human scale and understandable than our federal government is.
  3. Jobs. Lots of things have changed in the USA over the last couple of decades, but I’m not sure that anything has changed as profoundly as the movement of economic opportunities into the cities and away from our rural areas. Economics and technology are likely to exacerbate the problem. But unless we figure out how to connect economic engines to more of our country, we won’t find our way out of the situation we’re in.
  4. The Media. The state of our media doesn’t seem great. In lots of ways, reporting is more vital than ever. In lots of ways, the way we get and consume and understand our news is busted. This is the only category where I don’t really have many ideas on what to do right now to help.
  5. Candidates. This is more partisan/election oriented than I generally think of myself as caring about. But we need better candidates and we need to support them and help them win. I lean Democratic for lots of reasons right now, but have historically supported thoughtful candidates of all stripes.
  6. Home & Friends. Lots of people unsure what to do. Lots of people trying to act like everything’s normal. Lots of people under real stress. And it’s tricky to know even how to talk to our kids about what’s happening.

Clearly, this is way too much stuff to think about, let alone make a really meaningful commitment of time and resources too.

So, here’s what we (Kathy & I) are doing: we’re picking a few (fewer than 5) things to really focus our time, effort & expertise on. We’re picking as many things to support financially in these areas of interest as we can, too. And then we’re trying our best to stay focused on that set.

As for the things we’re doing actively:

  • I’m spending more time with Code for America. I believe in state & local governments — they’re more human scale, more immediate, and in lots of ways, the problems are more addressable. I’ve been on the board for several years and am amping up my involvement — this is my main commitment outside of my day job at Greylock and my family responsibilities.
  • I’m looking for companies that can really address the jobs situation, especially outside of cities. Economics favor cities pretty clearly. And automation enabled by computing will ravage whole sectors of our traditional industries. It seems clear that fighting against manufacturing automation is a losing battle. But certain service sectors, enabled by computing, seem likely to drive jobs in the future. And investing in education to support this transition will be the work of a generation.
  • We’re trying to be as open and honest talking with our kids as we can. This one has been tough, honestly. Our kids can see our stress and distraction — so we’re trying to be honest about the situation as we see it, why we’re stressed about it, and what we’re doing. But we’re also being clear with them that we’re trying (with incomplete success) to defocus on the slings & arrows of daily news, and instead focus on the things we want to build.
  • Some stuff related to candidates and helping the best ones get elected that I’m not really ready to get into much detail on yet. Real work to do here.
  • A couple of additional things that we can’t talk about yet.

The things we’re supporting financially:

  • Code for America – as noted above.
  • Fight for the Future – some of the very best defenders of values that I know.
  • Union of Concerned Scientists – we’ve always needed scientists who are reflective and thoughtful about their place in and impact on our world. Now even more.
  • Southern Poverty Law Center – more people need protecting than ever, unfortunately.
  • ACLU – I never really thought of myself as someone who would want to support the ACLU — partly because I grew up more conservative than I am now, but: thank goodness for the ACLU.
  • Pro Publica – we need talented, aggressive, supported investigative journalists maybe more than we’ve ever needed them — certainly in my lifetime.

There’s other stuff, too. Honestly lots of things falling on the floor. I’m trying to stay in touch with as many other folks who are working through these and other issues, too. Doing as much matchmaking as I can, too.

But these are the areas of focus that so far have made the most sense to Kathy & me. Undoubtedly some will change, and some will increase.

None of this is as tight or focused as I’d like it to be. But that’s just the reality of 2017.

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