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A message from Emiko

Posted by seattle

September 10th, 2020


Even though it was sunny in Seattle this last weekend, the wind I faced on my Monday bike ride reminded me that a change in season is here. And while I, like many of us, expect and welcome some of the changes this Fall — a drop in temperature, warm soup, and change in the color of the leaves — some changes are more uncertain. In the months ahead, we will continue to face a global pandemic, confront the racial reckoning in the country, and vote in the most important election of our lifetime. 

With six weeks under my belt as the Executive Director of Social Venture Partners Seattle (SVP Seattle), I want to share with you what I’m learning and my vision for moving forward during these times of uncertainty.

I joined SVP Seattle during a time of transition. Over the last year, SVP Seattle has engaged in how to center racial equity in our work, with the aim of truly being an anti-racist organization. Through this, we are learning how to embrace discomfort and humility. I took the reins of SVP Seattle after the steady hand of Aaron Jacobs led us for 18 months. We recently said goodbye to one of our leaders, Mike Quinn, who serves as an inspiration for all of us. All of this change happened during a pandemic, which has put a strain on SVP Seattle’s resources.  

With all of that said, SVP Seattle is resilient because of the people who make up our community. I’ve spent much of my first weeks at SVP Seattle hearing from you — our partners and investees. Each conversation has affirmed why SVP Seattle is so special – because of people like you and the experiences you’ve had with the organization. When speaking with partner Sherry Richardson, she shared “SVP Seattle paved the path that I walked.” I know SVP Seattle does and will continue to play an important role in the ecosystem of community change in the Puget Sound. 

This last weekend, I finally pulled together all of the handwritten notes and Post-Its from my conversations with partners and investees so far. Reading through this, I am inspired by how each of you is so committed to SVP Seattle and how you are excited about the future of the organization and how we can evolve to meet the moment before us.  

Cathy and David Habib encouraged us to “go big.” Long-time partner Janet Levinger lifted up how SVP Seattle is a “platform for changing hearts and minds” and we need that now more than ever. Brainerd Fellow and excited Partner Gregory Whiting spoke of “turning passions into action.”  

Moving forward, I want to work with each of you to develop a 2021 vision and goals for SVP Seattle that meets our community in this moment. Over the next month, I plan to work with the Board and staff to put together a road map for us to develop these visions and goals in partnership with you.

With that said, as I work to develop the road map, I invite you to join SVP Seattle in an Innovation and Incubation Campaign this fall.

SVP Seattle has a deep history of curiosity and learning. During this fall, we will double down on that legacy and innovate and incubate new ideas. Over the next few months, we are going to pilot new events and programming, such as new panels, virtual dinners, thinkathons, and mentorship programs.

We plan to experiment, which means some ideas will stick and some won’t. But we will learn from incubating these ideas and hopefully add some of them to our programming next year.  Next week, we will send out some events we hope you can join this fall.

I also invite you to share your ideas with us to we can add them to this campaign! And If we haven‘t had a chance to meet yet, please feel free to drop me an email so we can schedule (virtual) time together! 

The pandemic, the racial reckoning, and the uncertainty of our times is demanding that we do things differently. We want to follow our commitment to equity and community change with actions. Through these times of change, I am inspired to lead the organization in leveraging our best asset – all of you – to deliver on our mission. 



Emiko Atherton | Executive Director

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