Aha! Launches New Programs to Support Social Justice
We believe that you create lovability by putting people first — because every single person has value. That is why the last few weeks have been heartbreaking for so many of us. It has made us think deeply about our broader role in creating social justice and equal opportunities for people who have been discriminated against and killed because of the color of their skin.
Standing idly by is not an option, but neither is simply offering words of solidarity without action.
Our team has always set goals and been action-oriented. But we knew before we could do anything meaningful that we first needed to listen to those who know more than we do and further educate ourselves. We also needed to take a close look at ourselves and recognize that we must work harder to increase diversity within our company.
People say that change will not occur overnight. But change can happen quickly if we and others contribute our knowledge, effort, and resources to combat racism and fight for equal opportunities for all people.
Aha! will be part of that change and we will hold ourselves accountable for doing so.
After much reflection on where and how we can make an impact, we decided to take a multi-faceted approach that leverages our strengths, is sustainable, and creates real value for others.
Add diversity training
Self-education is important. But we think more formal education is needed as well. So we are incorporating diversity training into our standard workplace education for all team members.
We spent the last few weeks educating ourselves. We had many conversations, read articles, and watched videos to better understand the experience of others and learn ways to combat racism. Here are just a few resources that we recommend (note that some news sites require a subscription):
Who Gets to Be Afraid in America? by Ibram X. Kendi
Toward a racially just workplace by Laura Morgan Roberts and Anthony Mayo
Locked Out of the American Dream by Michelle Alexander
America’s Racial Contract Is Killing Us by Adam Serwer
13th (Ava DuVernay) — originally on Netflix and now free on YouTube
Jane Elliott's "Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes" Anti-Racism Exercise (The Oprah Winfrey Show)
Selma (Ava DuVernay) — free to stream on all platforms through June 2020
Support social justice organizations
Aha! Cares is the program for all philanthropic activity at our company. It incorporates a number of initiatives but is best known for its financial giving. Teammates champion community-based nonprofits where they live that support people’s basic needs. We have already contributed more than $250,000 to important organizations through Aha! Cares over the last few years.
We originally launched Aha! Cares with three pillars for giving — food, safety, and shelter. We see equal opportunity as a fundamental aspect of people's basic needs. So from this point and into the future, we will support social justice organizations under a new pillar — opportunity.
Additionally, our team just donated $40,000 to support local and national organizations including NAACP Defense Fund, Equal Justice Initiative, and Black Women's Health Imperative.
Offer a new fellowship program
We provide advanced product management training today through the Aha! Academy. But we want to share what we know more broadly and help people professionally develop. Doing so will hopefully increase their opportunities. So we are expanding Aha! Academy to include a new fellowship program. We are developing a new eight-week, full-time training program. It is for people who have been historically underrepresented in software — specifically those from racial, ethnic, and disadvantaged groups. The curriculum will be focused on entrepreneurship, product management, and customer success.
Classes will likely include five to 10 people and be offered once or twice a year to start. There will be an application process and Aha! will pay participants who attend. If you are interested in learning more or applying for the program, please contact us. We expect to start taking applications within the next 60 days for the inaugural program in the fall.
This is just a start — we will continue to define and evolve how Aha! can be a force for good.
I was reminded recently of the speech given by Robert Kennedy Jr. following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As part of that speech Kennedy said, "In this difficult time for the United States, it is perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in."
I was born a few years after he shared those words. The fact that his call for reflection and action is relevant today is emblematic of how far we still have to go. Hundreds of thousands of people are taking to the streets in protest — despite the threat of Covid-19 — which only underscores that hate is still the greatest global pandemic we face.
We cannot undo the wrongs of the past. But each of us has a role in changing the future.
We can honor the memory of George Floyd. And Ahmaud Arbery. And Breonna Taylor. And Michael Brown. And Tamir Rice. And Mark Duggan. And Joy Gardner. And Petrus Miggels. And so many others who suffered the effects of systemic racism who will never be widely known.
It starts now. We must demonstrate our values through our actions and help create a roadmap for the future that benefits all.