Skip to content

Rebuild better: A message from the CEO

A photo collage of a student raising a hand in a classroom and the American flag on top of a bridge.

As the nation suffers through more tragedies of racial injustice, we must focus on both short-term and long-term solutions; true equity and inclusion will only come from systems we rebuild better.

Rebuild better

America has held out the promise that everyone has the opportunity for success. That promise has been unfulfilled for too long and for too many. Historic, structural, and legal barriers have created today’s systems. We can’t achieve equity and inclusion in those same broken systems. But they can be rebuilt.

We have before us a chance to make lasting change: an overwhelming majority of Americans believe that the economic system unfairly benefits the powerful, and the devastating impacts of COVID-19 and a series of racial injustices have exposed many other systems and practices as broken, flawed, and racist.

The road to progress is filled with barriers both seen and unseen. Every system deserves a thorough examination, and this exercise must be met with the humility and determination to rebuild what does not equitably serve us all.

We can all benefit from an entrepreneurial economy with a level playing field – one that does not limit Black and Brown entrepreneurs, leave women founders behind,  or overlook rural America.

And, when all students are equipped with relevant knowledge, skills, and equitable real-world experiences and career pathways, we will have a diverse workforce to excel in current and future jobs.

To be clear: we at the Kauffman Foundation believe all people – regardless of their race, gender, or geography – should have the opportunity to share in America’s prosperity through success in their jobs and careers, as employees or entrepreneurs.

To make dramatic changes necessary, we believe all viewpoints and assumptions should be on the table. Ideas should come from every direction. We recognize there’s enough ideological failure to go around – whether that’s on the left or center or the right. But good ideas don’t live on a political spectrum.

We don’t have all the answers, but our approach is to do our best, working alongside the underestimated communities and people we believe in, to figure out what is – and isn’t – working.

In the spirit of Ewing Marion Kauffman, we will seek, support, and share approaches that break down barriers, leading to inclusive prosperity, a prepared workforce, and entrepreneur-focused economic development. We’ll do so boldly – yet also with humility.

We will seek, support, and share approaches that break down barriers, leading to inclusive prosperity, a prepared workforce, and entrepreneur-focused economic development. We’ll do so boldly – yet also with humility.

As we have written about previously, we start that imperfect journey internally by examining how our own practices must change to support equity and inclusion. We will commit to continually improve our strategies, our processes, and policies to better support the communities in which we work.

Many are working for change and we are eager to learn from those who are breaking down barriers every day. To expand our understanding of the issues and lift those voices, we’ll facilitate conversations with experts – based on their subject-matter expertise  and their own lived experiences. We’ll champion the work of community advocates and policy makers who are supporting the growth of prosperous, inclusive economies by making entrepreneurship an integral component of economic development. And, we’ll continue to celebrate, listen to, and learn from those individuals who are achieving success, in their schools, neighborhoods, and communities, despite persistent inequities due to race and socio-economic factors.

In addition, we will continue to work alongside the communities we serve and lift up uncommon voices; we’ll tap into our knowledge and relationships; and we’ll work to bring people together to build and support programs that improve education, boost entrepreneurship, and help our communities thrive. We’ll also pursue initiatives such as America’s New Business Plan, Real World Learning, the Heartland Challenge, Key City Issues, our research, and many other efforts designed to reduce predictable and inequitable outcomes based on race, gender, and geography. And, we will share the stories, research, resources, and insights that highlight what’s promising, what’s not working, and what we are learning along the way.

Finally, we’ll do more to put a spotlight on the work of people, other foundations, nonprofits, policymakers, and corporations that are working to change systems beyond the Kauffman Foundation’s mission and strategic focus such as affordable housing, transportation, infrastructure, and health care.

We aim to support those working urgently and aggressively to rebuild better. We know that philanthropy can’t and shouldn’t do it all. It’s going to take a concerted effort of government, nonprofits, corporations, and people, to value our interdependence and make lasting change. But the time is long past due for the kind of change at scale that benefits more of us, for all of us.

Now is our collective opportunity to reinvent, repair, reimagine, and Rebuild Better.

Poet Langston Hughes published Let America Be America Again in July 1936, challenging all with “O, yes, I say it plain, America never was America to me, And yet I swear this oath – America will Be!”

Perhaps America is finally in a place to realize this vision.

Rebuild better: Success that ensures the opportunity of prosperity for all can’t be achieved within broken systems; true success will only come from systems we rebuild better.


Learn more about the Kauffman Foundation’s programs.


We work to ensure that students of all ages in Kansas City are prepared for learning, work, and life after graduation, enabling them to be economically independent, contributing members of their communities.



We work with entrepreneurs, empower them with tools and resources, and work to break down barriers that stand in the way of starting and growing their businesses.


Kansas City Civic

We work alongside our community and invest in programs and initiatives that create supportive learning environments for youth and families as well as key institutions and organizations that eliminate barriers for all people to drive cultural, social, and economic impact in Kansas City.

Kansas City Civic