Holiday letter 2016!

Konnichi-wa (Japanese) ~ Jambo (Kiswahili) ~ An yeong haseyo (Korean) ~ Bon bini (Papiamento!) ~ Hola (Spanish, from Spain to Cuba to Ecuador) ~ Tere (Estonia) ~ Ciao (Italian) ~ Grüß gott (Austrian German) ~ هتاف للترحيب (Arabic) ~ Halló (Icelandic) ~ Hej (Danish) ~ Hei (Finnish) ~ Hallo (Norwegian, Dutch, Flemish) ~ Bonjour (Quebec) ~ Hello (US, Canada, UK, Singapore) once again!

Ever since we’ve been together — 9½ years  — each year has seemed epic and extraordinary in its own way. Like we couldn’t possibly outdo the last one. Yet, somehow, each circumnavigation of the globe goes deeper, stretches us further, and expands our horizons. 2016 was no exception. We’ll be quite pleased if 2017 is even a fraction as exciting.

(For those of you reading our annual holiday update for the first time, some standard caveats: no pressure to read this missive. We create it out of joy, love, and to keep family and friends updated. It comes from April’s mother’s tradition, which April inherited some 20+ years ago. Over the decades, it has also been an enormous source of connection with others. Think of it as part journal, part travelogue, and part love letter for Dear Ones… and the world.)

Okay, ready for this year? Here we go!

TL;DR version: We’ve continued to fall head over heels for Portland and have wholeheartedly, unabashedly shifted our center of gravity there. April worked in 21 countries on five continents — all wonderful, though probably a few too many miles logged (see map). Jerry continues with all things Relationship Economy and has a new, awesome role in Stumptown (one of Portland’s many nicknames) as well. We took our first family globetrotting trip to Ecuador, with nieces Ella and Amelia, Allison and Stefan (April’s sister and brother-in-law). Plus we had unique opportunities to explore Cuba (in the spring) and Japan (in the fall) together. We are grateful beyond words for what life has thrown our way — notwithstanding global tumult and occasional thorns in our sides — and are doing all we can to keep our health, perspective, adventure-seeking souls and love of new ideas and a brighter future intact.

A recap of April’s travels this year. This is what 200K miles looks like. Oy.
Full version: 2016 got off to a relatively slow start. We battled winter colds and the like, though Portland’s rain never seemed as bad as people say. (We find that non-Portlanders worry, and locals don’t notice.) April went to New York to deliver a keynote on new business models and the energy sector — such a fun new audience — and then did a quick turn-around to Singapore, where she advised the Prime Minister’s Office, Centre for Strategic Futures (a futurist think tank in government!) and a dozen-ish other agencies on all things sharing economy. It was a whirlwind week, including some 15 presentations. She barely slept but loved it. “Singapore Inc.” definitely earns its reputation for efficiency and hard work!

 As April was flying one way across the Pacific, Jerry was heading the other way, back to Sydney to continue his work with Suncorp. There he and his client team wallpapered more meeting rooms with Post-Its and diagrams, planning ways to implement the ideas they generated in previous visits. By this time, everyone was familiar with both “jazz hands” to indicate agreement in meetings (see caricature of that below) and the Nerdfighteria gang signs, which are basically double “live long and prosper” hands. This gang won’t mug anyone, but just might change the world.

Jerry, Ivan, Gina, Brett, Will

Back in the States, April went to Palm Springs (for a keynote to city leaders) and Toronto (for a design-led policy innovation workshop), and then settled in for her longest stretch “at home” all year: four weeks! Portland coziness, endless coffee on drizzly afternoons, and lots of time doing yoga (plus working, of course, from the comfort of home). We took a delightful long weekend getaway to Astoria and the northern Oregon coast, with its spectacular and calming scenery, and decided (again) that we’ve landed in the most precious place on earth.

Click the image to see the full panorama

Heading into spring, Jerry flew to Colombia for the first time, to give a keynote speech at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Medellín, which you may remember had been the world’s murder capital a decade earlier. Once they’d dealt with the narcos, the city’s rebuilders were brilliant, including the poorest barrios in their development plans, creating a city its citizens can be proud of again. Jerry also discovered that Uber was already in Colombia’s dozen largest cities, with stress and strikes happening everywhere. Not the transport introduction one would hope for, but not unusual for Uber.

Meanwhile, April hopped down to San Francisco to prepare our home there for long-term rental. (While we are shifting our center of gravity to Portland, we’re not completely untethering ourselves from the Bay Area. Consider it an expansion of our root system.) We are thrilled to have a lovely German couple as tenants — he works at Facebook, she’s a writer, and they just had a baby girl! Home affairs in order, April then went to Charlotte, North Carolina to connect with university students and community leaders about the sharing economy and economic development. Charlotte isn’t a city she’d explored before, and she loved being there in dogwood season.

That basically gets us through Q1. It was pretty mellow, all things considered. (In retrospect, we really like mellow.) Thankfully it also gave us energy reserves that we would need in the coming months…


At the beginning of April, we headed out on one of our year’s highlights: Cuba. We had long wanted to visit. When Jerry saw an email that a conference he’d spoken at twice before,  Applied Brilliance, was going to be held in Havana next, he wrote the organizer, who kindly invited us both to speak at the event. AB’s tagline is “transforming ideas into events that serve people” (sign us up!) and 2016’s theme was Resilience + Revival. Though we had to go through the traditional bureaucratic route to get our visas, etc., we were lucky to arrive just two weeks after Obama’s historic visit —  and catch up with some of April’s college friends in Tampa en route.

Arrival in Havana was cinematic: it was, truly, as though we’d landed in a movie set from the 1950s. Vintage convertible Chevys, quiet streets (the Embargo means Cuba doesn’t have many cars, so traffic jams are nonexistent), sun-kissed breezes and people chatting in doorsteps. All of our accommodation was in homestays, as hotels are sparse and homesharing is a nationally sanctioned activity. We spent our first five days with Paco y Reina, grandparents with a flat overlooking the entrance to Havana Harbor and a view of the entire Malecón, Havana’s famous waterfront esplanade. They shared stories of life there as generations of family, friends and guests descended every morning for breakfast.

View from our first Havana homestay
At Fusterville

Applied Brilliance gave us a unique opportunity to see inside Cuba as well. It was structured as a gathering to share experiences and insights about entrepreneurship and art with local Cubans. While it’s still difficult to access certain parts of Cuba — the government, for example — we got a taste of the country going far beyond any tourist guide. We learned about being a Millennial in Cuba from the 20-something founder of Cuba’s first citizen journalism platform, attended an art exhibit in Havana’s Chinatown, strolled endlessly lazy streets, and visited Fusterville, a village-sized artistic homage in the style of Barcelona’s Antoni Gaudí. It was hard to believe that technically this was a business trip.

Havana twilight view from our second homestay
Viñales karst hills

Once Applied Brilliance wrapped up, we took an additional several days to explore the western flank of Cuba. We took a half-day bus to Viñales, in the heart of Cuba’s agricultural heartland and a massive UNESCO Heritage Site. Imagine tobacco fields in the middle of a karst valley, peppered with horses and small terra-cotta-topped homes. We enjoyed a fabulous day hike through this landscape, learned how to roll Cuban cigars, and worried about how an impending tourism wave may crush the region. We also had what ranks as probably the worst meal we’ve ever had traveling together; it became a running joke. (You can see a collection of photos and videos from the trip here; April wrote up some of her reflections on Cuba and the sharing economy here.)

Us in Viñales

We really didn’t want to leave Cuba, though we were excited about what awaited us at home. For April it meant a return trip to Singapore with the Jobbatical team, followed by a back-to-back trip to Vienna, Austria to connect with YGL friends over innovation, a Viennese Philharmonic concert and hike in the Lainzer Tiergarten. For Jerry, it meant the annual Ten Year Forecast with the Institute for the Future, this time held in Oakland, in a Masonic temple. As usual, this meant much work and merriment with his IFTF “frolleagues,” and then plenty of time facilitating the event.

We regrouped briefly at home in early May, marveled at Portland springtime, and enjoyed it while we could. (It’s incredibly comforting to find a place that allows you to truly feel like your best self. Note: spend more time there!) April then departed on her first (of five) multi-country work trips of the year. Beginning with a week in Amsterdam for global Sharing City convenings and a trip down memory lane, followed by a long weekend in Toronto for the B&R 50th hiking-and-biking family reunion gala, a few days in Madrid for a keynote and city explorations, London for meetings, and finally Reykjavik for sharing economy pathfinding work. Iceland did not disappoint at midsummer: the sky never got dark, the people are among the most inspiring and multi-talented anywhere, and the hospitality was warm and welcoming. The country is grappling with some very serious tradeoffs between tourism growth and economic recovery, but if anyone is up for the challenges, the Vikings are.

While April was globetrotting, Jerry was creating media, experimenting with screencasts (screen recordings with his voiceover) about the Relationship Economy themes he’s developed for years. For example, you can watch a short series of videos embedded in a Prezi (imagine a zoomable white board) here, on the topic of how we “consumerized” our world and what that means (turn the volume up, go full screen and let the videos play; then hit the right-arrow key on your keyboard to advance to the next section).


We were also looking forward to our second travel highlight of the year: a family trip to Ecuador with Ella, Amelia, Allison and Stefan. For several months prior, we had been co-planning it via calls, emails and collective brainstorming. Ella and Amelia are now old enough to be interested in things like finding the best flight deals and off-the-beaten-track adventures. Ecuador did not disappoint!

We began in Quito, where we got our high-altitude legs, walked around the old town and ate our first humitas y pochoclo. From there, a gorgeous drive down the “String of Pearls” (endearing name for a chain of volcanoes, of which Ecuador has dozens) through patchwork-quilt mountain scenery to the village of Chugchilán and the Black Sheep Inn. April had stayed at this eco-lodge years ago, when only a dirt road ran through town, and had fallen in love with the region. We spent several days hiking through nearby hills, cloud forests, canyons and páramos (windswept steppes). We hiked along the Quilotoa Crater and nearly got blown off its lip. In the evenings we feasted on local vegetarian cuisine and played music by the fire. Other than the occasional dog chasing us on the trail, highly recommended!

On the rim of the Quilotoa volcano

From the highlands we continued down the spine of the country, overnighting in the sleepy town of Riobamba (which turned out to be a favorite, not least thanks to having this entire boutique hotel to ourselves — with an equally charming host) and pushing onwards to Cuenca, Ecuador’s arts and culture capital. We gulped churches and cobblestone streets, and enjoyed a fun Airbnb home complete with pool table and jacuzzi. We also stumbled upon the otherworldly Museo de Arte Prohibido (Museum of Prohibited Art) which was featuring a tattoo conference. Not your everyday exhibitions…

From the south we headed west, through the gorgeous Cajas National Park and descended 10,000 feet — in one morning, in a van, going downhill forever — to Guayaquil, Ecuador’s second largest city and port. Until recently, Guayaquil was a place to be avoided: crime-infested and downright scary. It’s still not a tourist magnet, but it provided an interesting contrast (and excellent seafood) for one night. Our last push was north along the coast, to the tiny village of Olón, where we lay on the beach and ate copious amounts of ceviche straight from the sea. We also visited Isla de la Plata — aka “poor man’s Galapagos” — where we saw blue footed boobies, watched wonderful humpback whales up close and personal, and snorkeled amongst schools of tropical fish.

From Olón we hightailed it back to Guayaquil, flew back to Quito, hopped in a bus to the northern market town of Otavalo for its famed market, and called it a trip. Not without adventure until the last minute, though: an earthquake at 9pm the night before we flew home, and April being yanked from her flight and put through police paces as if she were a drug smuggler. Thankfully we were safe and everything checked out, but after that, boy was it time to go home. :o

We’re halfway through 2016 now. Hurray!

After returning from South America, to be honest, we kind of just wanted to hide for a while and do nothing. Thankfully this was the second (and last) multi-week respite we had in Portland. Several weeks of Stumptown summertime, sunshine, roses and beer. We took a getaway to Bend, eastern Oregon’s outdoors mecca, which was beautiful and fun (where else can you surf in the local river?) but way too hot.

It may seem like we travel too much to actually work, but nothing could be further from reality. Truth be told, we work a ton, definitely more than we ought to. The downside of working for oneself is that there’s no boss to tell you that your calendar is crazy. But truth also be told that we both truly love what we do and are immensely grateful for the flexibility that our professional independence provides. So we’re going to put those benefits to use every chance we get.

For the past couple of years, we’ve collaborated opportunistically: we are both advisors to Trov, we’ve delivered co-keynotes, co-led workshops and co-written op-eds. But there was nowhere to easily find “us.” In July, we changed that: welcome to our duo professional website! (We still have our individual portfolios and websites, of course — Jerry here and April here.) Though we haven’t yet marketed ourselves much, mainly because we’re busy, but it feels great to hang out this shingle. Let’s see where it leads. :)

Heading into late summer, Jerry attended a small but very interesting conference on alternative education called AERO that took place in Portland, then he went to work moving his Mom from the Bay Area up to the Portland area. Jerry’s experience from too many lifetime moves served him well, as boxes got packed, stacked and reopened and everything shifted north.

Unfortunately, Jerry’s Suncorp project got derailed, slowly. A CEO change and major corporate reorganization took months to settle and reshaped the group Jerry had been helping. Then a tough claims year put Suncorp in austerity mode, closing outside collaborations like Jerry’s. This was sad all around, because things there were just getting interesting. In the meantime, Jerry had been meeting locals in Portland in search of a similar collaborative vibe closer to home. This quest paid off, as you’ll see shortly.

In August April continued to advise on a documentary film project on the Future of Work (to be released in 2017), took quick trips to Boston and San Francisco for the film, and made her maiden voyage to Aruba to advise the tourism authority on new business models, the sharing economy and future of travel. She loved getting a taste of the island, learning a few words of Papiamento, the incredibly warm welcome — and she’s pretty sure she was the only foreigner not on vacation there.

We greeted the arrival of fall with a combination of joy (cooler temperatures) and seriousness (girding ourselves for an intense few months ahead). Jerry attended a geeky conference he loves in Woods Hole, on Cape Cod, then went to a brand-new event a friend produced in Austin. They were different as night and day, but all fed his curiosity and appetite to meet new people. April departed on Labor Day weekend and, practically speaking, didn’t resurface until Christmas.

Helsinki Chapel of Silence

Her first whistlestop work tour included Oslo, Copenhagen, Brussels (the EU is pressing on collaborative economy policy discussions more than the US) and a return visit to Aruba to deliver a keynote for World Tourism Day (on-island twice in two months; what luck!). She went home for four days, then departed again for Europe: Venice, Italy for another conference; Helsinki, Finland (where she was captivated by the Chapel of Silence); Tallinn, Estonia (which remains one of her favorite cities in the world); a Copenhagen redux; and back to London. She then flew to Montreal, where she gave a keynote to hundreds of lawyers and insurance brokers from around the world (super interesting: welcome to risk management in the new economy) and stayed a couple extra days, during which she ran around Mont Royal, walked herself silly and fell in love with the Quebecois. While April was chasing time zones, Jerry was much more sane, holding down the Portland front and attending two local events run by the same group, all having to do with diversity and inclusion.

We would’ve called it a year after all this, but Q4 — and all its global madness — beckoned, as did a trip we’d been looking forward to all year: the annual YGL (Young Global Leaders) Summit, which this year was held in Japan. We could not have been more impressed, inspired by and grateful for both the Summit and the entire country. YGL is now indelibly marked in our hearts, minds and family-of-choice.

We had the opportunity to experience both traditional and future-forward Japan: the country is at once rooted (impossibly, it seems sometimes) in its cultural norms and expectations, and yet embracing new technologies at warp speed. Put these tensions together, add significant population decline (from 127M people today, to an expected 65M in 2080 — yes, half the size) and you get some fascinating results… like the only place we’ve found in the world that is excited for automation to replace humans on the job.


Our trip began in Tokyo, where we arrived a couple days early to get over jetlag and explore the city. We skipped major tourist sites like the Imperial Palace — beautiful as it is — and headed to lesser-known neighborhoods full of charm and history: Kagurazaka, with a funky ramen shop open only from midnight to 3am; Yanaka, with its artists galleries tucked behind impossibly narrow alleyways; Ueno Park, with families strolling its wide promenades. And a huge highlight: the Tsukiji Fish Market, the largest in the world, where tuna is auctioned off at 3am (if you arrive at 4am, you’ve missed it) and lines are around the block at 6am for the best fresh, raw fish breakfast of your life.

The YGL Summit was part professional development, part diving deeper into Japan, and part family reunion. We participated in learning journeys on topics ranging from nuclear energy in the wake of Fukushima (with the head of Japan’s energy regulator) to traditional tea ceremony, aikido and virtual reality at Japan’s Googleplex. We heard from inspiring YGL friends on fighting fear and xenophobia, civic innovation, and creatively tackling gender bias. The gathering was capped off with the greatest honor April could imagine: being chosen by her fellow YGLs to give the graduation speech as they become YGL Alumni — no one can bring themselves to say “old!”

Nara’s famous for tame deer

We added an extra week post-Summit to explore other parts of Japan, particularly those with less concrete and more fresh air. Our first stop was Nara, Japan’s capital back in the 8th century and today a haven for temple-seekers, nature lovers and deer (a deer park covers most of town). We traveled by bullet train, of course — an experience in itself — and stayed in a retro 1950s house complete with tatami mats, antique furniture fand stacks of manga (thanks Airbnb). We went for a lovely jog through nearby hills and parks, marveling at temples and dodging deer en route. April did her first Japanese handstand and ate enough mochi to make any Japanese grandmother proud, while Jerry ate his weight in okonomiyaki.

From Nara it was a quick hop north to Kyoto and temple heaven. We strolled the Philosopher’s Path, visited the stunning Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, lost count of the torii at Fushimi Inari-taisha and marveled at all manner of food (some of it still wiggling) at the Nishiki Market. By this point we were thoroughly smitten with the country, its unique combination of simplicity + elegance + efficiency, and even imagining what it would be like to live there for a year or so, but left wishing most of all to return and visit other regions first. You can see Jerry’s favorite photos and videos from the trip here.

Back to Portland, where autumn was in full force and the days gradually getting shorter and wetter. Our yearning for Japan was quickly sated when — two days after coming home, missing our daily dose of wabi-sabi — we returned to Portland’s Japanese Garden, just up the street. It may not be full of geisha, but it’s the best we’ve seen outside of Japan, and within walking distance! Jerry settled in for a long stretch of work and deep thinking, including preparing and giving a keynote talk for a tech conference in Tempe. That talk had little to do with Jerry’s recent thinking and required him to “reinstall” his ways of thinking from 20 years ago, which he found really fun to do. The event was private, so the talk isn’t online.

Meanwhile, April tried not to get over jetlag… as less than one week later, she went back over the Pacific on her penultimate work marathon. First stop: Seoul, South Korea for their annual Sharing City festival (she’s on Seoul’s Sharing City advisory board). She also visited community-led sharing economy companies, ate meals including 28 (!) different banchan (side dishes), and found herself in the middle of peaceful protests against the country’s President.

…which brings us to Election Day in the US, with its surprises.

Before leaving for Korea, April had voted by mail and, along with countless others, awoke on November 8 (in Seoul) expecting to make history for women that day. Back in 2008, April had been in Kenya and experienced the euphoria of Obama’s win first-hand. Ironically, this year she opted to take a tour of the North Korean DMZ (demilitarized zone) that day. It was eerie, and little did she know how things would descend from there. As the election results came out, South Koreans were not only aghast, but bona fide fearful of what this could mean for Korean relations. She made her way south to the town of Gyeong-jo, known for being an “open-air city-museum” for all its cultural sites outdoors, and talked with as many locals as she could. It didn’t solve anything, but it did comfort — and there was a silver lining in being buffered from the intensity of emotions in the US then.

For months before the election, Jerry had been tracking the trends, tactics and terminology of the many campaigns, as they all narrowed down to Hillary vs. Trump. Two days before the election, he published this video about his perspective on the strange and twisty campaign (that’s a long video, so hold off unless you’re really into it). When he realized that Trump had won, he was shocked but not surprised, and set out to figure out who predicted his win correctly, and who offered useful insights on what had happened. That process really shook his cobwebs away, and provoked him to create a series of shorter videos piecing together what happened. They look like this:

We still haven’t recovered from the election and thoughts of the upcoming inauguration, to say nothing of disconcerting global trends. Given that topsy-turvy context, we’re focused on identifying and harnessing the light that wasn’t visible before. (In the spirit of: the system cracked. It broke. Cracks are how the light gets in… ) Our work, midwifing new ideas and imagining new futures, has never felt more important. We plan to consistently, peacefully stay true to our values and protest when appropriate. If you are involved in such efforts too, please let us know, as we’d love to better connect these dots with others.

Speaking of which, from Korea, April continued westward to Dubai for the inaugural World Economic Forum Global Futures Council (GFC) summit. She was selected to join the GFC on the Future of Mobility (which includes travel :)), a huge honor. She’d never really visited Dubai either, so that was an extra bonus. After three days of non-stop meetings and views of the Burj Al-Arab next door, she went really westward — one of the longest single days of travel in her life — and, four flights and 28 hours later, landed in Aspen, Colorado. Three days of wonderful discussions at the Aspen Institute, two days CrossFitting with her Italian sister Jessica (who conveniently lives in Aspen) and April returned to Portland exhausted, happy, and wishing she could crawl into bed for days.

But not quite yet. “Only” three more trips and then that can happen… does globetrotting finally sound more exotic than it actually is?

We enjoyed Thanksgiving in Portland with Jerry’s Mother and started to set our sights on 2017. Jerry had one of the best Decembers we can remember. First, IFTF brought him in on an interesting project creating a foresight course for a major client, which meant diving deep into mixed reality, cognitive computing and more, and finding ways of making these topic comprehensible and memorable.

Then he knocked on the door at Ziba Design. Ziba is an elegant design firm (five blocks from our place!) that over its 32 years has expanded from industrial products like Microsoft’s ergonomic keyboard, portable Bluetooth speakers, lightweight camp stoves and squirtable ketchup bottles to bank lobbies, business processes and corporate identity. Just as they were looking for big ideas to expand into, Jerry came into their conversation and rapidly found great chemistry with the team, and even better that his 20 years of ideas about trust and the Relationship Economy had landed on fertile soil again. He starts 2017 there part-time as their Strategy Director, with a charter to help Ziba and its potential clients think bigger, then act on the new ideas that result.

His part-time role at Ziba allows Jerry to continue other client work, as well as running REX, the think-and-do tank he started in 2010. It was a quiet but solid year for REX, with the thesis becoming increasingly relevant until it was almost painfully so with Trump’s election. Consider for a moment that Trump represents the apex (or nadir?) of consumer culture: a flashy reality TV billionaire used modern social media to hack everyone and gain control of what is arguably still the most powerful nation on Earth. That happened, plus we had some great REXy guests and conversations about innovative community health care in the Netherlands, taming Artificial Intelligence, Cuba, Japan, Greece, biomimicry and dealing with fake news in the post-truth era.

While Jerry was clicking into Portland’s thriving design scene, April left for her final business trip of the year, and one of her most-anticipated: Africa. For several years she has been keen to bridge sharing-economy principles with emerging markets and sustainable development, drawing on her previous career-chapters and expertise, and she’s finally getting her chance(s). This first installment was pretty basic but enabled a clearer sense of potential and direction. More to come in the new year. From Nairobi it was back to Copenhagen one final time (very hyggelig in winter), a quick sprint through London, and finally… home.

We spent Christmas in Atlanta with April’s Italian family for the first time, combining the holidays with — most joyfully — Nonna’s (Italian grandmother’s) 90th birthday celebrations and — most unfortunately — bouts of stomach flu. This holiday letter is our first attempt at anything requiring cognition since recovery. To strike the right note for 2017, we inaugurated the year with a midnight run around the Willamette River.

Looking farther into 2017, we are full of hope, dreams and a few reality checks. Jerry plans to bring his ideas to Ziba and head into the world with them, in a quest for clients who think strategically and are willing to see differently. (If you’re curious or know someone who might be, please contact him.) This may sound strange, but Jerry sees Trump’s breaking things (which has unfortunately only just begun) as an unprecedented moment to rethink and reinvent the way we all do things. Our collective interventions are now more necessary than ever, if Trump’s words are to be taken seriously at all.

As Jerry ramps up, April hopes most of all to slow down, travel less and play more. Take fewer engagements, but take them deeper. Do more public speaking and expand her speaking repertoire. Dive into blockchain? Write a book? Much is up for consideration… which feels like the greatest gift of all.

Whereabouts-wise, we know we’ll be in Boston (February), Argentina (March), Boulder + Mexico + Thailand (April), and April will be back in Africa at some point, but other than that it’s all about Stumptown. About Portland: April’s become a huge fan of Yoyoyogi, a lovely yoga studio that’s close by, and we have two new occupants in our flat. One is Alexa, the other we call Gigi, but really they’re an Amazon Echo and a Google Home device. They’re pretty amazing to have around.

If you find yourself in the Pacific NW, please let us know! That’s also a perfect segue to use this as an opportunity for an address book update, as we haven’t been very proactive on that front:

April Rinne & Jerry Michalski
1420 NW Lovejoy Street #515
Portland OR 97209-2745

The year ahead and beyond looks daunting, uncharted and unknown. The last thing we should even fathom doing is putting our heads in the sand or pretending a miracle will happen. Rather, let’s take Jo Cox’s (fellow YGL and UK MP, tragically murdered this summer) words to heart: “We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”

With love, joy and gratitude for each of you, for life itself, and for the amazing world we live in,

April & Jerry

Holiday letter 2012!

Happy Holiday Greetings to All!

As this letter takes shape, April is sitting on the shores of Lake Kivu in northwest Rwanda.  It’s pouring rain outside, with giant hibiscus dancing under the drops. Just a few kilometers down the road is Goma, Congo, where civil unrest rages and the M23 rebels have just taken control of the city.  What she thought was thunder turns out to be gunfire (click the map to make it larger).  Some might say she’s in a war zone, but she just thinks of it as an exciting albeit unexpected travel adventure.  Given that she should probably keep a low profile until the situation settles, this is a terrific opportunity to say muraho (“hello” in the Kinyarwanda language) to our international friends and family of choice!

Jerry may have been a bit further from Congolese rebels and gunfire, but he wasn’t sitting still. For him, 2012 was a year of broadening and deepening the Relationship Economy thesis, manifested in a series of speeches and videos we’ll point to as they happened during the year.

2012 has probably been one of the most intense, learning- and experience-filled years so far for us (though we’ve said that before).  In a word, it’s been extraordinary.  It has not been particularly balanced though – April spent the better part of 8 months on the road – and we are both committed to spending more time together, even if not always at home.

Because of all that’s happened, a caveat that this letter is long is probably in order.  We’ve received loads of wonderful feedback over the years saying “please, share more!”, but we also realize that not everyone wants to read everything. We hope you’ll take this in stride and enjoy however much (or little) feels right. So let’s get started… Continue reading “Holiday letter 2012!”

Happy Holidays 2011!

Happy 2011 Holiday Greetings to Loved Ones Around the World!

What a year it has been: many highlights, many travels, a few challenges and heaps of gratitude.  It’s hard to believe – and a tad embarrassing – that we didn’t manage interim updates here since last year’s holiday missive, but perhaps that’s indicative of how occupied we’ve been with living life in the present.  Now it’s time to make up for that and provide a past-present-future update.  So, here we go!

2011 in a nutshell:  A year of goodness, happiness and restlessness.  A year in which we remained engaged-but-still-not-married.  A year in which April took at least one international trip per month for eight out of ten consecutive months and somehow managed to remember the time zone when she got home.  A year of REXiness for Jerry, building on the REXpedition platform he described in last year’s letter, and including REXperiments and more (keep reading).  A year in which we gave thanks every day for our blessings (we love this TED talk about gratitude), and remembered that our worries are pretty “lucky worries.”  A year of good health, more time with our families-of-choice, adventures, blending new and old friendships, and deep anticipation of what is to come.

Rewinding to January, we took a quick getaway to Laguna Beach, where Jerry played faculty to a group of public affairs pros (for him, kinda like being in the lion’s den, something he loves) while April enjoyed Laguna’s “winter.”  Big news came at the end of the month, when April learned she had been selected as a Young Global Leader (YGL) by the World Economic Forum – yes, the folks in Davos.  This honor framed the rest of the year in the most incredible and memorable of ways (which you’ll see peppered throughout this update; hear more of her views on global leadership in this video done for WEF).

In short, April gets to be a YGL formally for five years, during which time there are a variety of summits, forums, task forces (on everything from water to urban mobility, dignity, youth financial education and happiness) and other initiatives to join.  She’s part of the WEF community which comes with all kinds of perks – not least, the people!  It was hard for her to keep this information confidential for six weeks like WEF required; her poker face is pretty bad.  Meanwhile Jerry wonders if there is an Old Global Wizards club that he might join… (hey!) Continue reading “Happy Holidays 2011!”

Holiday letter 2010

Dear Friends, Families of Choice and All-Other-Wonderful-People-In-Our-Lives,

Happy, festive holiday greetings!  We hope this finds you thriving and having enjoyed a fulfilling year.  We’re not quite sure where the time went, except quickly and full of neat and meaningful experiences.  And before you wonder (or lest we leave you in suspense), we’re still engaged but not married, still haven’t set a date, still overwhelmingly grateful for each other, and still appreciate life’s myriad blessings every day.

On the beach in San DiegoAlso before you ask about our globetrotting this year, let’s just say that April started writing this letter in the Himalaya… but that’s getting ahead of ourselves, so let’s go back to the decade’s beginning first.

2010 got off to a great start, with a happily laid-back schedule compared to last fall’s whirlwind travels.  April took work trips to Toronto, New York City (where she met Natalie Portman at a SoHo gym!) and Kansas City.  She continues to enjoy leading WaterCredit at, which is expanding in exciting ways (keep reading) and gives her ample opportunity to learn and grow professionally.  In February, Jerry hosted the latest of the agenda-less Retreats he’s run since 1996, this time at the Marconi Center near Point Reyes. At 90 people, this one was the largest ever, and full of good people + good ideas + good intent as always.  We took many a weekend cycling diversion, especially as April got a new bicycle (christened Silke) – happy to be two-together-on-two-wheels again!

In March April took her first of two trips (this year) to India.  She got to experience World Water Day first-hand at one of the largest such gatherings in the world in Tamil Nadu (watch this video, with nifty time-lapse starting at :52). She also got pretty horribly ill, prompting her first trip to an India doctor, which turned out to be a memorable lesson in the kindness of colleagues and strangers.  On the way back she swung through Cambridge, Massachusetts for more meetings and a bonus Beantown happy hour with some of you.

From April (the month) through June, we were both hard at work.  There were a few updates on the home front – a rebuilt deck, a stolen motorcycle (RIP Thumper, we miss you) – though rather miraculously neither an iPhone 4 nor an iPad showed up on our doorstep. (That will change in 2011 for sure!)  We ran the Bay to Breakers together; it was Jerry’s first time experiencing the only-in-SF-costume-party-you-call-this-a-run? extravaganza.  We took some independent work-related travels, April to Washington DC, NYC and KC (again) and Jerry to Paris.  And perhaps most memorably, we enjoyed several local getaways together:  Cavallo Point (part of Jerry’s IFTF advisory work during the year); Carmel for seaside and sunshine (on a different gig of Jerry’s); and a gorgeous, hiking-and-wildflowers Point Reyes home-swap. Continue reading “Holiday letter 2010”

Colorado 4th of July

We’re just back from a fantastic trip to Colorado.  Although the new decade is off to a good start for us, our IDLO adventure is over, so this year hasn’t included nearly the shared travel experiences that 2009 did. We’re happy to journey closer to our own backyard.

We spent the better part of the week in Denver, Colorado Springs and Boulder.  Despite having traveled halfway around the world a half-dozen times together in less than three years, we still hadn’t made it to Colorado (where April spent many years growing up).  So we were overdue for a “trip down memory lane” and to reconnect with family and friends.

April and niecesWe were blessed with great people, great weather, and great fun throughout our time.   Continue reading “Colorado 4th of July”

Holiday letter 2009

Eid Sa’eed (Arabic) – Christmas aur Nav Varsh ki hardik shubkamnay (Hindi) – Trevlig Helg (Swedish) – Melkin Yelidet Beaal (Amharic) – Krismasi Njema (Kiswahili) – Buone Feste (Italian) – Frohe Weinachten (German) – Christmas Mattrum Inia Puthaandu Nal Valthukkal (Tamil)

Warm, Happy Holiday Greetings to All!

We hope this finds you well and enjoying the holiday season in peace and among loved ones.  What an extraordinary year it has been, once again full of changes (mostly wonderful, alongside a few hiccups), international travels, fulfilling work, friends and gratitude for each day and one another.  We’ve also both found our Twitter-strides, so if you’re looking for even more details about what we’ve seen you might want to check out our Twitter streams too (Jerry and April).

Last we checked in (at least for those of you not checking our website or April’s blog more often), we had just returned from east Africa and were gearing up for “a year of being open” to the world.  It’s probably safe to say: mission accomplished!  Wow.  So let’s take a deep dive into this year (you’ll understand the water analogy soon) and what we’ve been up to.

January seems like a very long time ago.  We spent a lovely week in Atlanta with April’s Italian family.  April decided to leave her job at Unitus (come March) because it wasn’t a good match for her longer-term professional goals (in particular, not wanting to be pigeon-holed into “lawyerly” responsibilities). Later that same week, on April’s birthday, Jerry proposed! The setting: Crissy Field in view of the Golden Gate Bridge, on a glorious sunny day, under a stand of maritime pine trees. April was caught completely off guard – and very happy.

Continue reading “Holiday letter 2009”

Summer and Fall = Busy, Wet & Traveling

Lots of good things have happened since our last post.  So many changes, yet at least a few things have stayed just the same.  (One example:  We’re still engaged, and still haven’t set a date.)

April has mostly been traveling in her new role with WaterCredit.  It’s a perfect fit for her; Jerry likes to call her “a fish in water.” She’s been to some 12 countries in the past 4 months, taken close to 50 flights (no comments about her carbon footprint, please) and had more meetings with MFIs than she can count.  East Africa, India, Europe (three times) and various domestic trips have kept her fully occupied and happy.  You can read and learn more on her blog and — most of all — Twitterstream.

Jerry continues to win fencing tournaments and intends to be on the first spacecraft that lands on Mars.  He’ll tweet there too.

We’re together in Rome right now, connecting with the IDLO microfinance posse that we’ve trained over the past 2+ years throughout the developing world.  It feels kind of like a family reunion, with participants from 30+ developing countries and many stories to share.  We’re doing our best to enjoy the city outside of work as well — sunrise jogs through the Villa Borghese grounds, proper espresso and fresh gnocchetti al tartufo bianco (white truffles) around the corner, and wandering among golden- and rose-hued Renaissance architecture in giddy awe.  April’s rusty Italian is coming back with a vengeance, and Jerry’s isn’t half bad either; bonus is that we get to speak Spanish and French with our microfinance colleagues too.

We’ll be writing a holiday letter-post in the coming weeks but wanted at least to say a quick online hello before then, if nothing else than to let you know that we’re still together, well and doing our best to carpe diem, appreciate life (and one another!) every day.  It’s almost time for the un’aperitivo romano, so until the next post — ciao!

Spring Changes (Just Add Water)

We’ve been engaged all spring.  But that’s not the only change that’s come our way during this time, nor is it alone on the horizon…

Just before that fateful day on Crissy Field when Jerry proposed, April announced she was moving on from her legal-strategic role at Unitus.  It was time to design a more fulfilling career and develop skills extending “beyond microfinance” (though still focusing on serving the bottom of the pyramid).  Since mid-March, she’s been busy with outreach and learning — about everything from impact investing, to myriad new social enterprises, to how many many trail miles she can hike in a week (answer: a lot).  This afforded her opportunities to consult, attend conferences at leisure, discover weekly wildflower changes and travel to places like Boston, NYC and Kansas City, Missouri (if this last one seems unique, keep reading).

Although we haven’t traveled internationally in recent months, we have discovered some all-time favorite getaways in our own backyard — like Cavallo Point Lodge.  A divine sojourn there and to Sonoma, coupled with special gatherings with our “family of choice” have been highlights of the season.

After several weeks, April finally figured out what she’s meant to do next and announced she’d be joining WaterPartners International as Director of its WaterCredit initiative.  WaterCredit represents a unique opportunity to put microfinance tools and access to catalytic capital to work to address the needs of the poor for clean, safe water.  WaterPartners is one of very few organizations globally that’s pioneering scalable, sustainable financing solutions to meet one of humanity’s most basic and widespread needs.  She’s excited to be an early trailblazer  and advocate in this blended “H2O + MF” space.  (Oh, and WaterPartners’ primary U.S. office is in Kansas City — though she remains based in San Francisco.  Hurray!)

Up next for both of us is travel.  Destination: Jordan, with bonus stops in the English countryside and New York City.  We’ll be teaching the next installment of IDLO’s law-and-microfinance course series on the Dead Sea, then heading south to explore Petra and hang out with Bedouins in the Wadi Rum desert.  You can track our footsteps and observations on Twitter — Jerry here and April here.

After the Middle East, April has trips planned to Africa, India and Bangladesh; Jerry heads to Denmark; and we both somehow will find our way (together) to Rome this fall.  (No, not for a secret wedding in a village chiesa.)  So it’s good we’ve been able to catch our breath closer to home.

A lot of challenges have faced us already this year, which we’d like to think have made us grow and become a stronger couple.  Now, it’s time to take that and “dive deep” into this next chapter and series of adventures!