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Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist Teaches Others to Give with Gratitude

SAN JOSE (KPIX) -- A venture capitalist who set a goal of making a difference in the lives of 50 million children around the world is paying it forward, already impacting the lives of nearly 40 million of them.

A member of Yahoo's founding team, Randy Haykin tasted success in Silicon Valley.

But when he turned 50 years old, he started something new.

He blogged a daily gratefulness journal, and asked people he knew to consider, "How can all of us together help make an impact to do something to give back to the world?"

Haykin founded the Gratitude Network in 2014.

The Pleasanton-based nonprofit offers a free, one-year fellowship program for social entrepreneurs who are changing children's lives in education, health and social justice.

"They move into the role of executive director, out of passion for children, but they may be lacking leadership skills to grow that organization," Haykin said.

The fellows come from more than 60 nations. 60 percent of the fellows are international; 40 percent from the US, mainly the Bay Area.

In this year's cohort, nearly 90 percent of the fellows are people of color; more than 6 in 10 are women.

They learn from volunteer coaches, seminars, peer groups and summits.

One of the key lessons 2020 fellow Blessing Onyejike-Ananaba learned was how to build a sustainable business model.

She inspires underserved girls in Nigeria to become leaders through the Girl Child Art Foundation which she says has served more than a quarter of a million girls.

"The Gratitude Network fellowship was a lifesaver for us," she said. "We're reaching more girls, and we're doing more measurable work."

For 2017 fellow Dr. Derek Mitchell, a re-designed business model has opened new doors of opportunity to serve some of the nation's most challenging schools.

He and his team at Partners in School Innovation are now working with more schools and districts to help low income students of color thrive.

Mitchell is grateful for Haykin's impact.

"His humility and his honesty and his willingness to change and learn and grow are the main reasons why the Gratitude Network is so successful," Mitchell said.

Another reason for that success: in addition to corporate and individual donations, Gratitude Network is supported by sales of Entrepreneur Wines, the brand founded by Haykin and his wife.

They turned a hobby into a business with a philanthropic purpose.

"It's been a wonderful way to get more people involved in the work that Gratitude is doing and have some fun at the same time," Haykin explained.

The Gratitude Network received more than 1,300 applications last year to participate in the yearlong free fellowship program. Only 33 fellows were chosen.

The program does not work with startups.

Next, Haykin and the Gratitude Network are piloting what could become a shift in the program, working not just with CEOs, but with entire leadership teams, including board members.

So for training social entrepreneurs in leadership skills through the Gratitude Network , this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Randy Haykin.

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