Earlier this month, Analynn Salvato rode 530 miles from New York City to the Canadian border. In her day job, Analynn is a project manager for an equity research firm. On this eight-day journey, however, she rode for a different kind of equity, the kind that Acumen promotes everyday by investing in solutions that uplift the poor. We had a chance to talk to her about her ride, what inspires her about Acumen’s mission, and what it was like out there on the road.
Acumen: You rode over 500 miles, not an easy feat! How did you get the idea?
Analynn: Since moving to New York City I picked up biking as a hobby and a way to commute. Before COVID-19, I was planning to do a 400-mile bike tour in Banff, Canada but that was obviously cancelled. In 2020, I learned that New York had completed the Empire State Trial — 750 miles of bike trails that connect New York City with the Canadian border. I knew I wanted to ride the trail, experience more of New York state, and challenge myself.
Acumen: So, why support Acumen on this journey?
Analynn: Acumen was my first example of an organization that that placed people over profit and encouraged their investees to do the same. I have always been so impressed that they prioritize dignity as a core tenet in its mission. I was first introduced to Acumen by a professor in my undergrad program in 2015, where I learned how business can be a tool for social change.
For the past six years, I have followed Acumen, continued to learn from the organization, and looked for ways to participate, whether that be taking a free online course through Acumen Academy, reading a great report, or sharing the mission with my network. Heading into 2021, I, like others, had a strong conviction that there were many oppressive systems that needed to change. But I was not sure how to start deconstructing those systems or what my role in the process was. As a member of Acumen Next, a year-long program for emerging leaders in social impact, I learned that individuals could host fundraisers for Acumen. So, I took inventory of what I had: a bike, paid time off, and a conviction for Acumen’s mission, and I made a plan.
Acumen: What resonates with you most about the Acumen’s work?
Analynn: As a daughter of an immigrant, I am familiar with the stories of my mother’s own poverty and the systems in Guatemala that keep many citizens trapped in cycles of injustice and inequity. My mother worked on farms making less than a $1 a day. But today, she has her own successful business, a college degree, a family, and a house. She is the product of people, and an organization like Acumen, who gave her opportunities to work and receive a fair wage, access to education she could afford, and saw her as a human being — not a problem to be solved.
Acumen Founder and CEO Jacqueline Novogratz said: “the opposite of poverty is not wealth, but dignity.” Acumen’s work resonates so much with me because the core of their existence is building a world where every person is treated with dignity and has access to the most basic human rights.
Acumen: What happened on your ride? What were the bumps in the road?
Analynn: The ride was difficult, but I am so glad I did it! Before starting the ride, the most I had consecutively biked was about 45 miles and most of this ride was averaging double that a day. So I already felt out of my element. But once I got out there, I learned to take it one mile at a time and knew I would eventually reach my goal.
Acumen: What was most exciting?
Analynn: The most exciting part was getting to the end of a day and realizing that I was capable of riding further than I thought – I averaged 60-70 miles a day over the 8-day trip! — and that I was that much closer to my end goal. It was also so fun to share updates about my ride with my network on social media. People were so encouraging and receptive to learning more about my reason for the ride.
Acumen: What was most challenging?
Analynn: There were several challenging parts about the ride, a major one being the weather — a reminder of the climate crisis’ global toll. For the first half I was riding in a heat advisory, while the second half I was riding in thunderstorms and the torrential downpour of a tropical storm. Sometimes the rain was so heavy I couldn’t see the path in front of me! It made the path all muddy which added additional resistance and my knees are still recovering!
Acumen: We often talk about “aha moments” in our career journey. What were yours as you pedaled your way to Canada?
Analynn: I learned that while there is a physical element to biking, a lot of the challenge is mental. Halfway through an 80-mile day I would start to doubt my ability to complete another 40 miles. It was in those times that my inner dialog really mattered. Telling myself that I could do one more mile or I could peddle one more time got me through. Before I knew it, I had biked 530 miles. And I think when we talk about changing systems, we must have the same inner dialog.
Change is hard. Ending cycles of poverty is hard. But if we break things down into smaller steps and make doing hard things a daily discipline, I think the monstrous mountains we face become more realistic to climb. I didn’t need to focus on the 530 miles I had left. Instead, I just needed to focus on one mile at a time.
Similarly, it will take all of us to eliminate global poverty. Some of us will create businesses, others invest in those businesses, and people like myself can participate by fundraising to support the work that others do. We all have a part to play, and each role is important.