Yichen Feng is a business builder, educator, and finance professional with over 12 years of experience mobilizing resources to solve hard problems and create beautiful things. She has developed a wide-ranging toolset that includes starting a public primary school in Hayward, California, advising tech companies like Yahoo! and Snap at Goldman Sachs, co-founding a small-batch tea company, and most recently as a private equity investor in ed tech and future of work companies, and many other pursuits that integrate the personal and professional. In October 2022, she joined the Center for Economic Democracy (CED).
At CED, Yichen continues to build as an educator and strategist in the role of Managing Director of Capital Strategies, helping individuals and institutions see past our current systems and self-limiting beliefs to invest in a just economy by integrating Social Movement Investing frameworks, Solidarity Economy principles, and her experience as an investment banker/private equity investor.
Yichen currently lives in Oakland, California. She spent her formative years split between Shanghai, China where she was born and the multicultural and working class communities of East Los Angeles.
Reflecting on JEI’s core values — Community, Interconnectedness, Transformation — which value speaks to you most, at this moment in time? Why?
All are precious. Transformation is particularly appealing to me at this moment because of the possibilities it awakens. The possibility of changing my mind, of growing, of being differently, of moving from discomfort to sense-making, and finding a new comfort from understanding, of evolution. It also means forgiveness and grace are possible. The idea that I can change and that people can change, and that we can change… I can’t think of something more hopeful than that possibility.
What are a few things about you that would surprise other people?
In no particular order:
I’m at the boxing gym almost every day.
I’ll never say no to fishing or a dance floor.
My first business was selling grapefruits and my favorite business venture was running an online vintage clothing store.
My last art show was in 2019.
I taught at a middle school when I was an investment banker.
I’d love to talk to you about covenant economics.
What movements for a just economy, past or present, inspire you?
My grandparents were revolutionaries, organizing and fighting against Japanese imperialism in their youth. They taught me about political economy and social theory at a very early age. They showed me theory without practice is empty; practice without theory is blind.
The UTLA teachers who educated me and created movement ecosystems within each classroom. Thank you for encouraging me to protest and organize against the military industrial complex in my youth. Thank you for teaching me that I could turn pain into love.
The LUNAR giving circle, which is being created at this moment (and birthed in JEI).
Zapatista Women. Thank you for the light.