By Carol Cone
The news crawler on CNN has certainly been filled with tragic and depressing stories of late. But within the past month, two significant announcements were made that bode well for our future: the birth of baby Maxima Chan Zuckerberg (love the powerful girl's name) and the launch of Howard Warren Buffett’s new company, i(x) Investments. Both debuts are related to social impact, and should give us significant reason to restore at least some of our faith in humanity.
The birth of “Max” to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Dr. Priscilla Chan was more than special. It was momentous. That’s because baby Max’s parents chose to celebrate the arrival of their first child with an unprecedented gift to the world. In an open letter to their daughter, Zuckerberg and Chan committed to giving away 99 percent of their Facebook shares – currently valued at $45 billion – during their lifetimes, to advance human potential and promote equality. They will do this through the creation of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
Zuckerberg wrote that he and Chan, and our society, have a moral responsibility to leave the world a better place for all future children. In his letter, posted on Facebook, naturally, he vowed to create change by working to eliminate inequality and giving every child a chance at education. Our society, he said, must do this not only for justice or charity, but also for the greatness of human progress.
He called this philanthropic quest simply an “investment.” I call it a bellwether development in the evolution of our global community and in social purpose – because of the size of the commitment, of course, but also because of its direction and focus on equal opportunity. In a world that still does not value girls and women on par with boys and men, this timely declaration from a high-profile leader should set the tone for technology leaders and others to follow.
The fact that the Zuckerberg’s child is a girl will almost certainly boost the growing global awareness that helping girls reach their potential has a measurable positive impact on economies, families and social stability worldwide.
Adding the Chan Zuckerberg commitment (note the order of the name) to equality for children’s education should accelerate and amplify current girls’ education initiatives such as the Girl Effect, 10Times10/Girl Rising, Girl Up, Girls Who Code and the Malala Fund.
Meanwhile, another famous name also weighed in with some positive news. i(x) Investments, co-founded by Howard Warren Buffett – the 32-year-old grandson of billionaire Warren Buffett – and co-founder Trevor Neilson, is a forward-looking approach to fund early-stage and undervalued companies working on issues such as clean energy, sustainable agriculture and water scarcity.
“I’m looking for that sweet spot,” Buffett told the New York Times. “How do we improve society through these investments? How can we be creative with capital to address some of the greatest human needs?”
Now, the i(x) founders say, investors want to put their capital to work in ways that will not simply avoid doing bad, but actually do some good in the world. “Investors in the past haven’t seen their investments as an expression of their values,” Neilson said. “There is an evolving consciousness in the world which presents an historic opportunity for both social change and profit.”
The Zuckerberg and Buffett announcements reinforce the need to take the long view on solving vexing societal problems; to work in collaboration with experts and leaders to listen, shape policy and foster innovations that meet real, not imagined, needs; and to be willing to try and sometimes fail in the effort to learn and improve. That’s progress.
Just as importantly, the emergence of super-rich, super-smart leaders in the private sector who see the need to contribute to a better world – because they can – is a very positive societal development.
For all of us who work in the space of making social progress through vibrant and innovative public/private partnerships, these two announcements underscore how purpose is not a trend, but the new needed normal for our collective future. And that’s worth a nice warm smile, no matter what the other news headlines say.
Image credit: Flickr/Maurizio Pesce
Carol Cone, often referred to as “the mother of cause marketing,” recently launched a new purpose-driven consultancy called Carol Cone On Purpose [www.purposecollaborative.com].