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Thursday
Jan142016

Mark Zuckerberg

NET WORTH: $43 billion

SOURCE OF WEALTH: Facebook

FUNDING AREAS: Education, Technological Innovation, Community Development, Immigration Reform, Health

OVERVIEW: Zuckerberg has emerged as a major philanthropist, making a succession of large gifts in recent years. The couple are Giving Pledge signatories and more recently pledged to give 99 percent of their Facebook shares, presently valued at $45 million, to help “improve the world for the next generation.” Zuckerberg recently launched the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative whose initial focus areas will be "personalized learning, curing disease, connecting people and building strong communities."

ISSUES: 

EDUCATION: Zuckerberg's first major philanthropic venture was in 2010, when during an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show, he announced a $100 million donation to the Newark, New Jersey, public school system. Zuckerberg has subsequently made an even larger education gift to improve schools in Silicon Valley, saying that he had learned important lessons from the Newark experience. Zuckerberg said in 2015 that personalized learning will the focus of his education giving, which is channeled through an organization he created, Startup:Education. 

TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT: Back in 2010, Zuckerberg donated an undisclosed amount to Diaspora, a project that four students at New York University have been working on and that some have referred to as the anti-Facebook. It's an open source project in which users maintain control of their own data. This philosophy seems to fly in the face of Zuckerberg's plan with Facebook, which he claims is designed with an intent on "making the world more open." When asked why he donated to Diaspora through Kickstarter, Zuckerberg said he was motivated because he sees "a little of myself in them."

Zuckerberg and his wife were also among the tech luminaries who recently announced the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, which they envision as a competitor to the Nobel prize. The Prize rewards researchers with a $3 million grant for the development of cures for "intractable diseases." Six life sciences projects and one physics project will receive a $3 million prize annually, for a total of $21 million a year. For more information, see the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences or the Fundamental Physics Prize.

HEALTHCARE: Through the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Zuckerberg recently gave $75 million to San Francisco General Hospital, $25 million to the Centers for Disease Control. As well, $5 million recently went to Ravenswood Family Health Center. Zuckerberg's wife, Priscilla Chan, is a pediatrician. The couple also made a $25 million gift to combat the Ebola epidemic in 2014. One of the initial focus areas of the new Chan Zuckerberg Initiative will be on "curing disease." Zuckerberg writes that "most people die from five things -- heart disease, cancer, stroke, neurodegenerative and infectious diseases -- and we can make faster progress on these and other problems." 

IMMIGRATION REFORM: In April 2013, Zuckerberg launched FWD.US, an effort to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform, which has quickly become a leading organization in the field, due in large part to Zuckerberg's funding.

LOOKING FORWARD: After initial work through the through the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and Startup:Education, what the couple does through the new Chan Zuckerberg Initiative will need to be watched carefully.

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