The newly-named Belfer Center for Innovation and Social Impact at 92Y on Manhattan's Upper East Side aims to "scale 92Y’s renowned programming by leveraging the power of new and social media, partnerships and collaboration within 92Y’s diverse programming centers to strengthen and extend the reach of 92Y’s core values — intellectual exploration and dialogue, community, thought leadership and innovation as a driver of social change."
92Y, more than just the essential recreational and cultural space that I remember as a youth, engages in sophisticated programming that touches many different sectors. The outfit is behind #GivingTuesday, the annual global philanthropic phenomenon that that boasts a number of wealthy tech entrepreneurs amongst participants. Last year, the global day of giving raised some $117 million from nearly 700,000 donors, more than 50 civic movements, and across more than 71 countries.
The new Belfer Center will house #GivingTuesday as well as efforts like 7 Days of Genius, "a festival for the digital age," Women inPower, which focuses on social responsibility and impact, and American Conversation, a multiplatform series created with partners like POLITICO and Salon.
But while the likes of Dustin Muskovitz and Steve Case have been #GivingTuesday participants, the recent $15 million naming gift to create the Belfer Center at 92Y doesn't come from the tech world at all. Instead, the donors here are the Belfer family of New York.
I've written about Robert and Renee Belfer before. Robert took the reins of his father's oil business, and has since diversified from energy. The family are strong health philanthropists, giving $100 million near the start of the decade to establish the Belfer Research Building at Weill Cornell Medical College. At the Dana Farber Cancer Center, meanwhile, the couple has underwritten the Belfer Institute for Applied Cancer Science.
Some of the Belfer family's philanthropy is fairly conventional, but they've waded into other areas, too. Consider, for instance, a gift earlier this year the family made to the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School to establish a cyber security project.
The family's interest in international and social issues is in part personal. Robert's father Arthur fled Poland in the 1930s and came to the United States to fulfill his American dream. A while back, the Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard was renamed the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
The new 92Y Belfer Center for Innovation and Social Impact seems to be in line with some of the Belfer family's concerns and interests. As the Belfers' son Laurence, who's a 92Y board member and founder of the center puts it, "The team at 92Y has shown a remarkable ability to generate impactful mission-based programs that leverage the power of collaborations for the greater good."
It's worth emphasizing the esteemed collaborators these initiatives have been able to pull in including the UN Foundation, Mashable, Hoover Institution, Harvard Kennedy School, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the John Templeton Foundation. This year, 92Y was named one of Fast Company's most innovative nonprofits.
Snagging another $15 million certainly doesn't hurt.