News and analysis
December 22, 2015

Chan Responds to Questions About Plans for Facebook Fortune

Priscilla Chan provided email responses to questions The Chronicle submitted about the plans she and her husband, the Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, have for their new philanthropic enterprise, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. The following is the transcript of that exchange:

Has CZI already made any investments or commitments? If not, when, what, and how much will the first big CZI investment be?

While we have begun our philanthropic giving in the areas of education (Startup:Education) and health and science (Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, the Breakthrough Prize, and the CDC to fight Ebola), the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has not yet made any formal grants. We look forward to sharing more information, including initial investments in our areas of focus: personalized learning, curing disease, connecting people and building stronger communities.

Who did you consult with when considering the creation of CZI? Are there any peer philanthropists or business leaders who were particularly helpful as you thought your decisions through? What have you learned from your previous forays into philanthropy, which big donors do you want to emulate, and why?

There are many philanthropists who we admire and have learned a great deal from, including mentors like Bill and Melinda Gates and peers like Cari Tuna and Dustin Moskovitz. We also looked to Mike Bloomberg’s work integrating policy alongside grant making, and the innovative model of Omidyar Network in determining what structure best suits our goals. We also sought advice from philanthropists active in our areas of focus.

Our early work taught us lots of important lessons. For example, we must make very long term investments – great challenges like improving and personalizing education, curing diseases and building stronger and more equal communities require time horizons of 25, 50 or even 100 years. We’ve also learned it’s essential to engage directly with the people we serve to better understand their needs. Most importantly, we’ve learned that we must keep listening, learning and improving. That’s why we’re starting young, so that we can get better over time.

Do you have plans to create a board for CZI? How will you ensure that you get the best and broadest advice possible?

As we’ve done in the past, we plan to work with expert advisors in each of our focus areas to guide our investments. For example, Startup:Education, which is the hub of our giving in education, has an independent board. In addition to seeking counsel from advisors, we plan to hire leaders in each of our focus areas to guide our work. We believe in backing the strongest and most visionary leaders in each field because we know that partnering with and listening to experts is more effective than trying to lead the efforts ourselves.

Will the public know what CZI is investing in and why? What is your commitment to transparency and what are you plans for disclosing information?

We expect to share information on our investments because we believe it will advance the mission of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Transparency can help highlight the great work of our grantees, investees and partners front and center. As we execute the work, we also plan to be open about what we’re learning, what’s working and what isn’t, and where we still have more to learn.

Do you intend for the work you are doing to influence other big donors or grant-making institutions? In what ways?

We hope that others will also commit to giving generously and starting young. It takes a long time to get good at something, so it’s important to begin as early as possible so that we can improve and begin to see the compounding benefits of the work over time. We — the current generation — have a moral responsibility to make the world better for future generations. We hope others will join us in committing to do our small part to make this happen.

Send an email to Megan O’Neil.