What's Interesting About the Partnership Between Rockefeller and Chan Zuckerberg

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

What's Interesting About the Partnership Between Rockefeller and Chan Zuckerberg

When John D. Rockefeller founded the first foundation bearing the family name, he did so in the autumn of his long life. A century later, when Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan began their philanthropy, they were only in their late 20s. Despite these differences, there are some striking similarities between Rockefeller and this young couple. Both Rockefeller and Zuckerberg amassed gargantuan fortunes as pioneers in new industries, attracting controversy and critics along the way, and brought the same sense of grand ambition to their philanthropy. Battling disease and improving education were two of Rockefeller's most cherished causes; the same is true of Zuckerberg and Chan. Rockefeller had a deep belief in the power of science to help humanity, bankrolling the nation's first biomedical research institute. Ditto for Zuckerberg and Chan, whose single biggest gift so far has been to create the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub. 

The long-lasting Rockefeller Foundation was born out of America's first Gilded Age, and whether they like it or not, Chan and Zuckerberg are symbols of a new one.

They are also symbols of a philanthropic changing of the guard as new wealthy givers emerge and end the long dominance of legacy foundations over the grantmaking world. While these two camps tend to eye each other warily, they have a lot to gain from collaborating. The new donors bring fresh eyes and deep pockets to entrenched problems, along with a practical, can-do optimism born out of entrepreneurial success. The legacy foundations, in turn, know how the nonprofit sector works and understand the complexity of social and economic inequities that, in many cases, have defied repeated interventions by philanthropy. 

For all these reasons, it’s interesting to see the Rockefeller Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) join forces on a new project to support equitable economic development in underserved places....



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