19/01/2016 07:27 GMT | Updated 19/01/2017 05:12 GMT

Four Lessons from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative


The last December Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder and chief executive of Facebook, in an open letter to his newborn daughter, Max, announced that he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, would give 99 percent of their Facebook shares "during our lives" -- currently about $45 billion -- to charity.

Led by a reflection on the world they hope their daughter live in, the couple launched a philanthropic initiative: "As you begin the next generation of the Chan Zuckerberg family, we also begin the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to join people across the world to advance human potential and promote equality for all children in the next generation" they wrote.

That's not the first time that Chan and Zuckerberg give their money to charitable purposes, Zuckerberg was also one of the first to join the Giving Pledge, an initiative started by Mr. Gates and Warren E. Buffett to get wealthy people to give away more than half of their wealth to charities. However, the decision to set up a limited liability company instead of a nonprofit corporation or foundation sparked a heated debate.

Less than a month after its birth, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative was already the most discussed on the web. There are those who simply see it as an investment vehicle and who instead thinks that through this new initiative Zuckerberg is trying to change the world, again. Then there are also who suggest that Zuckerberg will randomly gift millions of dollars to a select Facebook users sharing a chain letter, obviously a hoax.

While we have to await to measure the real impact of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative on the future generations, I think that we can learn 4 useful lessons from an open letter that look like a manifesto. Four starting points for a reflection that could bring to us more luck than a chain letter in the new year.


Zuckerberg's letter starts with a positive balance of our society. "While headlines often focus on what's wrong, in many ways the world is getting better" he wrote. In our daily report we underline problems (and no doubt there are many) but we often forget to talk about what's going on of good. "Health is improving," he says "Poverty is shrinking. Knowledge is growing. People are connecting. Technological progress in every field means your life should be dramatically better than ours today." This is not hope but a cold fact. Good news exist even when journalists don't tell about them. Our society is not perfect and it's not the best possible. But we live in an age of awareness. We have tools and knowledge, we have opportunities. Everyday we discover, invent, build something that allows us to take a step forward. Then it's up to us choosing the direction. Be positive and conscious of our chance, is the starting point to change the world.


"Our society has an obligation to invest now to improve the lives of all those coming into this world" Zuckerberg wrote. "The greatest challenges require very long time horizons and cannot be solved by short term thinking." In a world focus on emergency we often forget to see beyond contingent. Zuckerberg remember us that our future depend on today. We have to take risks and responsibilities. Now we are deciding, we are creating the world in which ourselves and future generations will live tomorrow. We have to make choices, decide which side to take. "Today we spend about 50 times more as a society treating people who are sick than we invest in research so you won't get sick". What we want as individual and human being? Invest now to improve the future, should be a daily purpose because it means bet on ourselves. Deeply believe that we can do more and better and start to do it now.


If we try to observe nature (don't understand just observe) seems to be clear that all is connected. "Realize that everything connects to everything else" said Leonardo da Vinci. However we often call charity a duty as human being and inhabitants of this planet. We say to help others forgetting that by their wealth depends also our. Help is not a choice is a must if we want to progress as human being. Zuckerberg explains it well when writes about Promoting equality "Our society must do this not only for justice or charity, but for the greatness of human progress. Today we are robbed of the potential so many have to offer. The only way to achieve our full potential is to channel the talents, ideas and contributions of every person in the world." We need each other to move forward. When we stop thinking of ourselves as individuals and begin to feel us as a part of all, we are planting the seed to change the world.


At the end of the open letter to their daughter, Chan and Zuckerberg wrote: "We can't wait to see what you bring to this world. Love, Mom and Dad". A simple wish by young parents curious to know how their baby can improve this world that suggest a reflection. Try to think not what you can take from this world but what you can give to others. Here and now. That means knowing who you are, what is your nature, your talent. When you understand what you own often is more than you thought (even if you aren't Mark Zuckerberg) and early start to feel gratitude. This feeling changes definitely your mind. You don't expect anything more, just think of giving. As in a virtuous cycle more you give and more you have. I think that from gratitude born sharing and only from sharing born real wealth. You can spend all time acquiring -knowledge, money, power- but at the end of the day everything make sense only when you give back.