Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have sent out their annual letter from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, calling it “A note from Mark & me: looking back at 2018.”
The initiative, now celebrating its third anniversary, is a multibillion-dollar effort to address global issues, including education, heath care and scientific research. Fueled with an investment of as much as $1 billion in Facebook shares each of the past three years, the company was created Dec. 1, 2015, in honor of their newly born daughter, Maxima. The Initiative is completely separate from Facebook.
This year’s letter, titled “What We’re Hopeful For,” comes at a time of relative turmoil for the social-media giant: San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin recently called for the couple’s ame to be removed from Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital because of what he called “a string of frankly scandalous issues confronting Facebook and its leadership, the most recent being Facebook’s hiring of an infamous PR firm to spread vicious and frankly anti-semitic attacks on George Soros.”
A recent by the anonymous work chat app Blind found that 70 percent of the nearly 600 Facebook employees who replied said that Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg should be fired for her involvement in the Soros affair.
And the company’s stock price this year has seen dramatic dips, at one point losing about $120 billion in market capitalization over investor concerns about disappointing earnings report and slowing user growth.
Still, Tuesday’s letter was all about hope, starting with their first daughter, Max. Here are a few excerpts:
“Today marks the three-year anniversary of one of the most important weeks of our lives. In the span of just a few days, we welcomed our first child, Max, into the world, and announced a new philanthropic organization, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, dedicated to making the world better for her generation. As any new parent will tell you, holding your child in your arms gives you a new appreciation for your parents, and their parents, and their parents’ parents. And in those early days with Max, we found ourselves thinking about family a lot.
“We named Max after two of Mark’s great-grandfathers. They both came from families living in Eastern Europe in the late 1800s that heard there was more opportunity and more tolerance in America. So they traveled with what little they had to the United States. They fought hard to make a living and build a better life.
“Priscilla comes from a family of immigrants, too. Her grandparents were living in Vietnam when the war broke out in the 1950s. They believed in something better for their children. They didn’t know exactly what it looked like, but they knew it was out there. So they hired a boat. In the dead of night, they stood on a dock, and watched their children float off into the great unknown. It’s one of the bravest things a parent could do — and an act of almost unreasonable hope.
“Once we welcomed Max, that distant history became very palpable examples of the extraordinary sacrifice that people are willing to make for their children and for a better future. We knew that we existed, and she existed, because of our family members — people who had so much faith that a better future was possible, that they risked everything to pursue it.”
The letter goes on to talk about some of the initiative’s recent efforts:
“Science: We’ve launched new collaborations and tools to accelerate biomedical research — including some big steps forward on the path to helping cure, prevent or manage all disease by the end of this century. To aid in the fight against infectious disease, the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub launched IDseq, an open source, cloud-based tool that can help researchers identify emerging diseases from a blood sample. This has the potential to transform our ability to detect and respond to outbreaks around the world. We’re now teaming up with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to train global health workers to use this powerful new tool.
“One of our biggest bets to help diagnose and treat disease is supporting the Human Cell Atlas, a global, collaborative effort to map every cell type in the healthy human body. We’re supporting interdisciplinary networks of scientists, researchers and engineers who will develop tools and technologies to build out and interpret the findings being collected. We hope that these networks will accelerate progress toward a first draft of the Atlas being completed, and toward these transformative technologies being widely available to the entire biomedical community.”
The letter goes on to describe the initiative’s work in education and something they call “Justice and Opportunity”:
“So, this year, we supported the launch of Opportunity Insights, Harvard’s new research and policy institute. At Opportunity Insights, Raj Chetty looks at how the neighborhood a person grows up in impacts their future success. He and his team will use data to literally map the real-world impacts of inequality, so we can develop smarter policy.
“We were proud to support the launch of Eviction Lab, the first-ever nationwide evictions database to map housing insecurity and its impact. We also backed efforts in our home state of California to improve housing affordability, including the passage of Prop 1, which will help build affordable housing for veterans, working families, people with disabilities, and people experiencing homelessness.”
In closing, the couple writes that their work extends to local efforts, including nearby Redwood City where “through our Community Fund, we partnered with 41 local organizations working to address the most urgent needs of at-risk and vulnerable individuals or families on the San Francisco peninsula.”