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Celebrating Hands-On Benevolence

December 24, 2013

When the western world is so resentful of the “self-serving 1%”, it’s refreshing to hear about someone with ample means not only choosing to contribute financially to improving the world but actually taking a hands-on, hard-working role in making it happen.  I think that everyone, especially other wealthy 1% people, would benefit from hearing more and more often about those who are being a bit more proactive with their money, mind, creativity and influence.

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Chronicle Books: good for humanity

I bring this up after hearing about the owner of Chronicle Books, Nion McEvoy, the (wealthy) great-grandson of M.H. de Young, founder of the SF Chronicle and of whom the De Young Museum is named in honor.  He could have done anything with his time, brain and his funds, but he chose to buy Chronicle Books from a former Chronicle exec and make it focus on what he deemed important: quality of life and lifestyle. I think that most everyone has seen and loves Chronicle Books.  They’re eye-catching and crowd-pleasers.  This is shown in their mission: “Inspired by the enduring magic and importance of books, our objective is to create and distribute exceptional publishing that’s instantly recognizable for its spirit, creativity, and value.”  They publish imho seminal, fun books about life as a human (see above).  I think that’s an important niche!

What I loved most about hearing about McEvoy is that a) he wanted to take a hands-on role in running the company.  And b) even though their Photography books are apparently the worst performers in their list, he personally feels it’s important for humanity to know and learn about, so he continues publishing and pushing it.  This might not seem that noteworthy, but I think it actually is.  How many other wealthy folks choose to simply invest or donate to causes instead of doing the work?  How many companies are driven only by their bottom line and share-holders to “trim the fat”.  Ditch anything not bringing in the biggest ROI.  How many would ditch the Photography list?  How much of what we value in the world (like aesthetics and quality of life) are de-prioritized by the fewer and fewer choices we have in products and services offered by big companies?

It would be great for us all to be made aware of and celebrate those who have the capital and influence to do the right thing and are doing it themselves…like Nion McEvoy.  Or, like Jeff Skoll, who made his billions from eBay but then, instead of just becoming a serial investor/single-bottom-line money maker, he founded the Skoll Foundation, which contributes over $80 million in grants each year to social entrepreneurs “dedicated to solving the world’s most pressing problems”,  and Participant Media, which has produced over 50 films about social, environmental and cultural issues, including An Inconvenient Truth, The Cove, Food Inc.Lincoln, and many more.

To [make] the change we wish to see, I think that we need to empower those with the funds and influence (ie the 1%) with examples and role models of their peers who are stepping up, getting their hands dirty, and making it real.  Maybe this kind of book “Celebrating Hands-On Benevolence” could be published by Chronicle Books?  🙂  I know a few other hands-on, hard-working benevolent wealthy individuals who don’t share very broadly the good work they’re doing, when they really should.

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