Inspiration from self-made billionaire Gary Michelson on investing in the future of the world.
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November 2, 2020 4 min read
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The Covid pandemic caught the world off guard. The level of unpreparedness led to panic on all fronts, and ultimately economic collapse. Many are wondering if doom and gloom is the new reality. Are the workarounds we created truly “the new normal?” Can we somehow go back to how things were right before the pandemic?
The truth of the matter is that regardless of what the future has in store, the best way to get the most favorable outcome is through collective large-scale efforts in catalytic philanthropy.
“Times of significant disruption and distress are also times for the boldest ideas to be introduced,” says self-made billionaire Gary Michelson.
Michelson is a spinal surgeon-turned-philanthropist and the founder of the Michelson Medical Research Foundation, the Michelson Neglected Disease Vaccine Initiative and the Michelson’s Twenty Million Minds Foundation (20MM). He believes in the importance of educating others on why philanthropy is instrumental in helping our world recover, as it is the stream of commerce that has been able to maintain a heartbeat in the post-pandemic world, even if irregular.
I had a chat with Michelson to hear his take on how the world can be repaired through catalytic philanthropy. Here’s what he had to say on how it can be achieved with the help of VCs and entrepreneurs.
Offer assistance in educational advancements
The pandemic has created the largest disruption of education systems in history, affecting nearly 1.6 billion in more than 190 countries across all continents, according to the United Nations. We’re in the final quarter of 2020, and most educational institutions are still entirely digital with certain exceptions. Unfortunately, the closures of schools and other learning spaces have impacted 94 percent of the world’s student population, and up to 99 percent in low and lower-middle-income countries.
An additional push was needed through catalytic philanthropy to make education accessible to all. Catalytic philanthropy can help students access the tools they need to complete their courses and pursue higher education. Before Covid, many college students fresh out of high school were already in debt. Higher education would only intensify that debt.
Michelson insists that educating legislators on the importance of free education and/or the ability to secure funding for distribution is imperative. “This ‘digital divide’ our educational institutions has imposed on individuals needs to be remedied,” says Michelson. “The way to do that is to actively ramp up efforts to provide both laptops and internet to students in need.”
Facilitate in-prison education and smart justice reform
Michelson is proof of catalytic philanthropy playing an active role in promoting both in-prison education and smart justice reform. He is passionate about anti-recidivism programs that would help keep offenders from returning to prison. Many prisoners have been released early as a result of overcrowding and Covid but were not prepared for the post-pandemic world.
The research of Michelson’s foundation has shown that the three essential components for keeping these individuals out of prison are education/skills training, outside transitional support and the support of a peer group of prior offenders who have successfully turned their lives around.
Enable the protection of animals
Michelson also believes that pets are essential during these difficult times. Catalytic philanthropy can help foster and shelter animals in the homes of volunteers. It can also fund campaigns to help relieve the stress of local municipal shelters, whose adoption programs have been sharply curtailed.
All in all, big issues require big investments in the form of catalytic philanthropy for progress. While innovative funders like Michelson are indeed making noteworthy strides, the world needs more catalytic philanthropists to step up. Michelson’s actions show that it takes far more than just writing a check to make real changes happen. Achieving transformative changes also requires community relationships, a strong voice and impeccable drive.