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Amazon’s Jeff Bezos spending $2 billion on homelessness, education

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. (File, Associated Press)

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced Thursday that he is putting $2 billion toward homelessness issues and early childhood education.

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“I think this is a complicated alchemy of psychology for Jeff Bezos,” Geekwire’s Todd Bishop told KIRO Radio. “I think he was going to get to this point eventually. I think the public pressure, the status as the richest person in the history of the world, and some of the battles Amazon has had locally over the issues of homelessness and the head tax got him there faster than he otherwise would have.”

Via his tweet Thursday morning, Bezos announced his next philanthropic effort — a plan to fund charitable causes through the Bezos Day 1 Fund. A total of $2 billion will be targeted at two focus areas: non-profits that help homeless families; and a network of new, non-profit, tier-one preschools in low-income communities.

The focus areas include:

  • The Day 1 Fund will provide annual grants to civic groups doing “compassionate, needle-moving work to provide shelter and hunger support to address the immediate needs of young families.”
  • The schools will be “Montessori inspired” and the fund will build an organization to directly operate the preschools.

“They are going to create their own infrastructure to operate these preschools and preschool networks in underprivileged areas around the country,” Bishop said. “So you can see that he is looking to essentially apply some of that Amazon-style innovation and creative thinking.”

The vision statement for the fund comes from Mary’s Place in Seattle – “No child sleeps outside.”

“Jeff Bezos feels that through things like Mary’s Place and other non-profits, there is an existing infrastructure in place that just needs more funding,” he said. “Whereas if you look at the education announcement, he’s saying that not only do these initiatives need more money, they need somebody to tell them how to do it better. That is where I think you are going to see his creative energy going; to come up with ideas to better educate kids.”

“I think certainly the focus on homeless families is directly related to what Jeff Bezos has learned from a partnership with, and funding of Mary’s Place,” he added.

The Bezos Day 1 Fund stems from the CEO’s “Day 1” theme which promotes maintaining a startup-like attitude. One of Amazon’s office towers in Seattle is called the Day 1 building.

“I think it is no coincidence that he is calling it the Day 1 Fund,” Bishop said. “That is his mantra that you need to look at every day with fresh eyes as if you are just starting out in business, and bring that kind of energy and insight to these kinds of initiatives.”

In June 2017, Bezos asked Twitter users for suggestions on philanthropic organizations. He said earlier this year that he would announce which causes he will focus on by the end of the summer.

“It fills me with gratitude and optimism to be part of a species so bent on self-improvement,” Bezos tweeted.

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