Inside Laurene Powell Jobs’ new engine for social change



Structured more like the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (a limited liability company) than the Ford Foundation, Laurene Powell Jobs’ is upping the ante for fellow billionaire change-agents.

Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective is “equal parts think tank, foundation, venture capital fund, media baron, arts patron and activist hive,” writes the Washington Post’s David Montgomery.

Emerson’s portfolio of both grants and investments includes media companies like the Atlantic magazine and upstart digital pub OZY, a guerrilla art project with artist JR and a seed fund for immigrant entrepreneurs. Powell Jobs is also politically active, providing support for Democratic women candidates and a Democratic super PAC. More from ”The Quest of Laurene Powell Jobs”:

  • DealflowImpactAlpha has tracked the Emerson Collective’s investments in Unshackled Ventures, which is funding foreign-born entrepreneurs in the U.S, Ellevation Education, an edtech venture for English learners, and production company Macro (“Mudbound” and “Fences”) to diversity film. Emerson is also helping incubate innovationin immigration advocacy and to bring public finance online with Neighborly.
  • New tools. Alongside the usual tools of polling and policy advocacy, Emerson creates innovation incubators to foster tech solutions to immigration, “and enlists artists and storytellers to appeal to the public on alternative channels.”
  • Impact production. “The collective has also invested in Hollywood production companies such as Macro and Anonymous Content (“Spotlight”). Powell Jobs’s support led to the creation of positions for “executive producer for activism.”

Powell Jobs named the project after Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of her favorite writers. Montgomery calls the Emerson Collective “perhaps the most influential product of Silicon Valley that you’ve never heard of.”

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