I Believe In Us


Awarding grants is just one facet of the work we do at The HAND Foundation. What's more, we emphasize citizenship as a means to empower individuals and build strong communities. This month HAND Foundation president and co-founder Noosheen Hashemi guest-edited the philanthropy issue of a Silicon Valley magazine, Gentry. In it, she features the work of some of the Bay Area's most innovative and generous philanthropists. Beyond financial support, these individuals and the organizations they run are tirelessly devoting their time and expertise to solving some of today's biggest problems. Please read her Letter from the Editor. We also encourage you to check out the complete issue, which can be purchased locally at Draeger's and Roberts Market, as well as accessed online.

Aristotle said: "It is not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen." An immigrant, I have always been obsessed with the notion of citizenship and the rights it guarantees in a free society. You see, I came from a place where basic tenets of democracy were under siege: free press, fair elections, protection of minorities. Some rights like privacy didn't even exist under the rule of a single strong man. While there have been moments of concern during my several-decade life in the Unite States—like going to war in Iraq or the passing of Citizens United—I have lived in peace, confident that if I do my job as an informed and engaged citizen, as millions of others do everyday, then everything will be fine. In today's alarming times, when fake news rages, journalists are told to "shut up," racists have found license to openly express hate, and chaos and inefficiency exist in important parts of government, I steadfastly hold on to my faith. Writing for and editing this philanthropy issue—being reminded of all the good that Americans do—only reaffirm and reassure my hope for the American experiment.

We have the largest capitalist economy in the world, the most formidable private sector, and the most sophisticated citizen sector. In 2015 alone, more than 62% of Americans provided 7.9 billion hours of service, and charitable giving represented 2.1% of the GDP, or $373 billion, 71% of which came from individuals as opposed to foundations and corporations. American Exceptionalism? I think so. Everyday citizens take it upon themselves to make multi-billion-dollar bets in science, redefine the American high school, and explore life beyond earth. This is a bold nation, with not only the audacity to dream, but also the conviction to act.

Just take a look at Top 50 Philanthropists (page 91). Note Omidyar Network's heroic fund to benefit truth in journalism, Reid Hoffman and Michelle Yee's visionary gift to use AI for good and to ensure its ethical use, Ann and John Doerr's noble investment in transforming how students are developed as leaders in U.S. universities, and many other far-sighted grants. Of course, there's no such a thing as a "Top 50" list because so many are doing so much that is hidden from the public eye, a topic we explore in Quiet Catalysts (page 124). A previously discrete donor who has decided that this is the moment to share her journey is Angela Filo. Read her unique perspective, in The Practitioner Philanthropist (page 118).

Often synonymous with education and immigration reform, we highlight a different side of Emerson Collective, one that stewards and advances truth-telling through its backing of high-quality investigative journalism and socially-conscious media outlets (Emerson Collective's Mission to Safeguard the Truth, page 50). We feature significant public-private partnerships in two articles addressing innovative solutions to homelessness in the Bay Area and how a basketball team is helping transform its host city of Sacramento. Don't miss A New Philanthropy Paradigm (page 102), and Mr. Real-Time Takes the Capital (page 45). Our cover story, From Connecting the World to Saving It (page 102), is about Silicon Valley's responses to disease and specifically the emperor of all maladies: cancer. Founding director of USC's Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine, Dr. David Agus, shares his insights into the Ellison Institute, prevention, and what's on the horizon for cancer-care. Finally, I invite you to learn about life-saving and life-enriching programs for our teens: Sanctuary introduces SafeSpace, a community refuge and fully staffed therapy center for teenagers struggling with mental health and situational pressures (page 188), and Start 'Em Young which explores the extraordinary work of SV2 Teens, a youth philanthropy program that springboards kids onto a life of thoughtful volunteering and giving (page 54). I hope you enjoy reading this issue, which was a labor of love spanning three quarters of a year.

The American agenda might be unfinished, but American citizenship is evolving and advancing forward every day. Our values of work, charity, and kindness are woven resolutely into a social fabric that no temporary political movement can tatter. Today and always, I am grateful for my family, colleagues, and mentors that have shepherded my own American Dream, to not only live it to its fullest, but also to perpetuate it for others. My parents, Zod Nazem, Vartan Gregorian, Laura Arrillaga, Larry Ellison, Jerry Yang, and Gary Becker: thank you! To those who came before and left a playbook—Julius Rosenwald, Isaias Hellman, Chuck Feeney—eternal blessings.

Noosheen Hashemi