Laurene Powell Jobs, founder of the Emerson Collective, an investment, social impact and philanthropic firm, uses philanthropy, impact investing, advocacy and community engagement to spur change and promote policy solutions creating new possibilities for individuals, families and communities. She inherited billions of dollars of stock in Apple and Disney from Steve Jobs, her late husband and co-founder of Apple, and has been putting her fortune to work through her organisation which focuses on education, immigration reform, the environment, health, media and journalism.
Laurene says the team at Emerson Collective is driven by the concept that within everyone there is the potential to improve the world around them and they have helped individuals transcend the limits of circumstance charting a new course for themselves and their families. She says their belief as taught by Waldo Emerson, lecturer, philosopher and poet, is that everyone is doubly obligated to rely on themselves and to rely on each other.
“By helping individuals achieve their dreams, we unleash the full force of the world’s most powerful resource which is human potential. I believe deeply in self-reliance, but recognise the road to self-reliance sometimes leads through reliance on others. I trust that hard work and determination can make anything possible, but opportunities for hard work and determination must be found and even created,” she says.
According to this philanthropist, for people trapped in poverty and disenfranchisement, a strong will to overcome the odds is rarely sufficient to beat them. She says force of will alone, cannot ensure a college education and a bright future for students in challenging environments where schools are chronically short of funds, advanced classes in high schools don’t exist, expectations are low and mentors are few,
“For families forced into the shadows by a dysfunctional immigration system, perseverance cannot secure legal status and equal rights. Qualities of character must be supplemented and supported by policies and inspirations and these lives, these communities are gardens of promise, but they need water to flourish,” she says.
Laurene visited a high school years ago where students were working to defy the odds by becoming the first in their families to earn a college degree and although these students possessed courage and drive, they lacked the gateways to achieve their dreams. She says this struck her as a great injustice and inspired her to launch College Track, a college completion program which has supported thousands of students to earn college degrees, most of whom are the first in their family to reach this milestone.
“Students can’t become self-reliant adults unless we give them an excellent education and a pathway cleared of obstacles. Immigrants can’t contribute their fullest to our communities, can’t live open and free and productive lives, unless they are liberated from the fear of detention and deportation. Systemic failures need flexible approaches, new models and improved public policy. We do our part every day partnering with innovative thinkers, entrepreneurs and organisations to advance these solutions with new ideas, true numbers and smart practices,” says the philanthropist.
Laurene earned her bachelor's degree in political science and economics from the University of Pennsylvania and a masters in business administration from Stanford University's Graduate School of Business. She has a stake in the parent of the NBA's Washington Wizards, the NHL's Washington Capitals, in several media outlets including the Atlantic magazine and Concordia Studios, and is an investor in Monumental Sports and Entertainment.
This philanthropist serves as board chair of The XQ Institute, an organisation dedicated to rethinking the high school experience, and College Track. She also serves on the Stanford University Board of Trustees and the boards of Chicago CRED, a violence prevention initiative, Conservation International, a non-profit environmental organisation, as well as the Council on Foreign Relations.