Dear Commons Community,
The New York Times has a featured article today on the billionaire, Nicolas Berggruen, who has established the Berggruen Institute, a think tank and foundation designed to produce ideas. Mr. Berggruen says he wants to nurture innovative thinking, not just donate to causes. His institute is “not just a money-giving operation; it’s an ideas and energy-producing operation.” As reported in the article:
“The Berggruen Institute is a striking example of how wealthy philanthropists are reshaping the landscape with smaller versions of the foundations established by Bill Gates and George Soros. Sean Parker, one of the entrepreneurs behind Napster and Facebook, has a research institute, The Parker Foundation, which this month pledged $250 million for cancer immunotherapy. He is also a co-founder of the Economic Innovation Group, which labels itself an “ideas laboratory.” Tom Steyer, who made his fortune as a hedge fund manager in California, has several environmental nonprofit groups, and last year created the Fair Shake Commission to redress economic inequality.
“There is a generation of new donors who have huge assets, and their own ideas, and think traditional think tanks are old-fashioned,” said James G. McGann, the director of the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program at the University of Pennsylvania — a think tank that thinks about think tanks. In a money-fueled culture where tweets, not position papers, shape the national conversation, these kinds of philosopher-kingpins “are likely to be more influential than we are,” Mr. McGann said.
Mr. Berggruen stands out because he is a little-known but well-connected player at the nexus of wealth and rumination who is also a bit mysterious — a Gatsby who shows up at his own parties.
“I am a person who likes to engage in learning,” Mr. Berggruen said, in an accent reflecting his Parisian upbringing and dual German and American citizenship. The next step was “to see if I can produce some ideas,” he said.”
Mr. Berggruen also appears to be interested in philosophy, teaching, learning, and world views. The Berggruen Institute will award an annual $1 million prize in philosophy beginning this year. It is presently funding five Berggruen graduate scholarships to China and other places, and it has selected 16 others for the 2016-17 academic year.”
The article is worth a read.