Let’s face it — 2016 was a rough year for the status quo. Brexit, Trump, terrorism, gyrating equity and currency markets, conflict in Syria and the largest flow of refugees since the Second World War. It seemed that the only certain thing this year was uncertainty.
As disturbing as these times may be, as a new year begins we should remember that positive change is often born out of trauma. When tragedy occurs, help often follows.
For example, following the Ebola epidemic last year, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded research that has identified a way to neutralise future outbreaks of the virus.
The US$1 million raised through the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has contributed to a major scientific breakthrough to cure the previously fatal neurological disease.
And for the first time in a century, the wild-tiger population is on the rise, thanks in part to increased protection funded by donors.
It all goes to show that any contribution — however small — can make a difference. If reading the news makes you feel sad, give money or commit time to the causes you care about, you can help to build the change you want.
That is why we have dedicated this issue of Billionaire to Giving. In this issue we speak to four billionaires who are enhancing the world by giving back: Bill Heinecke, with his much-loved Thai elephant foundation; Mo Ibrahim, through the transformative Index of African Governance; Ajay Piramal, the businessman using technology to provide clean water to India’s poorest; and Judith Neilson with her ground-breaking White Rabbit gallery in Sydney.
We look inside Angelina Jolie’s favourite resort, Phum Baitang in Cambodia, a hotel with social enterprise at its core. John Wood, an executive who left Microsoft to found literacy non-profit Room to Read, explains why funding girl’s education provides the best philanthropic return-on-investment. Designer and businesswoman Tory Burch describes her initiatives to support young female entrepreneurs. Finally, we follow a young Bangladeshi photographer who spent two weeks documenting intimate moments from a refugee camp in northern Syria.
What better way to summarise the theme of Giving than with the timeless words of Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
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