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Mark Zuckerberg's massive share sales will support prison reform and other progressive causes

Key Points
  • Mark Zuckerberg's philanthropic investment fund is giving grants to organizations supporting U.S. prison reform.
  • The Initiative is also hiring a person to lead investments to go toward influencing policy, and scientific discovery.
Mark Zuckerberg's share sales will support prison reform

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced last week that he would sell up to 75 million shares -- worth around $12 billion at current market value -- in the next 18 months to fund his private investment company, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

That money will go to back a variety of progressive causes, including prison reform. The Initiative is also looking for a person to lead investments in companies devoted to either science or advocacy -- an expansion beyond the Initiative's inital focus on education.

Grants to advocacy groups

The Initiative announced earlier this month that it's giving grants to three advocacy groups that argue America's rates of incarceration are an impediment to economic and human development:

  • The Alliance for Safety and Justice, a group launched in 2016 to reduce incarceration, "replace prison waste with new safety priorities." Advance state reform through education and advocacy.
  • JustLeadershipUSA, based in New York, is "dedicated to cutting the U.S. correctional population in half by 2030," according to its website.
  • FAMM, based in Washington, describes itself as "the most effective sentencing reform advocacy group in the U.S.," and "fighting for smart sentencing laws."

The Initiative is also funding groups advocating for immigration reform, affordable housing and better standards for criminal investgations into sexual violence, according to a September 19 post from David Plouffe, the Initiative's head of advocacy and a former political campaign manager who helped get President Barack Obama elected in 2008.

"We believe grassroots movements are key to sustained social change. We're committed to supporting proven and promising advocacy models grounded in community, including the six organizations we will be highlighting this week," Plouffe wrote.

The organization advocating for victims of sexual assault, called Rise, has successfully pushed for new laws in 10 states.

Venture arm expanding beyond education

The Initiative is also looking to hire an investing professional to lead investments in companies devoted to either public policy reform and science. That job listing says:

"Our Ventures effort has initially been focused primarily on Education, where we invest in innovative for-profit companies...Over the past six months, Ventures has begun to explore investments to support our Policy and Science initiatives, and will look to more closely define these investment priorities over time."

The Intiative ultimately will receive 99 percent of Zuckerberg's Facebook shares -- now valued at more than $50 billion.

The size of its financial resources shows how Zuckerberg, who is touring the country this year, can influence U.S. public policy without running for political office.