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Making America Great

Making America GreatNewsweek recently recognized Tufts graduate Pierre Omidyar as one of “15 People Who Make America Great.”

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [07.12.06] In its July 3 issue, which hit newsstands in late June, Newsweek announced its “Giving Back Awards,” which pay tribute to people who “through bravery or generosity, genius or passion, devote themselves to helping others,” according to the magazine. Tufts graduate and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar landed on the magazine’s short list of Americans who, by taking “imaginative approaches to difficult problems,” are changing the world.

"Business can be a force for good," Omidyar, who earned a bachelors degree from Tufts in 1988, told Newsweek. "You can make the world a better place and make money at the same time."

Omidyar, who founded the world’s largest online marketplace in 1995, shared with Newsweek, “There was this sense of 'Oh boy, what do we do to make sure that this wealth doesn't get wasted?’” He told the magazine, “We've got to put it to good use.”

And that’s just what Omidyar and his wife Pamela, a 1989 Tufts graduate, did with their eBay fortune, which is estimated to be about $10 billion. In 2004, the couple started Omidyar Network, a mission-based investment group aimed at fostering individual self-empowerment on a global scale.

According to Newsweek, Omidyar Network, unlike traditional charities, “can invest in profit-making businesses as well as nonprofits.” Omidyar told the magazine that the network funds organizations that “help people tap into their own power,” a philosophy, that Newsweek believes, “has put Omidyar on the cutting edge” and “created an eclectic portfolio of good works.”

Omidyar Network has already committed more than $80 million to organizations ranging from World of Good – a group that enables artisans in developing countries to sell their work in the United States – to KaBOOM! – a nonprofit that helps communities build playgrounds. However, the magazine reported that “Omidyar’s greatest passion is microfinance, the practice of making loans as small as $40 to entrepreneurs in developing countries.”

Last year, Omidyar made his mark in the microfinance world when he gave $100 million to Tufts – the largest gift in the University’s history and the largest private allocation of capital to microfinance ever made by an individual – to underwrite a unique microfinance investment fund that would enable poor people in developing countries to build and sustain their own businesses.

“Omidyar hopes this project will prove to other institutional investors that microfinance is a smart way to earn high returns,” Newsweek reported.

“It's not about alleviating poverty through charity,” Omidyar told Newsweek. “It's about giving someone the tools they need to make their own life successful, actually trusting them with something they might not have been allowed to touch before, which is money.”




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