Esther Dyson


I’ll always remember my fourth-grade teacher telling me: “Look, dear, I wouldn’t bother to criticize you if I didn’t think you could do so much better!”

Location: Moscow, Russia and New York, New York

Profession:  Chairman of EDventure Holdings

Twitter Handle: @edyson

What was the first philanthropic gift you gave?:

The first time I ever gave my time, in a serious way, was mostly around political activism, in college.  I’m not a big believer in giving, as opposed to investing (whether you or someone else is the beneficiary), or working to change things.  To me, giving money is a bit like putting money in the stock market, versus. investing directly in a startup where you care about the outcome and ideally you have some influence over the results, whether through advice or actually doing something useful, like training people, conducting research, editing press releases – whatever skills you can apply.
Tell us about your role giving back with ExpandED Schools

[As a Board Member, I give significant time.] While I am busy with my own nonprofit (Way to Wellville), producing health in five small communities.  But from the start of my involvement with ExpandED I have been pushing for more measurement of impact and focus on results (along with many other board members and staff).  I am very happy both to see the results of that effort – more measurement – and even happier to see that we indeed do have great impact on the lives of the young people we reach and a respectable return on investment.

What inspires you to be involved?

The huge potential of all these kids inspires me.  I want them to be able to have and realize dreams instead of being squashed by indifference and ignorance.  Just one or two helpful adults (and the programs that allow such interactions to occur) can make a huge difference to the life of each child. ( I’ll always remember my fourth-grade teacher telling me: “Look, dear, I wouldn’t bother to criticize you if I didn’t think you could do so much better!”)
Who inspires you to give.

Not people who are generous, but people who are angry with the way things are.  People who want to disrupt things and fix them, rather than patch them up with a bit of money grease here and there.  Not that money isn’t useful…

Can you share a specific story of impact with ExpandED Schools:

I could tell lots of specific stories about rescued lives or better grades, but the real impact is that what we do is being copied around the country.  Our ideas are good enough to steal – and the best way to scale is to get other people to steal them and implement them. If they can learn from us and we can learn from them… magic!


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About

Julia Levy, Founder, has a decade of development experience, including working for a philanthropist, a small nonprofit and now a large nonprofit. She has raised significant dollars for numerous causes, from education to religion and from donors of all ages. Julia holds a Certificate in Fundraising from NYU’s Heyman Center for Philanthropy and an undergraduate degree from Cornell University. Julia has taught fundraising workshops, most recently at Brooklyn Brainery and coached development professionals.


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Why We Give tells stories of ordinary philanthropists, making a difference, dollar by dollar and hour by hour.  

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