retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Amazon founder-CEO Jeff Bezos yesterday pledged to spend $2 billion of his personal fortune to create what is being called the Bezos Day 1 Fund, which will address early childhood education issues and the problem of homelessness in America.

Bezos wrote on Twitter that “the Day 1 Families Fund will issue annual leadership awards to organizations and civic groups doing compassionate, needle-moving work to provide shelter and hunger support to address the immediate needs of young families. The vision statement comes from the inspiring Mary's Place in Seattle: no child sleeps outside.

“The Day 1 Academies Fund will launch and operate a network of high-quality, full-scholarship, Montessori-inspired preschools in underserved communities. We will build an organization to directly operate these preschools. I'm excited about that because it will give us the opportunity to learn, invent, and improve. We'll use the same set of principles that have driven Amazon. Most important among those will be genuine, intense customer obsession. The child will be the customer. ‘Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.’ And lighting the fire early is a giant leg up for any child.”

According to Quartz, “Mary’s Place is the local nonprofit that Amazon partnered with last year to build a 200-bed homeless shelter, slated to open in 2020, using 47,000 square feet of space in its next office. The plan was revealed in dramatic fashion, with an Amazon official delivering Mary’s Place a large golden key in an Amazon box. The year before that, Amazon donated one of its unused buildings, an old Travelodge hotel, as a temporary shelter. Seattle’s homelessness crisis is one of the worst in the country, thanks in part to a booming tech sector and soaring rents.

Yet Amazon hasn’t always been so willing to help the homeless. Earlier this year, for example, Seattle City Council proposed a ‘head tax’ on large employers that would be used to fund homelessness and affordable housing programs,” and Amazon was one of several big local companies that lobbied furiously - and, ultimately, successfully - against it.
KC's View:
There are some folks - and they have a legitimate argument - who are saying that this is just a public relations move by Bezos, that he wants to quiet the critics.

Even if that is a little true, I’m happy to take him at his word on this. Bezos is a change-the-world kind of guy, and these are two major issues that, if they’re going to addressed, require both a nuanced public policy approach and a concerted effort by the likes of Bezos.

If Bezos can brings the ingenuity that drives Amazon to both homelessness and education, I’m certainly willing to give him a shot.