After creating the world of eBay, a place where people could easily share passions and build businesses, Pierre Omidyar realized he had to take that platform out into the real world, to empower those in need. In the last decade, Omidyar and his wife have committed $1 billion to just that, and have earned a Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy Award for their efforts.
Every two years, the Carnegie Medal award honors magnanimous individuals and families who, like Andrew Carnegie, use their private wealth to make a lasting impact on a field, nation, or international community. Omidyar and his wife, Pamela -- one of 11 recipients -- have used their success to help tackle human trafficking and health issues as well as embolden entrepreneurs.
"I created [eBay] with the belief that people are good. If you give people the opportunity to do the right thing, you'll rarely be disappointed," Omidyar told The Huffington Post. "After eBay became so financially successful, I really felt a sense of responsibility to put that to good use."
Pierre and Pamela -- both 44 years old -- have already established three nonprofits and said that they are just getting warmed up in the area of giving back.
"Everyone is born equally capable, but lacks equal opportunity," Pierre said of his inspiration to launch the Omidyar Network, a philanthropic investment firm that gives disadvantaged people the tools they need to achieve financial success.
This organization is unique in that it makes investments in for-profit companies and grants for nonprofit organizations.
One of many businesses that has emerged from the network is D.Light, an India-based lantern company that provides low-cost lights to residents who either rely on hazardous kerosene lamps after dark, or who live without electricity altogether.
Pamela took the lead in 2005 in establishing Humanity United, a nonprofit that tackles issues of human trafficking and conflict across the world. The organization focuses its efforts on forging peace in Sudan and helping to build a democratic state in Liberia. It also established the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking to help put an end to modern-day slavery.
The HopeLab uses the palatable nature of technology to help improve children's health. The organization, for example, created a video game for adolescents with cancer. The game offers a digestible way for adolescents to better understand what is attacking their bodies. Those who played the games have improved compliance to their medication, Pierre said.
"This could hopefully lead to better outcomes," he said.
Though the Omidyars have committed a jaw-dropping $1 billion to making the world a better place, Pierre said he believes the dollar amount isn't the most critical component when it comes to exacting change.
"When you look at this top line number, it's very easy to focus on dollars," Pierre said. "The money matters, but the impact matters more. We're really committed to trying to find new tools to have impact. That has been the most rewarding part of this journey."
See the full list of Carnegie Medal Winners.
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CORRECTION: This post originally called the award the Carnegie Mellon, when it's actually the Carnegie Medal. The story has been updated to reflect the change.
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