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The moonshot moment: how to create impact – James Chen, Philanthropist

About This Episode

Philanthropist and Chairman of the Chen Yet-Sen Family Foundation, James Chen sits down with Michael this week to talk about how he is tackling the world’s largest unaddressed disability – poor vision; as founder of award-winning charity Vision for a Nation and the campaign Clearly. In this episode, James explains his unique take on philanthropy that involves catalysing change by investing in high-risk, moon-shot solutions and creating a domain expertise in specific focus areas: early childhood literacy and poor vision. This approach allows him to learn from and privatise his failures, while socialising his successes for greater impact. James also shares why family values are so important to him and how they inform his philanthropy, and the story behind his investment in Rising Phoenix, the major new Netflix film documenting the story of the Paralympic Games.

James Chen

Born in Asia, raised in Africa and educated in Europe and the US, James Chen is a venture philanthropist with a global outlook. The importance of giving back was instilled in him by his father, Robert Yet-Sen Chen, whose lifetime of philanthropic work led to the creation of The Chen Yet-Sen Family Foundation, which focuses on improving early childhood literacy. As chairman of the Foundation, James continues the work his father started. For the last 15 years, James has championed the cause of vision correction with campaigns Adlens, Vision For A Nation, and Clearly – to inspire new innovation and promote greater awareness of the global vision issue.

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Lockdown List

What is a book that has changed your life?

Give Smart by Tom Tierney

What are you watching in lockdown?

Rising Phoenix on Netflix

What is your lockdown soundtrack?

The Prayer – Celine Dion & Andrea Bocelli

I Have Nothing – Whitney Houston

Cry Me A River – Diana Krall

When Will I Be Loved? – Linda Ronstadt

My All – Mariah Carey

In one sentence, describe your new normal.

Living in a bubble world and hoping it deflates slowly and doesn’t pop.

Who is your biggest inspiration and why?

The Rockefeller family for their multigenerational family values grounded in a legacy of high impact philanthropy.

What is your best tip for life ?

Luck happens to those who are prepared.

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