"Safer, Stronger Communities." A Young Tech Couple Embraces Criminal Justice Reform

Social media has been powerfully leveraged by recent movements like Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, and Black Lives Matter. When the events of Ferguson, Missouri were unraveling last year, my first instinct wasn't to turn on CNN, but rather log on to Twitter and Facebook. These platforms felt like the primary source. Everything else felt secondary, at a distance.

Jack Dorsey recently linked up with civil rights activist DeRay McKesson to talk about how social media influences poltical causes, and not long ago Mark Zuckerberg scolded employees for altering Black Lives Matter messaging. It certainly makes sense that the creators of these platforms would be influenced by the voices using them.

This brings us to Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger and his wife Kaitlyn. The young couple, only in their early thirties, are worth some $100 million, and are already making philanthropic moves. In late 2015, Krieger and Kaitlyn established Future Justice Fund (FJF), whose first focus area is criminal justice reform in the U.S., with an "emphasis on ending mass incarceration and creating safer, stronger communities." 

For now, the effort is still in its formative stages. Kaitlyn, who serves as president of FJF, tells me that they've made a few grants, but are still figuring their way through this layered space, refining their focus areas, and possibly adding additional ones. In the coming months, Inside Philanthropy aims to keep in touch with FJF and provide an update. 

The Kriegers are following in the footsteps of several other philanthropic couples who entered the criminal justice space in recent years. As we've reported, John and Laura Arnold have made this area a big priority, as have Bill and Karen Ackman. Through their foundation, Good Ventures, Dustin Moskovitz and Cari Tuna are also focusing on criminal justice, bringing millions of dollars in new money to a cause that many funders see as a spot where progress is possible. 

Speaking of Cari Tuna, after meeting with her, the Kriegers committed to working with GiveWell and the Open Philanthropy Project. Open Philanthropy Project, a collaboration between Good Ventures (which Tuna leads) and GiveWell, focuses on such a range of policy areas. 

Krieger and Kaitlyn have committed $750,000 over the next two years and Kaitlyn will also spend around two days a week at GiveWell, which shares offices with Good Ventures in San Francisco. What kinds of projects will the couple's funds help support? It's hard to say precisely. But in Kaityln's blog she lays out the couple's philanthropic mission statement:

We believe that all people deserve a free, vibrant, and productive life. To support this vision, we identify and champion forward-thinking ideas, and help scale solutions that work. To create significant, sustainable change, we are committed to systems-level thinking and rigorous analysis. We advocate collaboration and transparency to engage a broader community and magnify our impact.

The Kriegers are the first outside donors to hook up with the Open Philanthropy Project in a major way. While this initiative has largely functioned so far as an arm of Good Ventures, Cari Tuna has told us that the long-term goal here is to build a platform that is useful to a range of funders looking to expand their giving and deepen their learning. Certainly there is no shortage of such folks in the Bay Area right now. And it's interesting to watch as Tuna, who is still a relative newcomer herself to philanthropy, emerges as a leader in helping other tech givers get up to speed. 

Kaitlyn also mentioned other things the couple are interested in, including the arts, education, and supporting the Bay Area. Mike and Kaitlyn have been involved with SFMOMA and SFJAZZ, as well as after-school programs like Little Opera. Kaitlyn was once a trustee of the San Francisco Awesome Foundation, which gives monthly $1000 microgrants to projects that bring "fresh conversation and general awesomeness to the Bay Area." Kaitlyn, however, left the board to dedicate more time to FJF. 

This is definitely a couple to watch carefully in the coming years. As Kaitlyn puts it, "Mike and I are committed to giving away a lot of our wealth during the course of our lifetime. It’s very early days, so one of our biggest goals is educating ourselves about the landscape and and context of philanthropy today."

Stay tuned.

RelatedMike Krieger Profile