The Chairman and CEO of Dilworth Paxson was recognized for his efforts to re-establish Philadelphia as a global center of policy, commerce and culture.
Prominent Indian American lawyer Ajay Raju was recognized at the fourth American Bazaar Philanthropy Dialogue and Dinner on Saturday for his efforts to turn around the fortunes of Philadelphia and re-establish the city as a global force in business, culture and policy.
Raju, the Chairman and CEO of the Philadelphia-based Dilworth Paxson, received the American Bazaar Philanthropy Award from Indian American philanthropist and entrepreneur Frank Islam, the 2015 honoree.
Raju, 47, and his wife, Pamela, founded the Pamela and Ajay Raju Foundation for the development of Philadelphia and the surrounding areas.
The Germination Project, one of the signature initiatives of the foundation, grooms the next generation of Philadelphia’s business, political and civic leaders. “The Germination Project is a 50-year battle,” Raju said while answering a question from Larry Platt, who moderated a “fireside chat” with him.
Earlier, Raju was introduced by Platt, a well-known journalist and author who co-founded The Philadelphia Citizen, another initiative of the Raju Foundation.
“In short strokes, it is to identify the best in talent at the 10th grade level, train them to be civic-minded as well as be good in their chosen profession and to retain them for Philadelphia’s good by making sure that they come back and serve their professional career as well as their philanthropy and service within Philadelphia,” Raju said about the Germination Project.
Explaining why most of his philanthropic efforts are concentrated in Philadelphia, the Indian American lawyer said it was because the city is his “new home, adopted home and I am loyal to it” and also because “I think Philadelphia also uniquely made who I am.”
Raju pointed out that Philadelphia had a glorious past. “If you think about Philadelphia, at one point it was a Mecca,” he said. “That’s where all great changes, whether it is policy, commerce, culture, everything happened in Philadelphia. Along the way… we lost that prominence to a lot of cities. Silicon Valley is the perfect example.”
He said that “the Germination Project is an effort to sort of identify those heroes, who would do well, who would become the next Mark Zuckerbergs but then also along the way we will also have a sense of civic commitment to not only solve Philadelphia’s problem by extension of their genius solve humanity’s problem.”
The legal luminary said that his idea of philanthropy is to “not just serve as only a grant-making philanthropy but instead” one that focuses on creating “new ideas that can be incubated.” He added: “[Once] you plant the seed, it then grows into an ecosystem and people can grow with it.”
Earlier, Islam, in his address, underscored the importance of giving back to the society through “purposeful philanthropy.”
Speaking on the role of purposeful philanthropy, he said that it concentrates on improving circumstances and conditions. “The focus in purposeful philanthropy is to enable and empower people by giving them a helping hand and a hand up rather than a handout,” he said. “The focus in purposeful philanthropy is solving problems and is being engaged and is to create a better world by doing good.”
Islam, who made a $2 million donation to his alma mater Aligarh Muslim University for the construction of a new management complex named after him and his wife, also stressed on the necessity of investing in areas such as education, arts, world peace and civic engagement.
The Potomac, MD, resident said his foundation is one these areas because improvement in them “can make a substantial difference.”
He added: “Education is bridge to the future and opportunity creator. It moves people up the ladder and to help others climb the ladder with them. It is the gift that keeps on giving. It is a powerful equalizer for opening doors to all to lift themselves out of poverty. Education provides the keys to the kingdom.”
More than two-dozen nonprofits and foundations attended the fourth American Bazaar Philanthropy Dialogue and Dinner. Prominent speakers included Navneet Chugh, founder of Chugh LLP and a member of the board of Pratham; Alex Counts, president and CEO of the American India Foundation; Jay Sehgal, a trustee of the Sehgal Foundation; Venky Raghavendra, a vice president at Safe Water Network and an adviser to the Government of India’s National Skills Development Corporation; and Pranav Desai, founder of Voice Of SAP.