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B-N Native Jean Case: Social Investing Can Become 'Capitalism 2.0’

Jean Case at Airbnb home
Case Foundation
Jean Case wrote her new book at a home she rented on East Washington Street in Bloomington.

A Bloomington-Normal native who is spending much of her time now looking for ways to help others, has written a best-selling book that aims to help others help themselves.

Jean Case
Credit Case Foundation
Jean Case has made philanthropy much of her life's mission after she and her husband Steve Case rose to fame and fortune at America Online.

Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation and a former America Online executive, wrote "Be Fearless: 5 Principles for a Life of Breakthroughs and Purpose."

She said her husband Steve Case, the former CEO of AOL, suggested she go back to her roots in the Twin Cities to write the book to “stay grounded through the writing process.”

“I was so grateful for that suggestion because that’s exactly what it did,” she said. “It kept me very connected in a very real way to my own upbringing and to some of the early influences I had in my life.”

Case, who was born in Bloomington and lived in Normal until age 11, returned in 2017 by renting a house in the 1300 block of East Washington Street, “around the corner” from where her grandparents used to live.

“As I would take breaks from writing and ride my bike, I was just filled with memories of those neighborhoods and those houses and some of those people and to be honest with you, some of it still seemed very much the same and that was such a great feeling,” she said.

Case said the book is for anyone who has an idea and is looking for a framework to make it happen.

“The book is really a playbook and while it’s based on those five principles, it’s also a storytelling book that can bring those principles to life and I think serve as an inspiration for anyone who wants to see change in this world,” she said.

Case Foundation

Steve and Jean Case seated with Nelson Mandela
Credit Case Foundation
Jean and Steve Case are pictured with Nelson Mandela. “Nelson Mandela’s life was a true model of the Be Fearless spirit and principles," she said.

The Cases have pledged to give away a majority of their wealth, which is estimated at $1.4 billion. The foundation is focusing on what it calls impact investing, funding causes which produce a social or environmental benefit, not just a financial return.

“I think it is a new and innovate way to look at challenges in our communities and around the world more broadly and use very much a business, entrepreneurial focus to solve them,” Case said. “It really could become almost a form of Capitalism 2.0.”

National Geographic

Jean Case is also chair of the board of National Geographic, which is developing a photo ark.

Photographer Joel Sartore is capturing images of about 12,500 animal species in captivity. The work is still in progress, but Sartore has captured some of his several thousand images at Miller Park Zoo in Bloomington.

Case said her many visits to Miller Park Zoo when she was growing up helped foster her love of animals.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.