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The Weekly Good: Google’s “Director Of Giving” Discusses Global Concerns And Action

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[Note: This is a weekly series. If your company is doing something amazing to help a charitable cause or doing some good in your community, please reach out.]

Google has always been a company that takes global challenges seriously, participating in a slew of crisis response projects and data analysis through its nonprofit Google.org arm.

At the beginning of the month, we told you about a new $23 million fund started by Google called the “Global Impact Awards,” and it was the first that I had heard of the role of “Director of Giving” at the company. This was intriguing, and I had a chance to speak with Jacquelline Fuller who has held this title at Google for five years:

Can you tell us a little bit about your role at Google, and more importantly your team’s role and goals?

I lead Google Giving which includes our recently announced Global Impact Awards. We believe technology can help solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges, and we back innovators who are using tech in clever ways to bring transformational impact at scale. Technology has exploded progress across business, information and science — we need to see that leap frog innovation in the social impact sector. Over the years we’ve heard from various partners that what sets us apart is our willingness to fund new breakthrough ideas and to take informed risk. We launched Global Impact Awards to help spur innovation and contribute to the movement toward more data-driven philanthropy.

What are some of the things you’ve done in the past to help bring awareness to important needs and events?

0c8f52aWe were shocked to learn that more people are enslaved today than at any other point in human history. Think about that. What’s more critical than having your own freedom? So last year we provided over $11 million in grants to address the issue of human trafficking and slavery. Our support helped to free thousands of people and is keeping millions more from ever falling victim to this horrible crime. We’re seeing a lot more attention to this issue from governments, nonprofits and the media. And that type of awareness is key to fighting a problem like slavery.

What are your long-term goals as a company to keep trying to help push the world “forward” for good?

From the very beginning, Larry and Sergey have talked about using technology and innovation to drive ambitious social impact. That’s pretty unconventional for a company, and we hold ourselves to a high standard for how we can do that. Google engineers develop products such as Public Alerts through Crisis Response or Flu Trends. We have programs for free and discounted ads and apps for nonprofits. My team’s goal is to encourage innovation in the social impact sector.

Can you share an anecdote about how something Google has done has affected or benefited someone directly?

One of our grantees, Samasource, is working in Africa, South Asia and other marginalized areas to bring paid work to people in need. Last year with our support they helped over 2,000 people escape poverty through computer-based microwork. One young woman in Kenya started out in the Samasource center and moved on to start an NGO to stop gender-based violence in universities. She used the income generated from her Samasource assignments to start that organization.

How long has Google done this?

Giving back and supporting innovation has been a core part of Google’s culture since the very beginning.

Do you have plans for any hackathons with a focus on helping people?

We’ve done a few ‘develop for good’ hackathons in the past, and have received submissions for how to tackle issues in sustainability, illicit networks and citizen engagement. We’ve found that engineers are really eager to put their tech skills to good use and have important insights to offer nonprofits for how they can be more data-oriented. We’re looking to do more hackathons in the future, so stay tuned!

What’s the most difficult part of trying to do things “for good”? Do you get a lot of presentations and pleas for help sent your way?

We don’t accept unsolicited proposals for the Global Impact Awards, but our team works through hundreds of ideas sourced from Googlers. We also do proactive analyses of various issues and potential solutions. For me, I think the biggest challenge is that no amount of money can be thrown at these types of problems to make them go away in a night. There’s always a need for incremental aid that will pull at the heart strings and that’s hard. But while it may not be as sexy, we think funding tech and innovation is the best way for Google to help drive transformational impact at scale.

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It’s extremely important that large companies like Google are participating in nonprofit activities that benefit the greater good of the world. Facebook has done this on multiple occasions, with its CEO Mark Zuckerberg leading the way.

All tech companies can participate, even individual developers, marketers and executives. One person can make a difference, but collectively we can make real change and have an impact.

In case you’ve missed our previous Weekly Good pieces, have a look here, here, here and here.