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Google.org speaker note October 28, 2008

Posted by jasonized in Uncategorized.

Below are notes from the talk of Alix Zwane and John Lyman of Google.org, given at GSPP on 10/28/08:

Alix Zwane, Program Manager, Google.org

•    Google.org is a center within the Google business
o    The Google Foundation is simply a financing mechanism—no one is employed there
o    A lot of funding is simply taken out of the bottom line of the company
•    Changes the liability and accounting issues
•    Enables making investments
•    Not supposed to be a traditional philanthropy
•    Philosophy of “play every key on the keyboard”
•    How it developed
o    Executive Director Larry Brilliant was hired
•    Infectious diseases/public health guy
•    Worked in Silicon Valley start-ups
o    Looked for areas that were a good fit for Google the company, the team assembled, and what matched resources available
•    Climate change (RE<C)
o    Invest in RE technology and decrease the costs
o    Plug-in vehicles
o    Energy Efficiency
•    Global Health (Predict and Prevent)
o    Using information and info-based tools to detect and predict emerging threats
•    Infectious diseases are but one application
•    Areas of focus: SE Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa just below the Sahara
•    Global Development (Inform and Empower)
o    Information and accountability in service delivery
•    Theory is that information is a necessary condition for accountability
•    Tracking who said what, who’s responsible, what’s happened, etc
•    For people, governments, and service providers
o    Not simply about citizen voice; it’s also about helping identify new solutions
•    Track what works and what doesn’t
•    Assist with policy innovation
o    Primarily water and sanitation sectors
•    Alix Zwane works here
•    Background in impact analysis as well as sectors
•    We have a totally different culture than the World Bank and other international development orgs
o    Google values metrics and quantitative targets
o    We don’t write memos, we do 5-min talks
•    Opportunities
o    Limited—nothing right now
o    Recommend WB Young Professionals program
o    Look for hybrid philanthropy
o    Look at Poverty Action Lab
o    Look at Innovation for Poverty Action

John Lyman, SME, Google.org (MPP ’07)

•    SME program has been put on hold
•    Paths MPPs take
o    International development
•    Primarily on their own, get experience in the field
•    A lot of folks in Clinton Global Initiative
o    Consulting
•    A lot of folks at Deloitte
o    New Philanthropies
•    Do both investments and grants, don’t worry about tax-exemption
o    Climate
•    PG&E, CPUC
•    Classic GSPP job
o    Government
•    SF Municipal Government
•    Go to DC

Q: How do you do grants?
AZ: We do outcome mapping (IDRC uses this). We spell out impact pathways and look for the intermediate steps in the paths where we can actually intervene effectively. We contract on outcomes, not outputs—find things that grantee and Google.org both care about.

Q: What is your work in SE Asia?
AZ: It’s primarily infectious diseases detection.
JL: And we use Google as a tool—we can see geographically where search terms for symptoms pop up!

Q: How do you leverage to skills of Google engineers?
AZ: We bring our uses to the engineers—we present them with a possible application to keep in mind when developing a tool. Also, data standards and platforms to share data drive down costs dramatically.
AZ: Privacy at Goolge is key, partners don’t like that…

Q: What’s the planning horizon like? O3b…
AZ: We’re investors—so we’re investing in Africa with O3b. And at the same time we have the Silicon Valley rush. We have balance between the short-term and long-term.
JL: In a big company, we have a lot going on.

Q: What does it look like on the ground?
A: We make grants not just for platforms, but also for content creation—populating data. We also recognize that data has to get disseminated offline, especially in developing countries—finding scalable lessons.

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