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Live from Google: Time for Philanthropy 3.0?

By Tom Watson on April 12, 2007One Comment

Guest blogger Janice Schoos, senior managing director at our sister company Archimede Philanthropy Partners, is in Mountain View this week for the Global Philanthropy Forum at Google. She files this report:

This week, Google hosts the 6th Annual Global Philanthropy Forum conference at its headquarters in Mountain View, CA. The conference considers ways to apply market mechanisms to the problems of endemic poverty, disease and climate change. Entitled "Financing Social Change: Leveraging Markets and Entrepreneurship," the conference brings together 450 donors and social investors, as well as 80 Googlers, to discuss innovative approaches to systemic change.  The conference was created by the World Affairs Council to build a community of strategic philanthropists committed to international causes.

The first day of the conference was highlighted by a talk with Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.They were joined by Dr. Larry Brilliant, executive director of Google’s philanthropic arm,  The team talked about their plans to use the tools and technology of Google plus its staff (or Googlers as they are known) to focus its philanthropic efforts on poverty, public health, and climate change.

The team cited examples of using technology to change the way traditional systems work such as technology that translates Arabic to English, and technology to detect outbreaks of epidemics through community-based information reporting. Google also unveiled its collaboration with the United States Holocaust Museum that applies the technology of Google Earth to shed light on the atrocities occurring in Darfur. It incorporates high-resolution mapping imagery and photos of the people in the region to tell their stories of how their lives have been impacted. The goal of the site is to not only raise awareness of the issue but to also promote action for social change. 

Since its inception, Google founders have reminded its employees that their work should ‘Do no evil’ – that is, they need to consider the possible negative consequences of their actions.  Google has revised that belief to now state: ‘Be Good.’ Through they plan to take advantage of the opportunities the company has to do great good in the world.

While the team acknowledged that they have much to learn about philanthropy, it will be their untraditional approaches and eagerness to look beyond the barriers of private, government, and nonprofit sectors that will develop into Philanthropy 4.0 and beyond.

Meanwhile, the very definition of philanthropy continues to evolve. Judith Rodin, president of The Rockefeller Foundation, introduced the concept of Philanthropy 3.0 in the keynote address. Rodin recounted the great history of the foundation created by John D. Rockefeller and its need to remain nimble in order to continue to focus on root causes and address profound issues. She described Philanthropy 3.0 as an approach that acknowledges that no single player can solve problems alone. Philanthropists need to seek advice from experts, pool resources, collaborate with others, and listen to local people to learn from their on-the-ground experiences.

Iqbal Paroo, CEO of the Omidyar Network, expanded on the concept of Philanthropy 3.0 and stressed the role of philanthropists in helping to remove barriers so that people in developing countries can address their own needs.  Jacqueline Novogratz, founder and CEO of Acumen Fund, echoed Paroo’s focus on promoting local, commercially viable solutions that will only scale by providing access to capital markets. 

The idea of Philanthropy 3.0 was further demonstrated by Jean Oelwang, managing director of Virgin Unite, the independent charitable arm of the Virgin Group. Virgin Unite is the result of Richard Branson’s desire to combine the activities of its 200 businesses to focus on entrepreneurial approaches to social and environmental issues. Virgin Unite leverages the skills of social entrepreneurs by linking them with Virgin staff, its customers, suppliers, and their network. Yahoo! also takes a different approach to philanthropy than other corporations. Meg Garlinghouse of Yahoo! talked about how the Internet company believes it can make the greatest impact by connecting its 520 million users with issues and organizations through Yahoo! For Good.

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One Comment »

  • Evonne says:

    You’ve painted a very broad-brushstroke picture of the new philanthropy world, thank you! What do you see emerging as best practices in this Philanthropy 3.0 landscape? While I’m excited to see the Google mashups taking on amazing new forms in Darfur I’m eager to see more of what Paroo calls for in terms of removing barriers for grassroots organizations to find their voice and audience in a very busy world. Where do you see the greatest leadership in creating those open playing fields and where would you encourage new leaders to look first when seeking traction for grounded, good ideas?

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