I was wondering when Google will sprout with a philanthropic angle to it's functioning and was happy today to find Google.Org. I was happier to see it's inspiration -- none other than our very own Mahatma Gandhi.
The question that was posed to Google was the obvious one: we have loads of money we can give for good causes, and there are loads of great organisations all over the world who can benefit from our donations, how do we decide?
A good question to ponder for all of us wanting to donate.
The answer came from a Gandhi talisman: "Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen, and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it?"
According to an article on Google's grass-root efforts in Slate magazine: "...less than one-third of the money that people gave to nonprofits in 2005 went to help the economically disadvantaged. The world's poorest are virtually ignored by the philanthropic giving of some of the world's wealthiest citizens. So our first criterion had to be Gandhi's talisman: How will our work help the poorest and weakest of the world?"
The second question Google looked at was something that needed to fit in with it's philosophy of "think bigger": Is the potential initiative a big enough idea?
Basis that they say (in the article): "...the initiative now includes stimulating financing to small and medium-sized enterprises by finding ways to lower transaction costs, deepen capital markets, and catalyze the flow of other money along with our own."
And finally, in terms of addressing whether Google has the expertise to run such a philanthropic initiative successfully, it decided to use the efforts of its (close to 17,000) employees in an hybrid-philanthropic system where there is complete integration between Google and Google.Org.
A pretty straight forward 3-step plan huh.
It is very interesting to see such big organisations divert a good amount of time and energy towards social causes -- I think Microsoft takes the lead with that. It's also interesting to see the rapid rise of social capitalism and the growing importance of it being fundamental for the success of a company. The objective? With the huge recession in the global economy, organisations with a large amount of money and resources will have to play lead in large-scale social movements, not only to make a real difference in the world, but to be successful as an organisation. Much pressure for this comes from world leaders.
Perhaps there is much more hope for the world than we realize. All of a sudden, I don't despise the multinational monsters.