John Paul

Google Foundation invests in BOP

Google has announced the creation of a foundation with the explicit goal of ?giving on world poverty and the environment, an unusual move in the world of corporate philanthropy, which usually picks safer causes such as education.?

One of the most interesting aspects of the fund is that it will support for-profit enterprises.

“They’re taking the approach of, ’Let’s spend a little bit of money to figure out what would be the best way to spend a lot more money,’ in the hopes of creating a philanthropic organization that could “eclipse Google itself in terms of overall world impact.’’

The fund has been initially capitalized with $90 million, with a commitment to donate 1% of annual profits. Google plans to spend even more money — up to $175 million in the next three years — outside its foundation on groups that the foundation might be restricted from supporting, such as some for-profit businesses.

“I think we’re seeing somewhat of a blurring between the non-profit and the for-profit sectors.?

It’s great to see a dynamic company like Google taking such a forward-looking approach to their philanthropic efforts. Much like similar efforts by the Shell Foundation, there seems to be a recognition that the biggest problems take the longest time to solve, and that requires patient capital and a good business model to ensure sustainability.

Hopefully, the company’s strategy will include an effort to develop their own products and services that reduce poverty by meeting critical BOP needs. For instance, I?m sure most of you have heard the rumors of Google’s intent on building a nationwide Wifi network. What’s to stop them from doing the same in Mexico?