Google’s $10 million for social entrepreneurs

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I’m always interested in what Google does for CSI (corporate social investment). In this case, they’re going to be choosing no more than five projects that ‘help as many people as possible, in any way’ and finding funding to launch them.

The winners will say a lot about how the company (and the people who vote for the ideas online) frame problems in different socio-economic contexts, and how they think these problems can be solved. Interestingly, the focus is on the idea rather than the people (you can submit an idea and suggest an org to carry it out, but Google will decide who should implement the project). I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing – ideas people are not always good at implementing – I only wonder whether they should also have had a more participatory process to decide on the who the implementers will be. Implementation partners should be measured by their experience and reputation – and what better way to measure that than to open this up to the wider community to help decide.

I also wonder why Google didn’t find a better way to enable people outside of the Google context (not necessarily offline users in the developing world, but at least those who spend less time online at telecentres etc due to high costs than their Northern counterparts) to help decide the winning ideas. If you’re going to get a community to decide, then you need to ensure that you have a representative sample to help decide it. Otherwise it will, once again, be someone else’s solution to someone else’s problem.

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