Strategic Philanthropy, Lecture by Larry Brilliant / Google.org (2008)

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Displaying all 6 video lectures.
Lecture 1
Strategic Philanthropy
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Strategic Philanthropy

Find something in the world you're capable of fixing, and use all the skills at your disposal to make it work. Acting for the common good should be as commonplace and as devotional as going into business, says Google.org Executive Director Larry Brilliant. Making the world a better place should take the same focus as devising the next great widget.




Transcript



We talk about strategic philanthropy in a way that's different than charity and a way that's different than just giving money. It's trying to find something in the world that is wrong or could be better that you can fix, and use all the skills that you're learning right now in school, at Stanford, and use those skills and try to think of the project that you're doing and put the same skills and attention to fixing that problem as you would to running a business. The world's a little topsy-turvy. Sometimes, our best and brightest go into business instead of into philanthropy. My hope is that we'll be able to change that balance just a little bit by the work that we're doing.

Lecture 2
Hunting for the Right Cause
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Hunting for the Right Cause

In addition to dollars, Google.org harnesses the company's engineering talent to try to make the world fairer, more just, and safer, says the corporate non-profit's Executive Director Larry Brilliant. The company made a decision to dedicate one percent of its profits to global causes. It took 18 months to find that unique short list of problems that Google could uniquely solve, at the right scale, with sustainable results. Brilliant also explains his philosophy of Ghandi's talisman which helped him find the right focus.




Transcript



So when I got to Google, Larry and Sergei had created this organization called Google.org. They tried to do something new. Instead of making a 501(c)(3), a regular foundation that used tax advantage money, instead, they made a pledge to shareholders that they would put 1% of Google's equity, 1% of Google's profits, and a large percentage of Google's talented engineering and other staff to work for things that wouldn't benefit shareholders but would benefit the world. And that became Google.org. When I came there about two and a half years ago, the real question was, "How do you choose from all the awful things in the world, the thing that we could do uniquely," or said in another way, "How do you take the engineering and the skills, not the money, but the idea of Google, and use those resources for making the world a little bit better, a little bit fairer, a little bit more just, a little bit safer?" I think I had only been at Google for about a month when I had received almost 10,000 letters, emails, packages at my doorstep, phone calls from people who had very good ideas on how that money could be used. These were good people. They were very noble people with great projects. Sorting through them was the hardest task that we had. It took us a year and a half, which seems like an awful long time. It took us a year and a half to take those 10,000 good ideas and come up with five that we thought we could add unique benefit to. In doing it, we first started off by saying, "What's the single most important criteria?" There's a lot of criteria. One of them is, "Can Google add anything different than the Red Cross or another organization?" Another criteria is, "Is it big enough?" Is the idea big enough? Will it scale? Will what you're doing scale? Another is, "Is it sustainable?" Just like questions you'd ask if you're looking at a business plan. But I started off with something called Gandhi's Talisman. This is an answer that Gandhi gave when he was leading the resistance movement against the British, and people would come to him and say, "Mahatma, how do I know if what I'm doing is good?" What is the summum bonum? What is the ultimate test of whether what I'm doing is good or not? He said, "I will give you a talisman. I will give you an amulet, a charm that will protect you from ever making a mistake." That talisman was this. He said, "Before you act, consider the face of the poorest and most destitute person that you have ever chance to meet. Remember that person and his life and his circumstances, and then ask yourself if that which you are about to do will benefit that person. And if it will, you're doing the right thing. You're safe. You're protected from making a mistake. And if it won't, think again."

Lecture 3
A New Breed of Entrepreneur
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A New Breed of Entrepreneur

Young people with mammoth commercial success have bred a new kind of philanthropic entrepreneur, says Google.org's Executive Director Larry Brilliant. And Brilliant also explains his optimism in smallpox, using it as a case study on a managed disease that once killed half a billion people worldwide. Through global unity and a concentrated effort, akin to what Google.org strives to accomplish in other areas, the virus was eradicated; thanks, in equal parts, to scientific discovery and philanthropic will.




Transcript



And I really am very optimistic because what has happened against this background of all of these grave issues that we face, largely out of Stanford and colleges like Stanford, a new breed of entrepreneurs and philanthropists have emerged; the Pierre Omidyars, the Jeff Skolls, the Mark Benioffs, Larry and Sergei. Where did these people come from? When I was growing up, we didn't have people who would make such a terrific commercial success, and then while we were still young turn their attention to the big problems of humanity. You live in a very special time. You are not only privileged because you get to go to a school like Stanford. You are privileged because around you are people who will reshape the world. And one person with a great idea can make a Google and a Google.org, and Bill Gates can make the Gates' Foundation. This is a time of grave danger but even more richer opportunities. I'll tell you a little bit about smallpox because I will never be able to be pessimistic having seen the worst disease in history eradicated. When I worked in India in 1974, most of you were not even a gleam in your parents' eyes in 1974, there were 188,000 children who died that year in India. I was in places in Bihar state where the rivers stopped running because of the bodies that were thrown into the rivers. I probably have seen 5,000 little babies die of this terrible disease which was the worst disease in history. In the last century, the one that ended nine years ago, wasn't so far away. Half a billion people died of smallpox. That's not a word-o or a typo. Half a billion people died of smallpox. More people died of smallpox than any disease in history and in all the wars of history that have been recorded. It goes back to one of the biblical plagues being boils. This is a picture of Pharaoh Ramsey who died of smallpox. How do we know he died of smallpox? Because this little area of his skin, a friend of mine from CDC was asked by Anwar Sadat's widow to come and open up the sarcophagus and look at the mummy and take a little piece of skin and put it under an electron microscope and we could still see smallpox viruses. So this is a disease which began back in antiquity, and I was able to see the very last case of smallpox in nature. So I can never be pessimistic in the midst of the worst plague or the worst disaster, and you shouldn't be either. Because if humanity can set aside our historic problems and conquer a disease like smallpox, and soon, polio, and please, God, soon after that, malaria, and in between, we'll get rid of Guinea worm. These are great accomplishments but they take more than just science. They take will. They take the same will that it takes to start a company and to push it through into marketability. It takes something which public health has not historically had a great deal of, but now, we're finding new ways to do that. This is my favorite slide. It is my favorite slide not because I like to see the death of kings and queens and sovereigns. It is not my favorite slide because we can put a list of all the great people with all the wealth in the world and all the power and they died from one disease. But it's my favorite slide because it tells me and it should tell you that, at some level, we're all in this together. That it's true that 99.4% of all of our genetic material is the same. That it doesn't matter what race we are, what religion and what national origin. At some level, if you're not vaccinated against a new virus which kills people and you get it, you're going to die. We share that in common. So if we pollute the water and we pollute the air, there's no place to hide. There is no amount of wealth that will allow you to buy your private island because these guys have tried all throughout history, but they died from smallpox. To get rid of smallpox, it took the largest army in United Nation's history. In India alone, we had 150,000 people who went door-to-door trying to find every case of hidden smallpox. We visited every house in India every month regularly for 20 months. We made over a billion house calls. Something you won't find too many doctors even at Stanford doing, I think. This is a classic case of smallpox. I don't put it up here to make you feel bad or turn away. I put it here because it's actually a very mild case of smallpox. Just to give you an idea of how horrible the disease was: In a bad case of smallpox which we call confluent smallpox, there will not be a single point on this child's skin where you could put your finger. The fact that there are some isolated areas means this child will live and not die, whereas a third of all kids who got smallpox did die. This is really an important graph because it's a histogram and it shows you that in 1974, we reached the peak of the most number of cases of smallpox recorded in human history. We had to do that because if we didn't find every case of smallpox at the same time, every virus in the world, on the planet at the same time, we could not a circle of immunity around it and stop that virus from going on to the next susceptible patient. I put this here just to remind me the number of people who worked from 50 different countries and put down the things that divided them so they could work together on a common cause. That's what we're trying to do right now in fighting against climate change. That's what we're trying to do right now in fighting against new diseases. We don't have that level of effort yet in trying to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. We don't have that level of agreement yet on education and how to make new jobs in Africa, but we're just getting started.

Lecture 4
Google.org's Five Core Initiatives
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Google.org's Five Core Initiatives

After a mock trial session to whittle down the most critical causes from an applicant pool of 10,000, Google.org chose just five areas of concentration: renewable energy, plug-in vehicles, prevention of pandemics, famines, and floods, public services for the poor, and job creation. And the organization's Executive Director, Larry Brilliant, offers this overview of these pressing global issues, and pinpoints Google's resources dedicated toward finding solutions, using tools such as financing, Google Earth, and the engineering of solar energy.




Transcript



I'll tell you a little bit now about our five core initiatives. We started off with those 10,000 ideas. We boiled them down to 900 concrete initiatives, and then we held the equivalent of a mock court which went on for about six months, where anyone who wanted to bring forth an initiative that we should do had to bring it to trial, and the other people who thought they had a better idea were the judges, and we fought pretty hard about that. We've come up with five. One of them is to redevelop renewable energy at a price cheaper than coal, and I'll tell you a little bit more about that. Accelerate the commercialization of plug-in vehicles. To try to create systems which predict and prevent novel communicable diseases that could become pandemic; to find them early and to stop them. Then, hopefully, to develop some techniques that could be used to do the same thing for famines and for floods and for droughts; early warning systems. To inform and empower and a way to improve public services for the poor. I'll tell you a little bit more about that. To try to create jobs, mostly in Africa and South Asia, for people living in the poorest countries. So first of all, in the last three decades, there have been 30 novel emerging communicable diseases that had not existed in the form we see them now, before. Seventy five percent of them were zoonotic diseases that jumped species because of this population and animal pressure. It has led to a whole new concept called One World One Health, where the health of the environment, the health of the animals, and the health of the insects and the health of humans are all looked at the same way, bringing veterinarian epidemiology and human epidemiology together. Do you know what an epidemic curve is? How many of you know what an epidemic curve is? OK. It's pretty easy to figure out what it is by its name, but if you were looking at the number of cases of diarrhea disease following a picnic, you would see that over time, the number of cases would go up and then everybody who could get the disease would have it and become immune and the number of cases would go down. So an epidemic curve looks a little bit like that in most instances. The actual curve for HIV/AIDS looks a little bit like that because it's still going up. It's a huge pandemic and it hasn't come down and won't for some time. Right here is where we are. This is when we first find a few cases of a disease. The goal of this initiative is to move the epidemic curve two steps to the left so that we can find cases earlier and then even go even earlier than that and identify the hotspots where they might occur. I'll give you a couple of quick examples about that. We are funding a group that's in Palo Alto here, a group called InSTEDD which is trying to take the tools of Silicon Valley and the technology community and give it to the early responders. So right now, they're working in Burma, for example, trying to give people the tools to share information, share news reports, have shared databases, use satellite data to identify islands right now that are inundated with water where people are searching and can't be found after the cyclone. Even better than that would be if we could find the first cases of SARS before they became pandemic. SARS is a disease of bats. Bats bit civet cats. Civet cats are a delicacy in Southeast Asia, and in the live markets where these animals are traded, the virus got loose and infected people. That's what started the almost pandemic of SARS. Bird flu is a disease mostly of ducks and chickens, and all flu is bird flu. If you could find SARS or you could find bird flu while it was still in animals and know that that was the virus that would jump to humans, that would be one form of early detection. If you could take it a step further, you can do a complete inventory of all the viruses and all the animals in the world and apply a great search engine so you could find any similarities and learn which of them were most probable of becoming a pandemic, that would even be another step to the left. So this is one of our initiatives, and for those of you who are in public health, I think you understand this changes the game. If we can solve this problem, we have a different way of approaching public health problems. In Africa and in Asia, there's very little money that goes into the kinds of startup companies that produce jobs. There's lots of money now for micro credit, for small loans, that are used by individuals to smooth over the ups and downs of daily life in poor countries. There's lots of money for banks to fund extraction industries and to give large debt financing to oil or gas or diamonds. In between, there's a missing middle; the butcher, the baker. They're not able to get financing. If you think of SYSCO, the one that's S-Y-S-C-O, not C-I-S-C-O, which is a food services company, how is Africa ever going to have a food services company as large as SYSCO? Where will it get the financing? Right now, today, there's a butcher in Ghana named Joseph Tackie, and he wants to buy a second refrigeration system so he can keep good clean meat and begin to deliver it to restaurants and deliver it to food stores. That may become Africa's next SYSCO if he can get financing. There's lots of money that wants to go into these small companies but there are terrible obstacles preventing the money from going in. Do you know of sovereign wealth funds, crown funds? These are the funds which Singapore started and Kuwait started where the money from commerce goes into one fund owned as part of the public service, the government. There are more than $10 trillion today in sovereign wealth funds but it doesn't go into these small companies because there are no exit vehicles, there are no IPOs, there are no mergers and acquisitions. There are no rules governing the value. There are no generally accepted accounting principles. There's no way even to deal with the high transaction cost that it takes to make a $50,000 investment. We're going to spend $100 million trying to solve that problem. If we can find a way that makes it possible for you and I and our pension funds and our mutual funds and our private equity funds to invest in these small companies, we can solve a huge problem and unleash this huge torrent of capital. The same thing is true in a little different way in public services. There's a big fight right now in the developing world. I went to Africa last year to TED, and Brook was there with me. We watched 100 African entrepreneurs who were fellows, and Bono was there. These 100 African entrepreneurs, when Bono got on the stage, they booed him. They booed him. They said, "We don't want foreign aid. If you want to make Africa get out of poverty, make me rich. Fund my company. Don't fund my government." That meeting was divided between debt financing, foreign aid, and trade. It was almost like a mantra; trade, aid, trade, aid. Like a Michigan-Ohio state game fighting. I won't talk about the big game here. I might be on the wrong side of it. I don't know. I'm just guessing. But that's not the right thing. You talk to poor people in poor countries, they only want two things. They want a job. They want the dignity of labor. They want to be able to send their kids to school so they can have a better life than they did. The same thing our parents wanted. They want the services that the government promised them to be delivered. They want the water. They want the healthcare, and they want education. So what we're trying to do in this initiative is take a look at the $700 billion that are spent by governments and public sector on basic services and take account of the leaky pipe that takes money out of it through corruption, through low or poor effort, absenteeism; these wasted resources, so at the end of that pipe, governments allocate $700 billion. What comes out of it is $70 billion. That's the total amount of foreign aid in the world, by the way, every year, too. So if you could improve public services by 10% globally, you would be providing services greater than all of foreign aid. Let's talk now about the biggest problem that we face, I think, as a civilization which is global warming. We've spent a lot of time trying to think about whether we should work on policy, whether we should work on conservation, but in the end, we decided that Google is an engineering company, and we should look for an engineering solution. Until and unless you can get electricity from renewables at a price cheaper than coal, no one is going to buy them. China is not going to buy your renewable energy if it costs three times what coal costs. India is going to burn every lump of coal until we find an alternative way of getting energy to the homes at a price cheaper than coal. Today, coal costs about four cents per kilowatt-hour. If you look here, right now, photovoltaic is four or five times as high as coal. As much as went to put photovoltaics on our roof, until we can get the price of solar down below the price of coal, we will not succeed. This is an unbalanced equation, so you can solve it two ways. You can get the electricity from renewables down or you can get the price of coal up. This is what cap and trade does or a tax on coal or internalizing the negative externalities of the health consequences of burning coal. One way or another, society is going to have to solve that problem in order for us to solve climate change. Right now, although I'm a big fan of plug-ins and electric cars, if you're plugging into a grid where 50% of your electricity comes from coal, you are marginally improving what you're doing, but the real win will be when we can plug in our electric cars into a green grid. So that's our other initiative. It's trying to accelerate the adaptation of plug-in hybrids, electric cars, and do that at the same time as we green the grid. I just wanted to tell you a little bit about what our initiatives are. We've already announced that we'll be spending hundreds of millions of dollars on RE We have a five-year time horizon to try to solve some of these huge problems. We will fail at almost every one of them in some way or form, but we're extraordinarily committed to trying to use the resources and the good luck and the good fortune that Google's public presence and its great success has brought us to try to solve these problems. This is not a PR campaign for us. This is the heart and soul of Google. For many people in Google, it's the single most important thing that we do.

Lecture 5
Unreliable Donations
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Unreliable Donations

Money that often fuels traditional philanthropic efforts comes from government money or a foundation. But relying on these sources for income is not a sure bet, says Executive Director of Google.org Larry Brilliant. Great causes can lose their financial footing easily, particularly when caught in-between political administrations with differing world views.




Transcript



The problem is that if you are basing an initiative on money that comes either through Congress or through a foundation, it is not reliable. It's not sustainable. We call Congress the Disease-of-the-Month Congress because they change their mind everyday. The Cost-of-the-Month Congress if you look at it wider. You just think we're going to be having a whole seismic shift in our political structure, and the next incoming administration wants to do exactly the opposite of the other one. If you're caught between two administrations, you don't have a sustainable project. The same thing is true in foundations. We live in a capitalist world. We owe a great deal of gratitude to the venture capitalists, to the entrepreneurial activities that create the jobs in this country and every other place. We will not be able to be successful in doing great and ambitious tasks unless we fit into that world.

Lecture 6
Recruiting More .Org's
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Recruiting More .Org's

Larry Brilliant, Executive Director for Google.org, confesses that the company stole the idea for a profit-driven non-profit from Salesforce.com. Brilliant reminds us that only privately-held companies can give their money to charity, but that Google is optimistic about recruiting other large enterprises to work in the public interest.




Transcript



So the question is, "Does Google.org train other companies?" First of all, I want to say that we stole the idea of Google.org from another company, from Salesforce.com and Mark Benioff. So Mark, if you're listening, thank you. It was his idea to have the 1% equity and the 1% profit and the staff time. We're looking with a great deal of interest to see what other companies will be able to do a dot-org. In fairness, you can't quite do it once you're public. You now are the custodian of other people's money. Your shareholders own the company. It's their money. You can't give away their money. Benjamin Franklin wrote a long essay about the fiduciary duty of the owner of a chartered company, and one of those duties that he's not allowed to do is to give money to charity. So it's much easier if you do it before you go public, but once companies are public, they can do things with the concurrence of their shareholders. It's a lot harder, but I think I'm seeing a change in the PG&Es and the Wal-Marts and the Duke Energys; companies that I wouldn't have, 20 years ago, been talking about in a way that these are companies that are trying increasingly in different areas to do things that make me proud.