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Celebrating 10 years of GoogleServe

Celebrating 10 years of GoogleServe

Every June, we celebrate GoogleServe—a month-long campaign to empower Googlers to volunteer in their communities. Googlers have clocked more than 200,000 hours during GoogleServe since it first began in 2007, and the program has inspired a culture of giving and volunteering all year long. As we celebrate our 10th annual GoogleServe, we’re talking with Seth Marbin, the Googler who first came up with the idea.

Keyword: How did the idea for GoogleServe come about?

Seth: I joined the Search Quality team at Google 11 years ago. I was inspired by the company’s culture, social mission, and the belief that any employee could dream up the next big idea. In 2007, our VP of Culture Stacy Sullivan asked Googlers for ideas on how to maintain our unique culture while the company doubled in size. My work work with AmeriCorps and City Year taught me that volunteering can bring people together and break down social barriers, so I proposed a global day of community service (which I called Google-palooza!). Googlers jumped on board immediately, and 3,000 Googlers from 45 offices participated in our first GoogleServe.

How has GoogleServe changed over the years?

Well, for starters, it’s a lot bigger! And it’s inspired Googlers to serve beyond the month of June. Googlers now volunteer a quarter of a million hours each year outside GoogleServe, through Google.org programs.

We still provide hands-on help to schools, soup kitchens and homeless shelters, but we’ve evolved GoogleServe to connect Googlers’ professional expertise to nonprofit and community needs. For example, software engineers participate in hackathons, and our recruitment and staffing teams review resumes and conduct interview skills trainings for people who are unemployed or underemployed.

There are 20,000 Googlers volunteering this month. How do you pull off such a massive undertaking?

We work with great partners who ensure that our volunteers have meaningful experiences. For example, HandsOn Bay Area—which helps Googlers find volunteer opportunities—has been a fantastic and committed partner from the beginning. When we came to them in 2012 with 5,500 Google volunteers, we maxed out their capacity to help. They didn’t have the infrastructure to deal with a group of our size, but over time they adjusted and scaled their model so that they could continue working with us. It’s been such a pleasure to watch their evolution, because we wouldn’t be able to run GoogleServe without them. Our partnership was even written about as a case study for Harvard Business School.

What have been your favorite projects over the years?

My favorite projects tap into Googler expertise, align with our company values—like supporting women in tech—and have a lasting impact. U.S. Googlers have volunteered with schools and nonprofits to host Made with Code events, inspiring thousands of girls to consider careers in computer science. In two days of coding, 10 Googlers helped the OpenAustralia Foundation give two million people access to Planning Alerts, which notify residents about local construction and demolition projects. And a team of Googlers in our Seattle office helped launch a mobile app to enable RealChange homeless newspaper vendors to accept digital payments.

How has GoogleServe impacted Googlers?

I’ve found that many Googlers start out with one GoogleServe project and then discover a deeper passion for serving the community. Rebecca Howarth, who helps lead GoogleServe in the Bay Area, told me it’s the single most important part of her career at Google—and it’s not even her “real job.”

For some Googlers, the impact has been so great that they’ve committed their careers to community service. In 2012 Megan Wheeler joined our team as a 20 percenter (Googlers can dedicate 20 percent of their time, outside of their day job, on projects that they’re passionate about), and now she runs the program globally as part of her full time role on the Google.org team.

And it inspires others to continue to service beyond Google. Former Googler Tory Faries participated in a GoogleServe project in 2010, helping to paint a youth homeless shelter in San Francisco. She was so inspired that she became a weekly volunteer at the shelter. Years later, she has helped to build and lead the global volunteer program at Airbnb.

How has GoogleServe influenced Google’s culture?

When Stacy sent out her email 10 years ago, I believed that a commitment to community service would keep our culture strong no matter how big the company became, and I still believe that today. GoogleServe connects Googlers to causes and community organizations they care about, but it also connects them to other Googlers they wouldn’t have met otherwise. Those bonds are the reason people continue to volunteer with us, and why GoogleServe has become such a big part of our company culture.

Why have you dedicated your career to service?

Community service has always been a part of my life. My wife and I met doing community service and we even incorporated it into our wedding! Before the ceremony, our guests planted seeds on an organic farm that grows food for low-income families. And my kids are a part of GoogleServe too—my daughter Kaia was born just before the first GoogleServe and she and my younger son Jahan have attended a GoogleServe project every year.

So while I’ve always had a passion for service, being a part of the GoogleServe founding team and Google.org honed my life’s mission: to serve and help others serve, to build a better, more compassionate, inclusive, peaceful and just world. I feel incredibly fortunate to to work on this every day at Google with an amazing team of passionate colleagues.

What’s your advice for people outside of Google who are interested in starting a volunteering program at their company?

Launch and iterate. Don’t wait for all the details—just get your idea out there and invite others to join in. Volunteering is good for company culture, good for our communities, and good for the world. There’s a growing movement of social intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs working to create positive social change, and there are many case studies and guides that can help anyone create change in their local community.

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Posted by amiller in Blog, Causes & Community, Google.org, Inside Google
Google Play and Made With Code team up to inspire teen girls with Wonder Woman

Google Play and Made With Code team up to inspire teen girls with Wonder Woman

Nearly 75 years after first appearing in All Star Comics #8, Wonder Woman continues to be a symbol of female empowerment, breaking through stereotypes pervasive in comic books, gaming and pop culture.    

Wonder Woman

Now, Wonder Woman’s Super Hero story is coming to the big screen in her first-ever movie, which opens in theaters tomorrow. Throughout the film, we see Princess Diana’s strength through her leadership, perseverance, courage and camaraderie.

Wonder Woman is also one of the strongest characters on the small screen in the game DC Legends, which just released an update tied to the movie on Google Play. The update brings exclusive movie content, two major new game modes and special in-game events inspired by the film. Only a small percentage of video game characters are female, but in the DC Legends game, girls can select Wonder Woman and channel her strength while they play.

Wonder Woman’s strength is more relevant today than ever, especially in the technology space, since girls are less likely than boys to be encouraged to pursue computer science and only 22 percent of gaming developers are women. Made with Code, Google’s initiative to champion the next generation of female leaders and inspire them to see coding as a way to pursue their dreams, is releasing a new interactive coding project for wonder women everywhere to add coding to their superpower toolkit. With the project, teen girls can code three unique scenes from the film, using introductory coding principles to help Wonder Woman navigate obstacles and reach her goal.

Made with Code Wonder Woman Google Play

As part of this collaboration, Google Play and Made with Code are teaming up with Warner Bros to bring together more than 100 teen girls from Los Angeles to advance screen the Wonder Woman movie, play the updated DC Legends game and complete the coding project. We hope Wonder Woman’s message of empowerment inspires teen girls, and women, to build confidence in pursuing careers in computer science, engineering, gaming—or whatever their dreams may be.

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Posted by amiller in Blog, Causes & Community, Google Play
Google’s Community Space in the Bay Area

Google’s Community Space in the Bay Area

Editor’s note: Today we’re opening the doors of Google’s Community Space, located in our 188 The Embarcadero office in San Francisco, which offers Bay Area nonprofits free access to event space and co-working areas. Since January, we’ve run a pilot program with more than 50 organizations who have hosted 100+ events to ensure that the space and resources are flexible and beneficial to the needs of local organizations. As part of today’s opening, we’re also sharing that in 2016 alone, Google.org supported Bay Area nonprofits with $50M in direct grant funding, and Googlers have volunteered over 89,000 hours of their time to local organizations.

This post comes from Shaun Tai, the Executive Director at Oakland Digital and Product Lead at BRIDGEGOOD.com. He talks about his experience hosting weekly programs in the Community Space and the many ways he and his team are supported by Google.org and Googler volunteers.

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BRIDGEGOOD program students meet with Google.org volunteers at Google’s Community Space

Every Wednesday this year, Oakland Digital has brought a group of community college students to Google’s 188 The Embarcadero office so they can collaborate, learn, and work on community-benefit projects. These students are part of BRIDGEGOOD—an online hiring platform that connects under-resourced creatives (e.g., graphic designers and artists) with real-world design and marketing projects generated by businesses and nonprofits throughout the community.

Oakland Digital has proudly participated in a pilot program that Google.org has been running for 50 local organizations to provide feedback for their new Community Space. Nonprofit organizations know that finding affordable space in the Bay Area is a constant and growing issue. Working in close collaboration with local organizations, Google’s 8,400+ square feet of event and meeting space is an absolute game changer. It’s flexible enough for nonprofits to host collaborative brainstorming sessions to larger capacity, full-day seminars. Since the pilot started, there have been more than 100 events in the space, and in true Google fashion, their teams have “launched and iterated” by taking feedback and implementing changes into the space so it could better suit our needs. Other perks: the space comes fully-stocked with a microkitchen, a conference room, an area to hold workshops, a maker’s space, Chromebooks, VR equipment and more.

Google’s support of Oakland Digital started in 2012 when Googlers Mary and Steve Grove educated small businesses at Oakland City Hall about the power of technology. Each year, our relationship and community impact has grown—from board membership, thought leadership, and in 2015, funding. Google shares Oakland Digital’s belief that creativity can change the world— and recognized that an overlooked pipeline of creative talent comes from community colleges. 

As such, Google.org provided significant support—a multi-year, six-figure grant for us to build, design, create, and deploy our BRIDGEGOOD web application. Oakland Digital is most proud that local students are a part of design and engineering process—having access to Google’s community space has inspired and boosted the confidence of our beneficiaries. The equipment, the technology, and the space itself has allowed us to work more productively together.

The energy that exists at Google.org, combined with access to this new Community Space and its nonprofit-driven programs, is fueling positive change and will make a difference. It’s that same combination of energy and access that will help other local Bay Area social entrepreneurs further their scale and impact.

So to my fellow Bay Area nonprofits and social good innovators, I invite you to come check out Google’s Community Space and apply for membership to start the process to host your events and programs in the space today at g.co/communityspace. Membership for the space is free—just click on “Become a Member” at the top right. The website also includes details on what is included in the space and programs that Google.org will coordinate throughout the year.

Stay inspired, continue to spread inspiration, and remember that with creativity and leadership, anything is possible.

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Posted by amiller in Blog, Causes & Community, Google.org
Why I celebrate College Signing Day

Why I celebrate College Signing Day

I grew up as a first-generation American living on welfare and food stamps with a single mother in Hell’s Kitchen, New York. For most of my life, college seemed out of reach—no one in my family or neighborhood had gone, so it was hard to imagine that I’d ever get there. The day I committed to going to college was the day my life changed. It opened many doors and opportunities, and I made lifelong friends (and learned a few important lessons) along the way. Now I’ve dedicated my career at Google to helping educators use technology to give students more opportunities.

 Though it didn’t have an official name when I was in school, College Signing Day marks the day when high school seniors commit to attending a four-year university, professional training program or community college. This College Signing Day, I’m joining Michelle Obama to celebrate this moment and the students whose lives are about to change with their decision to go to college.

 Attending college was a huge milestone for me, but it was accompanied by fear and anxiety. I was entering the unfamiliar and unknown, and my mind filled with dread and doubt. Who was going to help me? If I take out student loans, will I ever make enough money to pay those loans back? What if I’m not smart enough? What if I don’t make any friends?

 These reservations are intensified for students who are growing up the way I grew up. You don’t know many individuals who went to college, so you don’t have anyone to turn  turn to for guidance or to help you build the confidence and mindset you need to succeed in college. But I was a stubborn kid (and am now a stubborn adult) and refused to accept expectations for kids like me—that we were destined to a life of crime or poverty. I wanted to prove the stereotypes wrong, which is why I committed to attending SUNY Brockport.

 For students who are the first in their family to attend college, celebrating College Signing Day is critical. We tell students the most important thing they can do for their future is to focus on their education. We tell them how higher education will give them the perspective and tools they’ll use for the rest of their lives. When these students get into college, it’s an enormous accomplishment—and we need to show them it’s worth celebrating.

 Though these students may not have grown up around college graduates, they’ll soon be surrounded by a community of educators, counselors, students and alumni who can help them through the college experience. This community—combined that with the love and support of families and communities back home—is critical to the success of college-bound students.

 Google has done a lot of work to expand opportunities for students at every step of their education (so that they can eventually make it to College Signing Day!). Through Google.org we’ve committed $50 million toward supporting nonprofits that are working to close global education gaps. We’ve built products and tools—like Classroom and Chromebooks—designed to make teaching and learning more effective and engaging. And we’ve also created programs that give every student the tools to become the creators, not just the consumers, of technology.  

A critical component of this commitment is ensuring that every student also has a pathway to pursue their higher education, whether that’s through scholarships, mentors or interning with us at Google. In partnership with Reach Higher (part of the Better Make Room initiative), we’ve also created a series of Google Expeditions for students to virtually visit college campuses. This opens up opportunities for students who don’t have the means to travel to for college visits—they can check out residence halls, classrooms, and even financial aid offices before ever stepping foot on campus. Colleges interested in creating their own Expedition can sign up via this form.

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Former First Lady Michelle Obama touring the advanced skills lab in Howard Community College’s Expedition.

For more information on College Signing Day and to access a toolkit to help teachers, counselors, and community organizations host a celebration in their community, visit www.bettermakeroom.org.

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Posted by amiller in Blog, Causes & Community, education
Bringing Alexander Hamilton’s history to life

Bringing Alexander Hamilton’s history to life

In November 2009, the White House uploaded a video to YouTube of playwright and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda performing a piece called “The Hamilton Mixtape.” In the video, Miranda proclaims to then President Obama that he would use hip-hop and spoken word to tell the story of founding father Alexander Hamilton. The room erupts in curious laughter. Hip-hop and 18th century history? How could these seemingly different worlds come together?

Nearly eight years later, Lin-Manuel’s Hamilton: An American Musical has blown us all away. The show is a cultural phenomenon, uniting history buffs, musical theater fans, political wonks and beyond. Through its innovative storytelling and deliberately diverse cast, the show remixes American history into a powerful lesson that resonates with society’s current challenges.

Google.org supported the Hamilton Education Program with a $800,000 grant that today will bring 5,000 students from Title I schools in New York, Chicago and the Bay Area to see the musical, as the capstone of a six-week curriculum about the Founding Era. Through a combination of learning from primary source documents like original letters and newspapers, and musical performances, students from every background will be able to make American founding era history their own. Students will also perform their original, history-based works on the Hamilton stage across these three cities. Perhaps one of them might be a future Lin-Manuel!

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is also launching new digital content on Google platforms that enables students around the world to engage more deeply with Alexander Hamilton’s story. Six new virtual reality tours will transport students, teachers, and fans to important places in Hamilton’s life, no matter where they live. Using Google Expeditions, students can explore places like Alexander Hamilton’s home in Uptown Manhattan, Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, and the infamous site of Aaron Burr–Alexander Hamilton duel in Weehawken, New Jersey.

In addition, using Google Arts and Culture, the Gilder Lehrman Institute is bringing online dozens of rare archives and artifacts related to Hamilton’s era including early printings of the U.S. Constitution and a letter to his wife expressing his love. There are ten digital exhibits that will allow students and others around the world to learn about Hamilton’s life and legacy—from his private and political life to a virtual walking tour of Hamilton’s New York, to the creation of Modern America.

Whether in virtual reality or on the theater stage, Alexander Hamilton has a lot to teach us about the history of our country, the American dream—and most importantly–rising up to opportunity.

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Posted by amiller in Blog, Causes & Community, Google VR, Google.org
How maps and machine learning are helping to eliminate malaria

How maps and machine learning are helping to eliminate malaria

Today is World Malaria Day, a moment dedicated to raising awareness and improving access to tools to prevent malaria. The World Health Organization says nearly half of the world’s population is at risk for malaria, and estimates that in 2015 there were 212 million malaria cases resulting in 429,000 deaths. In places with high transmission rates, children under five account for 70 percent of malaria deaths.

DiSARM (Disease Surveillance and Risk Monitoring), a project led by the Malaria Elimination Initiative and supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Clinton Health Access Initiative, is fighting the spread of malaria by mapping the places where malaria could occur. With the help of Google Earth Engine, DiSARM creates high resolution “risk maps” that help malaria control programs identify the areas where they should direct resources for prevention and treatment.

We sat down with Hugh Sturrock, who leads the DiSARM project and is an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the University of California, San Francisco’s Global Health Group, to learn more about DiSARM’s fight against malaria, and how Google fits in.

As an epidemiologist, why did you choose to focus your efforts on malaria?

I first became interested in 2005, during my undergraduate days at the University of Edinburgh when I worked on a project examining the fungal control of mosquitoes with Professor Andrew Read. I suddenly realized that my research could have a positive impact on people’s lives and from that point on I was hooked. While malaria deaths have decreased dramatically since then, it’s still a huge public health problem.

Which regions is DiSARM targeting first?

We’re piloting DiSARM in Swaziland and Zimbabwe, two regions that are on the cusp of malaria elimination. Between 2000–2014, reported malaria cases in Swaziland decreased by 99 percent, and in 2015, Swaziland reported fewer than 400 local cases. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe achieved a 74 percent decline in reported cases from 2005–2015.

When a small number of cases in a region remain, precise intervention is required to fully eliminate malaria, and DiSARM can help fully close the gap. By focusing our resources more strategically, we can shrink the malaria map and eliminate the disease entirely in these countries.

How does DiSARM use Google Earth Engine to help fight malaria?

If we map where malaria is most likely to occur, we can target those areas for action. Every time someone is diagnosed with malaria in Swaziland and Zimbabwe, a team goes to the village where the infection occurred and collects a GPS point with the precise infection location. Just looking at these points won’t allow you to accurately determine the risk of malaria, though. You also need satellite imagery of conditions like rainfall, temperature, slope and elevation, which affect mosquito breeding and parasite development.

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To determine the risk of malaria, DiSARM combines the precise location of the malaria infection,  with satellite data of conditions like rainfall, temperature, vegetation, elevation, which affect mosquito breeding. DiSARM’s mobile app can be used by the malaria programs and field teams to target interventions.

Google Earth Engine collects and organizes the public satellite imagery data we need. In the past we had to obtain those images from a range of sources: NASA, USGS and different universities around the world. But with Google Earth Engine, it’s all in one place and can be processed using Google computers. We combine satellite imagery data from Google Earth Engine with the locations of malaria cases collected by a country’s national malaria control program, and create models that let us generate maps identifying areas at greatest risk.

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The DiSARM interface gives malaria programs a near real-time view of malaria and predicts risk at specific locations, such as health facility service areas, villages and schools. Overlaying data allows malaria control programs to identify high-risk areas that have insufficient levels of protection and better distribute their interventions.

How are the risk maps used?

The Swaziland and Zimbabwe national malaria control programs use risk maps to help track progress and make decisions about how best to use their resources—for example, where to spray insecticides and where to conduct health promotion campaigns. With this data, they can make these decisions in a matter of minutes, rather than days or weeks. And they have much more precise information about where to target their efforts. They can drill down and direct their spray teams to go to the individual houses most at risk. This technique improves the targeting of interventions, saving money and time for the malaria programs.

DiSARM targetting households.png
DiSARM’s targeting module uses the risk map to prioritize areas for interventions such as indoor residual spraying (IRS), insecticide treated nets (ITNs) and mass drug administration (MDA).

We’ve also developed a mobile app with instructions for field teams and the locations of buildings they need to target on an offline map. They can also use the app to collect data even if they don’t have connectivity while they’re in remote locations.

What’s next for DiSARM?

Over the next year, we’re planning to expand the platform to show not just the current malaria risk, but a forecast for the future. We believe Swaziland and Zimbabwe can eliminate malaria and we hope this tool can get them—and other countries—closer to achieving that goal. To learn more, visit disarm.io.

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Posted by amiller in Blog, Causes & Community, Google Earth, Maps
Happy Earth Day, world!

Happy Earth Day, world!

The Earth is more than 4.543 billion years old, home to more than 8.7 million species—and still the only known planet in the universe known to harbor life. That’s right, we’re pretty special.😉  So on Earth Day, let’s all celebrate our planet and learn about ways to help preserve it.  

Today’s Earth Day Doodle tells the story of a friendly fox whose bad dream about about climate change jolts it into action. The fox goes on a quest to care for the Earth—meeting some familiar faces along the way.

Clicking through to Google Search, you’ll see a list of quick and easy tips to help you do your part in saving the planet. Whether it’s planting a tree, conserving energy or carpooling on your way to work, no act is too small.

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Now by searching for “Earth Day” or a similar query, you’ll see a carousel of posts on Google with info on Earth Day events, museum exhibits from Oakland to Switzerland, and history of how Earth Day came to be from the History Channel.

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Teen girls coding at a Change is Made with Code event in New York City

Sometimes a call to action can help motivate your friends and family to get involved and learn about ways to protect the environment. In this spirit, Google’s Made with Code has launched a new environment coding project that calls on teen girls to code a statement about environmental issues they care about. By learning and using the Blockly coding language, these young coders can code personalized statements in support of the critical work of the World Wildlife Fund, The Ocean Agency and the Jane Goodall Institute.

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Coded statements made on madewithcode.com in support of The Ocean Agency, NGO’s World Wildlife Fund and the Jane Goodall Institute

We’ve always supported advocates who are working to protect our environment, and we’re committed to do our part to run Google in a way that works for the planet. We recently shared that we’ll reach 100 percent renewable energy this year, and we continue to push ourselves to run the most energy efficient data centers in the world. You can learn more about these efforts in our Environmental Report.

In the words of Jane Goodall in the new Google Earth: “Only if we understand, will we care. Only if we care, will we help. Only if we help shall all be saved.”

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Posted by amiller in Blog, Causes & Community, Google Earth, Search