Samantha Ainsley usually spends her days as a software engineer and technical lead for Google Cloud Platform, but for six months last year, she applied her skills to a different cause: stopping human trafficking. Samantha, along with four other Googlers, were part of a pilot that allowed them to step away from their jobs and dedicate their time to helping Thorn, a Google.org grantee that builds technology to defend children from sexual abuse. The goal of the pilot was to test what happens when we combine Google.org funding with full-time support from Googlers with experience in AI, machine learning and other technical skills. The Fellows and Thorn built tools to find patterns in data that law enforcement can use to identify and find child victims faster.
The success of the pilot led to the creation of the Google.org Fellowship. Now, Google employees can apply to do full-time pro bono work for up to six months with grantees working in areas like education, criminal justice, or economic opportunity. They’ll use their skills in engineering, product management, and user experience design to help Google.org grantees solve some of their toughest technical challenges. In 2019, we expect the Fellows will spend 50,000 hours with some of our top nonprofit grantees.
Our next Fellowship starts today with Goodwill Industries International, the nation’s leader in job placement, expert in workforce training and development, and recipient of a $10 million Google.org grant in 2017. A team of seven Google.org Fellows, including software engineers and data scientists, will work in community-based Goodwill organizations across the United States—in cities like Austin, Kalamazoo and Louisville—to help Goodwill increase the impact of its vocational programs. When finished, these Goodwill organizations will have better insight into what works best in their job training programs to improve services for job seekers.
This program brings our people alongside our philanthropy to help nonprofits around the world achieve their missions. And the pilot showed us how much Googlers benefitted, too: they came back to Google with sharpened skills and a renewed outlook on their work. In Samantha’s words, ”As I'd hoped, my Fellowship opened my eyes and humbled me. What I didn't anticipate, however, is that I would come back to Google a stronger and more dedicated engineer. My work with Thorn reminded me that our mission as engineers is not to simply build the newest and fastest technologies: our mission is to seek solutions to pressing problems no matter how daunting."
As the year unfolds, and dozens of Google.org Fellows complete their projects, we look forward to seeing what this idea—and 50,000 Googler hours—can accomplish.