Author Archives: Rowan Barnett

Helping to create a more resilient Europe

Helping to create a more resilient Europe

When Ukraine was invaded in February, a group of 15 Google employees dropped everything to do what they did best — write code. But unlike their day jobs of helping to build Google Maps or improve Google Search, this team of Fellows assisted the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to build out ‘matching over 10,000 refugees to temporary accommodations. Ensuring that they’re prepared for the next crisis, the IRC team, with support from Fellows, also worked to shorten the time required to launch future versions of the site, meaning people impacted by a crisis can get potentially lifesaving information much faster.

This is the kind of transformational innovation that a team of Google engineers working alongside issue area experts at nonprofits can achieve. We’ve seen how this combination of funding and the right technical expertise can support organisations using tech solutions to combat some of Europe’s biggest challenges, such as developing afree carbon emissions calculator for businesses of all sizes, building a new digital platform for jobseekers, and incorporating machine learning to automaticallyflag false claims online.

This is what has inspired us to launch a new €15M Impact Challenge: Tech for Social Good. European nonprofits, civic entities, academic and research institutions, and social enterprises can, for the first time, apply to receive pro bono technical help from a team of Fellows for up to six months, helping them transform their organisation’s work.

For this new Impact Challenge, we’re particularly interested in seeing submissions from organisations focused on sustainability, economic opportunity, and cyber security — projects that will help to combat the threats of climate change, economic challenges, and the spread of online disinformation across Europe.

When asked to reflect on the International Rescue Committee experience working with Fellows, IRC CEO David Miliband said: “With help from Fellows, we were able to rapidly broaden the reach of a digital platform for Ukrainian refugees, at a time when there was no time to spare. In just 3 months they helped us achieve half of our entire roadmap for the next 5 years.”

We’re now asking your organisation for the most ambitious and impactful technical project that you’ve never had the time nor the resources to pursue, and to imagine what would be possible if you had a team of Fellows working pro bono for six months full-time, as well as up to €3M in funding to make your project a reality.

Learn more about the selection criteria and process here. We look forward to seeing organisations apply with their bold ideas for a more prosperous, green, and secure Europe.

€20 million to support the European social economy

Social entrepreneurs tackle big societal challenges that benefit people and the planet alike — with sustainable business models.

In Europe, there are an estimated 2.8 million social enterprises that employ 13.6 million people and contribute to a more inclusive, resilient and sustainable economy. However, the pandemic has exacerbated some of the challenges these social entrepreneurs face, including existing inequalities and access to resources.

Which is why today, we’re committing €20 million in cash funding through the Social Innovation Fund to support underserved social entrepreneurs across Europe.

Social entrepreneurs need more support

According to a study released today by ChangemakerXchange and The Possibilists and co-funded by, only 1 in 5 young social entrepreneurs can live off their venture and over 60% have experienced burnout. Entrepreneurs from underserved communities experience these challenges more acutely. In addition, research from Euclid Network shows that social enterprises face significant barriers to growing their business and scaling their impact. In particular, they lack access to capital and support from companies and governments.

Private companies need to play their part in helping the social economy. Today, the European Commission is setting out a strong policy agenda to support social enterprises in its EU Action Plan on the Social Economy, and calling on governments, funders and companies to do more to support the social economy. We’re committed to doing our part — and to building on our work at Google for Startups in Europe over the last ten years, our Impact Challenges and the more than €10 million in funding that we’ve awarded to social enterprises to support charitable projects over the last 3 years.

Paris-based social enterprise Chance (previously called YGeneration) knows first-hand how critical such support can be — now more than ever. In 2015 awarded them $200,000 to further their mission of using technology to help people from underserved communities access career guidance, digital coaching and the job market.

Seven years later — with the help of mentoring from Google volunteers and an additional $2 million in funding — they’ve helped 10,000 job seekers find roles and improve their careers. They also inspired additional funders to invest over €5 million, and will soon announce that they’ve attracted additional funding to reach even more people in French and English speaking countries.

We know there are more social entrepreneurs who could have a positive impact on their communities, if they could get more support.

Supporting underserved entrepreneurs and social economy ecosystems

Today’s announcement will deepen our support, with €20 million in cash funding, as well as additional in-kind support through AdGrants.

€13 million will go toward strengthening local social economy ecosystems across Europe, and creating better access for underserved entrepreneurs. This funding will support leading social economy organizations to create and scale programs that help build the capacity of underserved entrepreneurs, and provide access to networks, upskilling and tools.

Our first grant will be €1 million to Fund 05 in Slovenia to help catalyze the country’s nascent social entrepreneurship sector. We’re also supporting the Euclid Network to gather social economy leaders so they can share insights, learnings and solutions across borders.

In addition, we’re giving a €7 million grant to INCO to provide access to capital and support for entrepreneurs from underserved communities in the form of cash grants between €25,000 - €100,000 each to scale up their enterprises. INCO will also help individuals who are just starting out turn their idea into a business, with funding of €4.000 - €10.000 alongside mentoring and incubation services.

To unlock the full potential of the social economy, we need to work together — that includes governments, companies, foundations, investors, nonprofits, cooperatives and social enterprises. That’s why we’re joining the World Economic Forum’s COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs.

As we work towards an inclusive economic recovery, the decisions that companies, funders, foundations and policymakers make now will determine what our economies of tomorrow will look like. We hope that social entrepreneurship — which truly puts purpose, people and planet at the center of business goals — can influence the economy going forward.

How we’re supporting climate action in European cities

Climate action can have the biggest impact in cities, which are responsible for 70 percent of the world's CO₂ emissions. That’s why we committed to helping more than 500 cities reduce 1 gigaton of carbon emissions annually by 2030 as part of our ambitious plan for climate action. To help reach that goal, ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, with grant support from, is funding six projects. The projects will use actionable data to test new strategies that can reduce emissions and improve air quality in cities across Europe. 

ICLEI is a global network of more than 1,750 local and regional governments committed to sustainable urban development. Last fall, we granted $4 million in funding to them to establish the ICLEI Action Fund and support nonprofits and academic institutions in Europe and Latin America that are leading data-driven climate action efforts. Here’s a look at the projects that have been funded and what we’ve learned so far. 

Projects selected for funding across Europe

 The Centre for Sustainable Energy plans to establish an open-source, city-wide energy dataset in Birmingham, England. The team will also develop analysis tools that can model decarbonisation options for buildings in the city, overlay and integrate public datasets, and aggregate granular socioeconomic data. 

With these tools, the Centre hopes to develop city-wide interventions and smaller community initiatives that will help the city reach its overall decarbonisation goals. “By combining emissions data for buildings, transport, and energy infrastructure with socioeconomic data, and distributing local community grants, we’ll be able to help residents deliver targeted carbon reduction projects, and support the City Council and Route to Zero Task Force to deliver their city-wide climate emergency ambitions,” said Rachel Coxcoon, Programme Director at the Centre for Sustainable Energy. 

In Hamburg, the CityScienceLab of the HafenCity University will develop a tool incorporating data from Google’s Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE), Hamburg’s urban data platform and other sources. With this tool, they plan to help the city identify areas that can be used as “urban testbeds” for prototyping energy innovations in the Altona, Norg and Bergedorf districts. The prototyping process will help visualise and simulate projects to better understand their projected impact on the city. 

Other Action Fund grantees and their projects include: 

  • Deutsche Umwelthilfe in Berlin: To help the city reach its air quality and carbon-free transport goals, they plan to analyze data about air quality, noise levels and traffic, and use EIE to advocate for data-driven changes to cycling and other transportation infrastructure.
  • Carbon Co-Op in Greater Manchester: Working with local partners, they'll develop multi-sector energy plans for the regions and pilot three citizen-led projects focused on sustainable mobility and energy-efficient buildings. A newly developed urban energy dashboard will help them track impact. 
  • Miljopunkt Amager in Copenhagen: Using Google Air View, traffic data and community-collected data, they’ll test new urban space designs that may improve air quality. 
  • Air Pays de la Loire in Nantes: Using real-time air quality datasets that account for traffic conditions, they will provide citizens and local authorities with tools to make decisions about transportation management and traffic regulation systems.

The latest insights from cities taking data-driven climate action 

Through these projects, we’ve seen how cities are thinking about data-backed sustainability planning and action. So far, we’ve seen trends that can be applied globally.  

First, starting small can lead to a big impact—especially when it comes to data. City-level data can point decision-makers in the right direction, while neighborhood or district data can create the necessary community buy-in for more specific programs or interventions. Second, actionable data can help citizens make informed day-to-day decisions and take action. After all, informed citizens are a critical piece of the puzzle. Last, we saw a huge interest in cities looking to improve air quality through more efficient and low-carbon transportation options. 

To have a meaningful impact on climate change, data-driven approaches must be scaled across the globe. That’s why provided ICLEI’s Global Secretariat with additional funding to develop case studies so they can share best practices that emerge from the Action Fund with cities around the world that are looking to implement similar data-driven climate interventions. 

 One of our goals at Google is to unlock climate ambitions with data, insights, and innovation to overcome today’s climate crisis. We’re excited to continue supporting leading organizations, such as ICLEI, and cities that share that goal. 

Image Credit: Google Earth image of Paris, France 2019, Aerodata International Surveys, Maxar Technologies, The GeoInformation Group | InterAtlas

Source: Google LatLong

Supporting AI skills training in Molenbeek, Belgium

MolenGeek started in 2015 in Molenbeek, Belgium, as a coding school for anyone to learn digital skills. But unlike many other schools, MolenGeek is driven by a social mission of fostering inclusion, integration and community development in this culturally diverse suburb of Brussels. 

In five years, it’s become a co-working space for young people from all backgrounds, enabling them to network and share their experiences. Out of Molengeek's community of 800 active members, 195 people from predominantly underprivileged backgrounds have gone through entrepreneurship skills training, and 35 new startups have been built and grown out of their incubator program. We’ve been proud to help support their mission since 2015.

Today, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, visited MolenGeek to announce an additional grant of $250,000—over EUR 200,000—to expand its coding school and increase the community’s access to new kinds of digital skills training. MolenGeek will use the funds to develop a new six-month content module focused on artificial intelligence and data analytics. This is part of MolenGeek’s longer-term plan to open a second hub in Brussels later this year, which will include an incubator dedicated to the needs of AI-focused startups, as well as a six-month AI training program. In addition to funding, Google AI experts will also provide MolenGeek with ongoing mentorship and opportunities for Googlers to volunteer.

“MolenGeek’s mission to make sure technology, entrepreneurship, and innovation is accessible to everyone is personal to me, and to the work we do at Google,” said Sundar. “Increasingly that means helping people get the skills they need to succeed in a digital world. We’re proud to support MolenGeek as it expands its digital trainings, including a new module focused on artificial intelligence, to give more people the tools for success.”

Sundar visits MolenGeek

“It’s important that we offer the younger generations a way to invest in themselves,” says Ibrahim Ouassari, co-founder of MolenGeek. “As the momentum is picking up, we are grateful that we can once again count on Google to lend their support and knowledge to the many potential entrepreneurs who look to MolenGeek as a gateway to the tech sector and a springboard for their future careers.”

And this grant support is especially important when it comes to AI, one of the most exciting technologies humanity is working on today. We’re already seeing its potential to change lives, from helping doctors better detect breast cancer, forecast floods in India, to supporting nonprofits applying AI tools to address issues like illegal logging and plastic waste reduction. To help more Belgian businesses make the most of this technology, we’ll be expanding our Machine Learning Checkup tool to small and medium businesses here in Belgium, as well as 10 other markets in Europe. 

With such a huge scope for positive change, countries must invest now in reskilling and education. It all starts in communities like Molenbeek, in organizations like this one, who believe not just in technology, but in the people creating it.