21 nonprofits join Google’s first generative AI accelerator

As a board member for a series of Non-Profit organizations, I was excited to read about how Google.org has launched its first generative AI accelerator program, supporting 21 nonprofits focused on various social impact areas like climate, health, education, and crisis response. These organizations will receive mentorship, technical training, and funding to develop high-impact applications of generative AI.

Reflecting on Google.org’s generative AI accelerator program and having seen this story play out before, it’s clearly a significant nod to the early days of tech philanthropy, blending substantial financial investment with a broad scope of impact. It promises to harness AI for societal good, reminiscent of the sector-wide optimism and collaborative spirit of the late 2000s. My 9th-grade history teacher, Royal Black (yes, that was his name), drilled into me the phrase, “history always repeats,” and this is one grand example of that.

For starters, Google.org is providing over $20 million in funding across the projects, and teams of Googlers will work full-time with the nonprofits to help build their generative AI tools. The big thing is not just the money. It’s getting into the Google Ecosystem at the earliest of days when it comes to AI.

Google.org’s foray into generative AI with this inaugural accelerator program marks a pivotal moment reminiscent of the early and heady days of tech’s love affair with social good. When I look back to the late 2000s, when the notion of marrying technology and philanthropy was gaining traction, I see major parallels in today’s announcement.

Firs is the commitment of over $20 million by Google.org. This is not merely a financial gesture but a bold statement of intent. It refers to the days when tech giants started wielding their financial heft to drive significant social change. This substantial investment underscores Google’s belief in the transformative power of generative AI, much like the early backers of digital education and health initiatives who were convinced technology could make a difference.

The scope of the accelerator, encompassing areas like climate change, health, education, and crisis management, echoes the comprehensive approach of yesteryears, aiming for a holistic impact. It’s really a refreshing reminder of the sector-wide optimism that technology can be a panacea for a host of societal woes, a sentiment that was ubiquitous in the pre-2010 tech philanthropy landscape.

Google.org’s decision to blend financial aid with hands-on expertise by embedding Google employees within the nonprofits is strategic. It mirrors the early days of tech philanthropy, where partnerships and collaborative efforts were essential for successfully applying emerging technologies to solve complex social issues.

Then, there’s the emphasis on capacity building within the accelerator program. This is a nod to the sustainable and self-sufficient models of earlier tech-led social initiatives. By equipping nonprofits with the skills and knowledge to harness generative AI, Google.org is ensuring that this program’s impact extends beyond its immediate lifespan, much like the legacy of those early tech-integrated social projects.

The credibility and validation provided by Google’s backing cannot be understated. Just as the early endorsements by tech moguls like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs lent legitimacy to new social enterprises, Google.org’s support for generative AI in the nonprofit sector is a powerful endorsement of AI’s potential for societal benefit.

Lastly, the program’s focus on fostering innovation and collaboration among diverse nonprofits is reminiscent of the collaborative spirit that defined the tech-for-social-good era of the late 2000s. This environment could very well be the crucible for groundbreaking applications of generative AI, mirroring the innovation boom witnessed in the tech sector’s philanthropic golden age.

In essence, Google.org’s generative AI accelerator program is a significant step reminiscent of the early days of tech philanthropy. It promises substantial financial investment, expert collaboration, and a broad scope of impact. It stands out and clearly signifies how Google.org is looking to be able to be at the forefront of innovation and collaboration by aiming to harness AI for societal good, much like the tech-driven social initiatives of the pre-2010 era.