While the Black Google Network (BGN), an employee-driven resource group, was out and about helping rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and then raising money for engineering students through the United Negro College Fund, other factions within Google were doing their own good deeds. At the same time, Google.org seemed to scan the whole earth for worthwhile projects.

Page and Brin got Google.org under way at the time they went public by pushing a plan to shareholders to commit resources, a share of profits, and employee time to attack issues they thought to be the most urgent challenges for society.

Google.org is a hybrid philanthropy through which the founders pledged to use both private and nonprofit resources for the good of the world. They go by the 1 percent rule, which means that 1 percent of Google's equity and profits, as well as 1 percent of employee time, is allocated to the effort to make the world cleaner, safer, smarter, and more likely to survive. The input is hybrid, and the projects are hybrid as well, ranging from pure not-for-profit investments to government lobbying campaigns to putting money into companies doing worthwhile things while at the same time seeking profits.

Google hired Dr. Larry Brilliant in 2007 to be executive director of its billion-dollar philanthropic arm. Brilliant, who has since moved on, brought expertise in technology, philanthropy, and public health. Sergey and Larry met with Brilliant weekly ...

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