Google Canada managing director Sam Sebastian addresses the audience the company’s inaugural startup conference, Go North, on Oct. 28.
Google Canada managing director Sam Sebastian addresses the audience the company’s inaugural startup conference, Go North, on Oct. 28.

Published: October 29th, 2016

TORONTOGoogle Inc. wants to make 10 Canadian non-profit organizations very happy.

On Friday the company revealed it was bringing philanthropic arm Google.org’s Impact Challenge to Canada for the first time.

“Google’s always believed that technology can change the world and has the power to transform lives,” Sam Sebastian, Google Canada’s managing director, told the audience at the very end of the company’s inaugural Canadian startup conference, Go North. “So we developed a competition that would help us identify and support non-profit organizations that are harnessing the power of technology to… change the world.”

Previously run in seven other countries, including Japan, India, and the U.S., the Impact Challenge is a nationwide competition that invites non-profits to submit technology-based projects for consideration by a panel of judges – and the public. The top projects chosen are then given a series of grants from Google.

In Canada’s case, the top five organizations will receive $750,000 grants, while five additional finalists will receive $250,000 each – $5 million total.

And as Sebastian was quick to point out, Google won’t simply be cutting a cheque – the company’s staff will be supporting winners as well.

“We’re going to have our talent… rolling up our sleeves and working on projects with folks,” he said. “We’re going to help bring some of these great ideas to fruition.”

Eight judges, including Minister of Canadian Heritage Melanie Joly, author and War Child Canada/War Child USA founder Samantha Nutt, author and professor Joseph Boyden, NHL player and philanthropist P.K. Subban, and Google executives Don Harrison and Jacquelline Fuller will evaluate the projects based on four criteria:

  • Impact: How will the proposal improve lives? If successful, how many people will be affected and to what extent?
  • Technology/Innovation: Does the proposal use technology in a new and creative way to address its chosen issue?
  • Scalability: If successful, how easily can the project scale, or serve as a model for other efforts?
  • Feasibility: Does the team have a realistic, well-researched plan outlining how they plan to execute their proposal?

The company is looking for projects that use technology to solve a specific social problem. However, they don’t need to use Google tech and they don’t need to be developed especially for the challenge; organizations can apply with projects that already works in progress.

On March 6 the judging panel will announce the competition’s 10 finalists, who will then be invited to pitch their projects at an event in Toronto.

The judges will ultimately select four of the winners, while the public will choose the fifth through an online vote that will run between March 6 and 28.

“We have huge expectations of what Canada can deliver through this impact challenge,” Sebastian said. “We’re as ambitious as we’ve ever been in this country, but you pair that with an openness and a humanitarianism that I just don’t think you can find anywhere else around the world, and… amazing things can happen.”

Nonprofit organizations across Canada are invited to submit their proposals to Google before Nov. 26. Winners will be announced on March 30, 2017. More information can be found here.

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