Hack the Hood, which trains inner city youth in web development and gets small businesses online, is one of four winners of the 2014 Google Bay Area Impact Challenge. As a winner, Hack the Hood receives $500,000 in Google funding to expand the program in Oakland and replicate its model with partners across five counties in the Bay Area. Hack the Hood also will receive planning and organizational support from Google and office space in the new Google Impact Lab at Impact HUB San Francisco.
According to Google.org, Hack the Hood was one of 10 projects selected by a panel of judges from the Bay Area community out of almost 1,000 other non-profit organizations. The 10 finalists, which each received $250,000 in Google grants, then rallied their communities to vote for their projects for the second aspect of the Google Impact Challenge which relied on online votes of support. The Hack the Hood team built its own voting website to organize supporters, and pushed the call out using social media, garnering support from around the globe. Google is awarding each of the four highest vote getters another $250,000.
“The level of financial and other kinds of investment that Google is a real game-changer for us, but we are almost more thankful that they pushed us to do this voting campaign. This experience really forced us to step up our game, and resulted in a groundswell of support that we never imagined possible. The people who voted for us now feel a certain kind of ownership over our program, and we are going to work hard to make them proud,” said Hack the Hood Chief Operating Officer Mary Fuller, who led the social media campaign.
“This is such a huge opportunity for us,” said Hack the Hood Executive Director and Co-Director Susan Mernit; “We’re eager to build a model to expand in the Bay area.”
Van Jones, MC Hammer, Craig Newmark and web site builder Weebly were among the people and groups helped spread the word about Hack the Hood during the voting period. In addition to votes, the campaign has resulted in new donations, grants, requests to bring the model to other regions, and an onslaught of offers from locals to volunteer and other forms of support. Hack the Hood, which launched in October 2012, grew its Twitter follower ten times over during the campaign. It is a sister organization of Oakland Local and Live Work Oakland.
The other three projects winning the Google Bay Area Impact Challenge are Bring Me a Book, a Mountain View-based organization which provides underserved families in Alameda and Santa Clara counties access to age and culturally-relevant books and trains parents to lead workshops on reading skills; Health Trust of San Jose which bring healthy produce to underserved communities in Santa Clara County; the Center for Employment Opportunity which provides former inmates with life skills, education, and jobs. Founded in New York with offices in Oakland, it plans to develop a tech platform to prepare participants for employment in a digital world here in the Bay Area. In the next two years it expects to provide transitional employment to about 500 formerly incarcerated people, including 300 in Oakland.
The panelists included Honorable Aida Alvarez, Chair, Latino Community Foundation and Former Administrator, US Small Business Administration; Jacquelline Fuller, Director, Google.org; Secretary Norman Mineta, Former Mayor of San José and Former US Secretary of Transportation; Chief Teresa Deloach Reed, Fire Chief, City of Oakland, the Reverend Cecil Williams, Founder and Minister of Liberation, Glide Memorial United Methodist Church and Barry Zito, Major League Baseball Player and Philanthropist. The panelists selected 10 finalists, who then rallied their communities to vote for their projects. The Hack the Hood team built its own voting website to organize supporters, and pushed the call out using social media, garnering support from around the globe.