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FT: Think Again

Author: Shawn Donnan
July 8, 2011

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In his piece for the Financial Times Magazine, Shawn Donnan discusses Google's latest venture into the world of philanthropy: Google Ideas. Described as a “think/do-tank”, it either amounts to a bold attempt to stretch the boundaries of corporate social responsibility, perhaps even to rewire the entire role of business in today's world – or, with its brief to find solutions to some of the world's most intractable problems, the ultimate expression of new tech bubble bravado.

Rudy Corpuz still looks the part of the California gangster he once was. His hair falls on to his shoulders in tight braids and he has the heavy chest, bulging shoulders and slow rolling lope of a man who knows how to do harm. He joined a gang at the age of 12. By the time he was 18, he was making $1,000 a day selling crack to his neighbours. He has never killed a man, but he has shot people “who had it coming” and is largely unapologetic about that. “I did what I had to do to keep my reputation,” is how he puts it. Rudy Corpuz is, at first glance, the sort of person that a Google engineer would not want to run into late at night if they had made the 35.9-mile, 42-minute Google Maps-plotted drive up US-101 from the tech giant's “Googleplex” and ended up lost on the streets of South of Market, the San Francisco neighbourhood where he once ruled.

Yet on a recent Monday morning in Ireland, Corpuz, who left his gangster life in the early 1990s and founded a group that works to keep kids out of gangs in South of Market, was bending the ear of Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, suggesting the company hire kids from his neighbourhood to create computer games.

“I love that idea,” Schmidt answered before turning to the audience at the Summit Against Violent Extremism (Save) in the Dublin Convention Centre to extol the virtues of games as a parenting tool: “If your child or teenager is at home playing games, they are not going to get in anywhere near as much trouble as they are if they are out on their own.”

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