Google Announces $700,000 Grant to ‘Tikkun Olam Makers’

Funds willdramatically accelerate the pace of innovation

These unusual crutches allow people to simultaneously use cellphones while also relieving shoulder pressure. Photo courtesy ZOA Productions (TOM TLV 2015).
These unusual crutches allow people to simultaneously use cellphones while also relieving shoulder pressure. Photo courtesy ZOA Productions (TOM TLV 2015).

By Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman
eJewish Philanthropy

Every vision needs a proper strategy and plan for it to come to fruition, writes Jim L. Smith in an Oct. 2015 article on the principles of success.

“Creating a vision and not following through with proper planning is like getting into your car to drive to your destination without knowing how to get there or even having a driver’s license,” Smith continues. “Most people fail to achieve success because there is no strategic plan or they fail to follow through with the plan. The greater the goal, the more important it is that you invest proper time in building your plan.”

Unfortunately, too often individuals and organizations fail to follow Smith’s advice.

“My response to the rhetorical question, “Are there too many nonprofits?” is: Actually, there are not enough good nonprofits,” writes Jan Masaoka, editor-in-chief of Blue Avocado.

One Jewish and Israeli nonprofit profit has more than defied this stereotype: Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM), a program of the Reut Institute, a Tel Aviv-based think tank, and ROI Community. Today, Google announced that TOM received $700,000 as part of its Google Impact Challenge focused on making the world more accessible for people with disabilities. Nineteen other organizations received similar grants.

Built on the six core principles of scalability, community integration, collaborative competition, affordability, smart development and innovation, TOM brings together strategic thinkers, engineers, designers and project managers to solve unmet social challenges in disadvantaged communities.

Nonprofit companies are often able only to invest in projects with strong demand in the mass market, explained TOM Founding Director Arnon Zamir in a previous interview. Because people with intellectual and developmental disabilities often have unique needs, solutions for this population must be tailored to the individual, which takes time and money. At TOM makeathons – there have been seven makeathons since 2014 – participants create specific solution prototypes (so far 120).

This year, TOM was the only nonprofit to be named among the top 15 Israeli startups to watch by Inc. magazine. According to Gidi Grinstein, president and founder of Reut, TOM will use the grant, being received via Beit Issie Shapiro, to develop a web platform to house all TOM products, support developer groups that develop TOM prototypes into full-fledged products and, inspired by TEDx, develop the necessary materials to support the spread of the TOM Movement.

“The grant will dramatically accelerate the pace of innovation,” Grinstein told eJP.

TOM has only until the end of 2016 to spend the money and accomplish its goals.

“That’s very ambitious,” says Grinstein, though he believes the team can do it.

The Google grant is “a milestone,” says Grinstein. The process, however, is what Grinstein considers to be the story.


TOM evolved from a strategic planning process undertaken by Reut and the Alliance for Global Good beginning in 2010 under the guidance of Avraham Infeld. At that time, Reut grasped an important shift in the Jewish philanthropic world: a need to expand the global engagement of Israel and the Jewish people.

It also understood that volunteerism was on the rise and the time was ripe to capture fresh volunteers. According to the research conducted in 2007 by Shifra Bronznick and Didi Goldenhar, there had been a marked increase in Jewish participation in volunteer projects by 20 percent per year for five years. A 2010 survey conducted by Repair the World found that more than 70 percent of Jewish young adults had volunteered in the previous 12 months.

Eighteen months after the first brainstorming session, at the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly in Baltimore, Reut revealed a plan: Reut’s 21st Century Tikkun Olam initiative. Calling it “an audacious plan,” Reut revealed a global engagement strategy for the state of Israel and the Jewish Diaspora – a total of about 14 million people – to dramatically improve the lives of at least 250 million people in the next decade.

From that GA in 2012 until the end of 2013, Reut worked on how to implement this vision, knowing that impacting 250 million people would mean establishing a resilient and prosperous model that that would make a significant and distinct contribution to humanity. It also knew it would do best to leverage the strength of the people of Israel – their startup nation mentality and knack for dealing creatively with challenges.

In the summer of 2013, Reut connected with ROI Community and together they formulated the TOM model that is being celebrated today. The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation supported TOM since its beginning phases. (See “Tikkun Olam Make-a-Thon” Opens Today)

“We put out a vision and strategy and today we are successfully implementing it,” said Grinstein, who predicted that with the Google grant, TOM will in fact positively impact 250 million people in the next decade or 15 years. “TOM is the outcome of a big pledge that we took seriously. This is a story that has been unfolding for six years.”

Moreover, it is a story that will have impact on more than the Jewish people.

With the grant, TOM makeathons will be replicated globally and more often. According to TOM’s Zamir, Kosovo has already expressed interested in the initiatives and the team is confident that others will follow suit.

Says Zamir: “TOM will help Israel be a light unto the nations.”