By Maayan Hoffman
eJewishPhilanthropy.com

Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM) received a $25,00 grant last month from an unexpected source: The employees of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation.

As part of foundation’s BX Connects programming, and in celebration of their decade of impact, the foundation launched a new employee-driven grant program: The Blackstone Charitable Foundation’s 10th Anniversary Grant Competition. Through this competition, the Foundation awarded $250,000 in grants to 25 nonprofit organizations – all sourced and nominated by Blackstone employees – that are tackling complex issues in their communities with creative and impactful solutions.

TOM, a global movement that drives innovation in assistive technology through the making of extremely affordable, open-source solutions to neglected problems and real-world challenges facing people with disabilities, was one of those recipients.

According to Gidi Grinstein, the founder and president of Reut Group, TOM was “pitched” by two Blackstone employees. The competition was among 186 other projects.

Some of the other projects that received $25,000 grants include the Changing Lives Foundation, which supports underprivileged children and marginalized youth in Hong Kong and the Mainland by providing them with 100 percent free-of-charge, center-based and outreach programs in education, talent development and self-empowerment; the Health Information Project, which educates adolescents and young adults about their health issues and encourages and assists them in accessing existing community health resources; and Emma’s Torch, which harnesses the power of the culinary industry to help refugees build new lives in their new communities through culinary training, ESL classes and interview preparation.

TOM is a nonprofit venture of Reut Group. It launched in July 2014 with the Schusterman Foundation and, since then, it has held projects in 18 countries and 37 communities, as well as harnessed the volunteer power of 3,500 people. In 2018 alone, TOM held 15 makeathons in nine countries.

“Its moonshot goal is to help 250 million people within a decade,” Grinstein said.

What makes TOM unique?

“Think about a person that needs a customized cushioned seat that fits his body like a glove would fit a hand, or about a child with autism who needs a customized device to be able to use a specific software on her tablet,” Grinstein sad. “These people, and millions of others, who need affordable customized solutions to their unique needs are unlikely to ever have a market solution or a government solution. TOM figured out a global systemic solution to creating and disseminating thousands of affordable solutions to such ‘neglected needs’ to millions of people through a world-wide network of TOM Communities.”

In recent years, TOM has been developing by leaps and bounds and is at a dramatic inflection point toward exponential growth that will make it one of the largest humanitarian and social impact projects to have come out of Israel, Grinstein explained. This year, the program is focusing on crystallizing a “dissemination phase” that, once fully standardized, will allow TOM to realize its goals.

“TOM was created to help many millions of people by revolutionizing the way in which our societies innovate around the needs of their poorest and most vulnerable members,” said Grinstein. “We envision a global movement of communities that are engaging top local talent in creating thousands of extremely affordable solutions that are delivered in every community, in every country, in both developing and developed nations. These tremendous ambitions make TOM into a moonshot project that will hopefully one day, much sooner than within 20 years, become one of the greatest contributions to humanity to have come out of Israel.”