Dr. Larry Brilliant Explores the Meaning of Compassion

Our Chairman, Dr. Larry Brilliant, shares his incredible spiritual journey from a young boy in Detroit to a key player in the eradication of one of the worst pandemics in human history, in his new book Sometimes Brilliant. Larry recently gave a talk exploring the meaning of compassion at Dreamforce 2016, where he reflected on his powerful experiences as a civil-rights marcher, philosopher, mystic, hippie, doctor, and groundbreaking tech innovator.

Watch his talk at the link here: https://www.salesforce.com/video/282829/




Larry Brilliant to Judge New MacArthur Foundation Competition for $100 Million

Our Chairman, Dr. Larry Brilliant, will serve as an evaluating judge for a new $100 million award to a single proposal designed to help solve a critical problem affecting people, places, or the planet.

Started by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, 100&Change is open to organizations working in any field of endeavor anywhere around the world. Applicants must identify both the problem they are trying to solve, as well as their proposed solution. Competitive proposals must be meaningful, verifiable, durable, and feasible.

More information on the competition can be found at www.100andchange.org.

All inquiries should be directed to: questions@100andchange.org



Skoll Global Threats Fund President Discusses Imagination & Wicked Problems

Skoll Global Threats Fund’s President, Annie Maxwell, returned to her alma mater to speak at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

Hosted by the Josh Rosenthal Education Fund, this lecture is part of series created in memory of Josh Rosenthal, a U-M graduate who died at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The fund supports lectures, research, and student internships that encourage public discussion and greater understanding of changes in the world since September 11.

Annie’s talk explores the role of the imagination and diversity when it comes to addressing wicked problems. Often viewed as complex challenges that intersect with one another, wicked problems generally can’t be solved, only improved, and tend to be difficult to even define. In her lecture, Annie provides specific examples on how the Skoll Global Threats Fund uses the imagination to tackle climate change, pandemics, and regional conflict.

You can watch the full lecture here: http://fordschool.umich.edu/events/2016/wicked-problems-role-imagination-and-creativity



National Disease Reporting Hotline Starts to Flourish in Cambodia

Guest Post by Joseph Agoada, Global Communication Lead at InSTEDD

Since early 2015, the iLab Southeast Asia (iLab SEA) has supported the Cambodian Ministry of Health’s Center for Disease Control (Cambodian CDC) in an effort to improve the country’s ability to monitor and track disease spread. In January of 2016, the collaboration resulted in the launch of “115,” a free public national disease reporting hotline that is accessible by dialing the number 115. The hotline was built with SGTF grantee, InSTEDD’s open source mobile and web interactive voice response tool Verboice, and is available to anyone in the country with a phone and mobile network coverage.

The hotline allows for the general public to call and report an alert of a possible outbreak and get information posted by the Cambodian CDC. It is becoming especially valuable to frontline health workers responsible for reporting of infectious disease information on a weekly basis. With their mobile phones and the hotline, health workers can digitally document and report disease data to their districts, a job that previously required time intensive administrative paperwork and often long distance travel on challenging roads and inclement weather.

This past May we visited the Cambodian CDC Director, Dr. Ly Sovann, and 115 project lead, Dr. Sok Samnang, at the Ministry of Health offices in Phnom Penh. Dr. Sovann and Dr. Samnang shared that the project was having extremely promising initial results. Reports from district health centers, where workers were trained on using 115, were showing signs of increased timeliness, accuracy and frequency. Another unexpected benefit observed was a significant morale boost among health workers. The particularly laborious task of weekly reporting, which usually took painstaking paperwork, could now be done in under thirty minutes.

The improvements in speed of sending information to the national level ministry and the productivity of health workers are many positive signals for the 115 line. This progress, however, is just the beginning. Trainings for building the capacity of health workers to utilize the hotline are starting to roll out across the country. Furthermore, integration of the reporting systems with other disease databases are also underway.

When expanded, refined, and streamlined with national reporting systems, the 115 line will be able to deliver near real-time information to public health decision makers tasked with mobilizing limited resources and stopping outbreaks before they claim lives. While challenges lay ahead, the InSTEDD iLab team in Cambodia is motivated by the vision of scaling the use of the hotline beyond Cambodia’s borders. Neighboring countries in the region are taking notice of the power behind a free to the public, open source disease reporting hotline.

The 115 project was made possible with funding from the Skoll Global Threats Fund.
To get a firsthand account of 115 see the photo essay from the iLab Southeast Asia. For more information on the work of InSTEDD visit their homepage and follow them on Twitter.


An Inconvenient Truth…A Decade Later

May 2016 marks the tenth anniversary of the documentary release, An Inconvenient Truth.

A film that intended to raise public awareness on the dangers of global warming sparked a movement that opened the eyes of the masses and established better public understanding on climate change.

When the movie premiered, the effect was immediate: People began talking about the climate crisis—to their friends, their family, and everyone else in their lives. Millions of voices joined together all across the planet to demand action.

A decade later, we continue to work towards progress. Last December, 195 countries solidified the historic Paris Agreement to cut global warming pollution and accelerate the world’s shift to clean energy.

There is so much more that needs to be done, but the tremendous impact of one documentary and the relentless efforts of so many mobilizing to fight climate change keeps us moving, creating, and committed to confronting global threats.

Take a moment to share your truth using the hashing #ait10, joining Al Gore in a conversation on the anniversary of the film’s release. For more ways to get involved, visit takepart.com/ait10.


Audio: Larry Brilliant on pandemics at Commonwealth Club


The audio file of Larry’s talk is now available here.


Our chairman, Dr. Larry Brilliant, will be speaking May 3 at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on fighting Zika and other pandemics.   From the Club’s site:

How safe are we from an ebola, Zika, H7N9, or MERS outbreak? How can we prevent a bioterrorist attack or lab accidents? Public health expert Brilliant will discuss today’s growing pandemic risks.

Brilliant was the executive director of Google.org and chaired the Presidential Advisory Committee on Bio-Surveillance. He lived in India for more than 10 years working as a United Nations medical officer, where he played a key role in the success World Health Organization smallpox eradication program in South Asia. He also co-founded The Seva Foundation, an international NGO whose programs and grantees have given back sight to more than 3.5 million blind people in more than 20 countries.

Hope you can join us!


Skoll World Forum 2016: Fierce Compassion

Next week, a group of us from the Skoll Global Threats Fund will be joining the movers and shakers of the social change world at the Skoll World Forum in Oxford, England. For three days we will debate, discuss, network, and design to accelerate entrepreneurial solutions for the world’s most pressing problems.

From climate change to ending pandemics, a number of our initiatives at the Skoll Global Threats Fund overlap with some of the activities and topics included in this year’s forum.

The theme for this year is fierce compassion; we believe this notion is integral to all the work we do in tackling global threats.

Check out the Forum Live page at skoll.org/live for videos, photos, and conversations as they happen in real time. The live-streamed coverage begins at 10:00am GMT +1 on April 13, 2016.

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Urgency and Optimism at Skoll-hosted TED Climate Breakfast

The Jeff Skoll Group had the honor of hosting a breakfast event at the recent TED2016 conference in Vancouver, featuring two leaders in the fight against climate change—Christiana Figueres, the head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and former US Vice President Al Gore, now chairman of the Climate Reality Project.

Both climate leaders gave main-stage talks at TED. The breakfast, attended by some 90 TED participants was a chance for a more informal exchange.

Christiana Figueres kicked things off with a combination of optimism and urgency. Last year’s Paris climate deal is hugely important, she stressed; it’s the first time that the world has signed on to a common climate goal. We’re finally all rowing in the same direction.

However this is a first, not a final, step. The targets aren’t ambitious enough to get us where we need to be. But the agreement includes provisions to review and ratchet up those targets. The next five years are key, with intermediate steps to strengthen the Paris commitments expected as soon at 2018.

Al Gore followed with a similar mix of urgency and optimism. His arguments are as compelling as ever, supported by a range of data showing the increasingly negative impacts of climate change. But we now have solutions that we didn’t have before. Renewable energy use is growing significantly, in the US, China, and around the world. Continued improvements in technology and falling prices for wind, solar, and battery storage are strong positive signs.

Conversely, fossil fuel exploitation is creating a new pain point beyond carbon pollution: the financial markets. Investors increasingly recognize the risks of significant stranded oil and coal assets, because we can’t burn known reserves and still have a livable planet. Echoing Christiana Figueres, Al Gore reiterated the need to push forward aggressively: we recognize the problem, we have the answers, but whether we have the will to act is still an open question.

The diversity in the room illustrated the value of—and need for—multiple levels of engagement to advance climate action. One participant urged TED, with its unique blend of participants, to consider a dedicated TED Climate track over this next critical five-year period.

The Jeff Skoll Group presence at the breakfast reflected our commitment to this type of multilevel engagement. In attendance were representatives from the Skoll Foundation; Capricorn Investment Group, one of the world’s largest clean tech investors; Participant Media, producer of An Inconvenient Truth; and my group, the Skoll Global Threats Fund, which focuses on building public and political will for climate action.

We too work at multiple levels, all rowing in the same direction. We couldn’t agree more with both the urgency and the optimism expressed by Al Gore and Christiana Figueres. We’re also excited that Al Gore will speak at the upcoming Skoll World Forum. His talk will be live streamed, and we hope you can watch.

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ProMED Experts Share their Insights on Disease Surveillance and EpiCore

Our pandemics team joined thousands of global health experts and researchers to discuss major challenges infectious diseases pose to the world at the International Congress on Infectious Diseases.

Held on March 2-5, in Hyderabad, India, the conference was organized by our grantee partner, the International Society for Infectious Disease.

The organization showcased their program, ProMED-mail, which monitors emerging infectious diseases through a moderated electronic outbreak and event reporting system. This system currently has 80,000 international subscribers reporting on human, animal, and plant diseases from around the world.

Prior to the conference, ProMED-mail convened 28 subject matter experts from 21 countries to discuss how to make best use of EpiCore, a Skoll Global Threats Fund supported global disease outbreak surveillance system that aims to find and report outbreaks faster than traditional disease surveillance methods alone.

As we engaged with experts, we were able to gather insights about their work reporting disease outbreaks in their countries and how the EpiCore system could help advance their work.

EpiCore draws on the knowledge of a global community ranging from human, animal, and environmental health professionals to verify information on disease outbreaks in their geographic regions. It then connects this community with a secure online networking and reporting system.

ProMED-mail harnesses informal sources of information to generate reports of outbreaks. Its subject matter specialists, distributed around the world in 34 countries, use these unconfirmed reports to detect the earliest warning signs of an emerging infectious disease. Often these informal reports are not yet validated or confirmed when ProMED-mail initially reports them. They are posted on ProMED-mail as “requests for information” or RFIs.

To help get to the bottom of these RFIs and find outbreaks faster, EpiCore recruits volunteers around the world with experience in public health, epidemiology or infectious diseases to respond to these RFIs.

Since the launch of the EpiCore system last fall, 112 members from 37 countries have voluntarily participated in the system. EpiCore has already yielded results. Most recently, a “mystery disease” in Nigeria causing fever and serious illness in children was initially suspected to be a hemorrhagic fever. An EpiCore volunteer in the region uncovered the actual cause: measles.



Funding Mobile Technology for Disease Surveillance in Southern Africa

We funded a project for the Southern African Center for Infectious Disease Surveillance (SACIDS), which supports the use of mobile technology for disease surveillance and enhancing community-based disease outbreak detection.

The project is built on the belief that a community level “one health” approach will progressively contribute to disease detection followed by a rapid response at community, national, regional and eventually global levels. The goal is to eliminate or reduce the occurrence or likelihood of a pandemic.

The first edition of the TechnoHealth Surveillance Newsletter can be found at the link here.

You can also view a video about the project at the link here. Please note that only the introduction is in English.


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