Skoll Global Threats Fund Sunsets, Shares Lessons Learned


In 2008, Jeff Skoll set out to test whether a limited-life organization with $100 million and a band of driven and skillful “threat-ologists” could make progress against five of the gravest threats to humanity — climate change, pandemics, water security, nuclear proliferation, and conflict in the Middle East. After spending down the original $100 million gift, the Skoll Global Threats Fund (SGTF) experiment is now coming to an end. Jeff Skoll’s philanthropy and commitment to global threats will continue, informed by lessons learned at SGTF. The work is being reorganized, spun out, and unified with Jeff’s core philanthropic enterprise, the Skoll Foundation.

  • Our pandemics work has demonstrated what’s possible to improve early detection and response to disease outbreaks. Leveraging strong public interest in pandemics due to Ebola, Zika, and more, SGTF is now taking its Ending Pandemics initiative independent, allowing it to focus exclusively on its mission of detecting, verifying, and reporting potential disease outbreaks faster. For more information, please visit


  • The Climate Advocacy Lab, rolled out in 2015 to promote evidence-based advocacy, is growing in membership, activities, and interest. We have incubated the Lab to date, but are now shifting the Lab to be community-owned, independent of SGTF, since only broad embrace of evidence-based practices will improve sector effectiveness as a whole. The Lab will become part of shared infrastructure for the climate and clean energy sector to enhance collaborative campaigns. For more information, please go


  • Our resilience and water security work has focused on how climate and water shocks propagate through the international system and how to head-off consequent tensions. We are exiting grantmaking in this space, but have provided transition support to New America, the MIT Co-Lab, and several more groups to build off these efforts going forward.


  • On nuclear nonproliferation, we have focused on reducing risk through public engagement and policy innovation. We have also done exploratory work to examine threats from emerging technologies, including cybersecurity and artificial intelligence. This work will continue at the Skoll Foundation (


The Skoll Global Threat Fund has done impactful work to advance change on difficult, potentially catastrophic global challenges. We have learned much over these last eight years on what works, and what doesn’t, and have put together a high-level assessment of lessons learned that we hope can be useful. (You can find that here.)  These lessons will help inform Jeff’s philanthropy for the next decade and beyond and are particularly relevant as he brings on new leadership in 2018 to the Skoll Foundation to help lead all his philanthropic work.

There is no straight line for progress on global threats. The threats we set out to work on in 2008 continue to evolve, and new threats have since emerged. While we are proud of SGTF’s contributions, there is much urgent work to do. We sincerely hope we’ve explored some paths for working on global threats that others can build on. That work is risky by nature, requiring novel collaboration, a hardworking and humbly ambitious team, an ability to fail forward, and ceaseless optimism about the transformative potential of solutions despite the daunting scale of the threat. We urge others to take the leap and join the fight against threats to humanity. The risks of inaction are too great to stay on the sidelines.

Thailand’s Disease Detectives

BBC World Hacks posted a video and podcast highlighting the efforts of the Participatory One Health Disease Detection project (PODD) in Thailand, which was supported by SGTF.

The video and podcast explore how new innovations in Thailand are helping local communities prevent large scale epidemics.

To date, there are up to 3,000 trained PODD volunteers helping to identify dangerous outbreaks and contain them before they spread.

You can listen to the podcast at the link here:

The video can be viewed here:

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Aspen Ideas Festival: Dr. Brilliant and Dr. Smolinski Share their Vision for a World Without Pandemics

Our Chairman, Dr. Larry Brilliant, and our Chief Medical Officer and Director of Global Health Threats, Dr. Mark Smolinski, participated in multiple panel discussions at the Aspen Ideas festival last week.

Larry discussed his spiritual public health journey and his book Sometimes Brilliant in an interview with Walter Isaacson, the President and CEO of the Aspen Institute, while Mark reflected on the challenges in tailoring healthcare to different communities and cultures in a panel focused on discrimination in health care.

Mark also kicked off the festival’s Spotlight Health sessions with a brave idea of a global disease surveillance system that can end pandemics in our lifetime, stating: “If we use the power of the people already spread across the globe to be the canaries in the coal mine and report human illness, animal illness, and environmental concerns, then we can get a giant step ahead in finding the next outbreak before it spreads into an epidemic and certainly before it spreads across the globe. Informed consent, Informed people, informed world.”

You can find a link here:

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Jeff Skoll Honored with 2017 Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy

Jeff Skoll was announced today as a recipient of the 2017 Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy.

This prestigious award recognizes outstanding philanthropists who personify Andrew Carnegie’s beliefs and create a world of positive change.

“The recipients of the 2017 Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy were selected for their distinguished and longstanding contributions to the public good,” said Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation of New York. “The medal reflects Andrew Carnegie’s enduring legacy of philanthropy and is rooted in two core principles. First: with wealth comes responsibility. Second: individuals, whether guided by religious, civic, humanistic, or democratic aspirations, have the transformative power to use wealth for the betterment of humankind.”

In addition to Jeff, the full list of 2017 honorees include:

  • Mei Hing Chak China; HeungKong Charitable Foundation
  • H. F. (Gerry) and Marguerite Lenfest U.S.A.; Lenfest Foundation
  • Azim Premji India; Azim Premji Foundation
  • Julian Robertson U.S.A.; Robertson Foundation
  • Kristine McDivitt Tompkins U.S.A.; Tompkins Conservation
  • Shelby White U.S.A.; Leon Levy Foundation
  • Sir James D. Wolfensohn U.S.A. and Australia; Wolfensohn Center for Development

This is a great honor for Jeff and all of us who support his vision for a better world.

 You can find more details about the award at the link here:



Experts Identify 12 Major Epicenters of Climate-Related Risks to International Security

Today, our grantee, the Center for Climate and Security, released a report supported by the Skoll Global Threats Fund titled, Epicenters of Climate and Security: The New Geostrategic Landscape of the Anthropocene.  

Announced at the Fourth Annual Deserts Conference at Oxford University, the report presents a compelling case for why tackling these climate and security “epicenters” – major categories of climate-driven risks to international security – should be a top priority for governments and institutions around the world.

The report includes analysis of 12 significant climate and security epicenters (also presented in a video animation). These epicenters were chosen as risks to critical parts of the international nation-state system (food, water, trade, health, cities, sovereignty) that can ripple out into serious global security crises, especially if happening in tandem.

Bessma Mourad, Program Officer for our work on water, and Amy Luers, our Director of Climate Change, authored a chapter on managing systemic risks.

The report is published in partnership with The American Security Project, Carnegie Mellon University, The Planetary Security Initiative, and the Oxford University School of Geography and Environment.

Press Release:  




Politics and Plagues – Retro Report

The Retro Report recently featured our Chairman Dr. Larry Brilliant as he reflects on one of the greatest triumphs in public health history: the eradication of smallpox. After 40 years and billions of dollars, however, the challenge to eradicate other diseases continues, while the risk of the next pandemic becomes more urgent.

Politics and Plagues discusses how politics and current events can challenge and complicate the already complex efforts to eradicate infectious diseases.

From the accompanying The New York Times essay:

“For his part, Dr. Brilliant emphasizes that the key to beating back an infectious disease is ‘early detection, early response.’ He utters the phrase as if it is a mantra. But in a strife-prone world, translating those words into action is as big a challenge as ever.”

The full report can be found at the link here:


Annie Maxwell receives University of Michigan Bicentennial Alumni Award

Our President, Annie Maxwell, was recognized and awarded the Bicentennial Alumni Award at the University of Michigan’s 2017 spring commencement for her work on global threats and commitment to addressing “wicked problems.”

This special award was created exclusively for the university’s 200th anniversary, honoring 20 people who who can inspire the university’s community through their outstanding ongoing work, and herald its future achievements, as well as its state, national, and global impact.

Susan M. Collins, the Joan and Sanford Weill Dean of Public Policy, stressed Annie’s deep-seated values, stating: “Annie has spoken extensively about her belief that solving the world’s most vital challenges requires our full collective intelligence and creativity, which we can only catalyze by engaging diverse people and perspectives throughout the process,” says Collins.

Jennifer Niggemeier, director of graduate career services and alumni relations, recognized Maxwell not just for her professional accomplishments, but for her longstanding support for the next generation of policy leaders: “She’s been a mentor to so many Ford School students over the years…from developing internships to modeling the way for women in leadership. We are so proud that she will represent the Ford School during the university’s bicentennial celebrations.”

Other University of Michigan Bicentennial Alumni Award winners include, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who both recently won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for the song “City of Stars” from the movie “La La Land.” Babak Parviz, the creator of Google Glass and former director at Google X. Christopher Paul Curtis, whose first book “The Watsons go to Birmingham,” won a Newbery Honor and a Coretta Scott King Honor.

The full announcement can be found at the link here:

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Ending Pandemics: A Session at the 2017 Skoll World Forum

Our Pandemics team will be hosting an Ecosystem Event at this year’s Skoll World Forum.

Moderated by our Chairman Dr. Larry Brilliant, the panel features experts recognized in the field of global health discussing how effective global and local collaboration can prevent the next pandemic.

In addition to our Chief Medical Officer and Director of Global Health Threats, Dr. Mark Smolinski, panelists include:

Dr. Jeremy Farrar, Director, Wellcome Trust
Laurie Garrett, Senior Fellow for Global Health, Council on Foreign Relations
Channé Suy Lan, Regional Lead, InSTEDD iLab Southeast Asia
Dr. Suwit Wibulpolprasert, Senior Advisor, Ministry of Health, Thailand

The world knows all too well that no one is safe from the threat of emerging infectious disease and that the scale and devastation posed by a pandemic could reach millions of people, costing the world more than $60 billion.

It will take a concerted effort to prevent that from happening. From social entrepreneurs working on the frontlines of health to those working in technology and innovation, this work goes beyond traditional partnerships.

While the session is at full capacity, we will be sharing a video and recap blog post following the session.


PBS Newshour: Stamping out smallpox is just one chapter of his Brilliant life story

Our Chairman, Dr. Larry Brilliant continues his discussion with PBS Newshour special correspondent, Fred de Sam Lazaro, looking back at his career and current work identifying today’s global threats.

In the segment, which ran on PBS Newshour on March 9, Larry shares more about his days in the San Francisco hippie scene and his work as one of the world’s leading disease fighters who helped eradicate smallpox. He also gives a nod to the work of the pandemics team here at Skoll Global Threats Fund working to end pandemics.

You can watch the full segment at this link:

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Guardiões da Saúde (Guardians of Health) Receives Recognition at the World Government Summit

Guardiões da Saúde (Guardians of Health) was recently announced as the winner of the Best Mobile Government Service at the World Government Summit in Dubai.

Supported by the Skoll Global Threats Fund and the Brazilian Ministry of Health, the app was built by Brazilian eHealth startup Epitrack. Garnering more than 60,000 downloads, Guardiões da Saúde was used during the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Brazil to monitor potential disease outbreaks in real-time.

The application was developed by applying participatory surveillance technology, where app users’ health and location data was voluntarily and confidentially shared daily to monitor health conditions. The collective data reported could then warn users and officials of health threats, quickly triggering control and prevention actions at the local, state, and national levels.

With the support of governments and individuals, technology and participatory surveillance can help ensure that mass gatherings like the Olympics continue to be celebratory moments where people around the world can peacefully embrace other cultures and not put their health at risk.

The award announcement can be found here.