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 endingpandemics.org
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 climateadvocacylab.org
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 (skoll.org).
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.
Our grantee, N Square, just launched its first Innocentive Challenge. The challenge seeks solutions that detail how a highly engaged network of influencers in the arts, education, finance, media, science and technology fields can work collaboratively with nuclear disarmament, safety and security subject matter experts. The challenge is based on N Square’s belief that new forms of cross-sector collaboration become possible through the sheer ingenuity of an engaged public. This enables us to innovate our way to a world that is free of nuclear risks.
N Square, the collaborative we’re supporting to bring new players and new ideas into the nuclear realm, presented at PopTech’s annual shindig a couple of weeks back. Erika Gregory, N Square’s executive director and Carl Robichaud, who leads the nuclear work at the Carnegie Corporation of New York, one of the collaborative’s funding partners (along with the Hewlett and MacArthur Foundations, the Ploughshares Fund and us), presented from the main stage. Their talk provides good insights into why people should care about the nuclear issue and how N Square is working to reframe how people approach it. Have a look!
N Square, the initiative we’re supporting along with other leading nuclear funders to bring new ideas and new players into the nuclear security realm, has just launched a gaming challenge with Games for Change. There’s a $10,000 prize for developing a game that engages and educates people on nuclear risks. More detail are here.
The final session of the six-part Reinventing Nuclear Security series, an initiative of N Square, which we support, focuses on envisioning a world in which nuclear weapons no longer play a role. You can watch a recap of that session below. It includes an interesting mix of futurists, faith leaders, and advocates. Worth watching. Plus, you can review recap videos of all six sessions (or watch the full 90-minute roundtables) from the series main page here.
The most recent segment of the Reinventors Network series on Reinventing Nuclear Security focused on ways new players who don’t traditionally think of the nuclear security sphere can constructively engage in the space. We are supporting the series via our investment in N Square, a new initiative designed to help bring new ideas and new players to the nuclear security conversation. Below is a short video recap of the session. The next segment, on developing next-generation innovators to support nuclear security, takes place tomorrow, March 3, at 11:00 am PT. Click here for more information.
The second session in the Reinventors Network series on Reinventing Nuclear Security that we’re supporting focused on how the National Labs system, born of the nuclear age, might look different in the future. It’s an interesting conversation, including former lab workers, academics, nuclear specialists and even a sci-fi writer. You can watch a short recap of that session below.
The recent kickoff session of the new Reinventors Network series on rethinking nuclear security we’re helping support through N Square has now been summarized in an 11-minute recap video. The session focuses on the potential for novel application of technology to solve nuclear security challenges. Some really interesting insights from a great lineup of futurists and technologists:
Paula Saffo, Technology forecaster, Professor at Stanford University & Futures Track Chair at Singularity University Reese Jones, Associate Founder at Singularity University; longtime venture strategist John Perry Barlow, Co-Founder in General & Peripheral Visionary Greg Petroff, Chief Experience Officer at GE Software Sean Gourley, Co-Founder & CTO at Quid Brie Linkenhoker, Director of Worldview Stanford at Stanford University Erika Gregory, Director of N Square & Host of the Reinvent Nuclear Security series
Almost 70 years after Hiroshima, the world has managed to avoid nuclear war, but we are far from being out of danger of a nuclear explosion. Despite progress in disarmament since the end of the Cold War, the world still has an estimated 17,000 nuclear bombs.
The Reinvent Nuclear Security series aims to answer the question: How can 21st-century innovation greatly accelerate progress toward the eventual eradication of nuclear weapons while significantly reducing nuclear risk today? Here’s an intro video featuring Valerie Plame, a former CIA agent who worked closely on nuclear issues:
Our first roundtable in the series, Possible Game-Changing Technologies, is scheduled for Jan 20, 2015, at 11:00 am PT. You can get more information on the session here or RSVP on the Google+ event page, here. I’ll be participating, as will some really interesting folks from the technology world. We hope you join the conversation!
For more information about this series, please visit the series landing page here.