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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
At the close of 2016, the SGTF Ending Pandemics Team created a home for our partners across the globe to connect and learn with one another. EndingPandemics.org, the new home for our Community of Practice, will continue to evolve and grow as our work expands.
From Chiang Mai, Thailand to Morogoro, Tanzania, we collaborate with a brilliant team of grantees, ministries of health, and private and public sector partners in 143 countries. Our mission: to find and report outbreaks faster no matter where they occur on the planet.
We’ve seen how tools created by the people, for the people, are saving lives and preventing economic loss that could debilitate communities. We’ve seen the drive of a village volunteer to stop a potentially catastrophic outbreak in its path by diligently taking a photo of a sick cow, filling out a few fields on a app, and pushing “send.” Every week, over 60,000 individual volunteers in North America report symptoms of influenza-like-illness to help us track the first signs and spread of the seasonal flu. Twenty-eight countries collaborate in a regional network collective to share best practices and scale innovations.
Openness to learning and sharing knowledge are essential to doing the work we do. It’s people like our Community of Practice partners who enrich and shape our perspectives on the endless possibilities of how we can improve our world.
Microbes are not deterred by borders, and neither are we. Ending pandemics is a movement that starts with all of us.
Our Chairman, Dr. Larry Brilliant, is featured on the PBS program Religion & Ethics Weekly. As correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports, Brilliant became a disciple of an Indian guru and worked on helping to eradicate smallpox, a disease that once killed millions of people every year. Today, Brilliant is a guru to many elites in Silicon Valley and a philanthropist who embraces the ethical wisdom of many faiths, working to combat global threats and scourges such as pandemics, climate change, and nuclear proliferation.
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.
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.
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.