Friday, July 24, 2015

Seeker Spotlight: Skoll Global Threat Funds

Skoll Global Threat FundsToday we’re speaking with the Skoll Global Threat Funds, who have just launched their latest challenge on water/climatic events.

Thanks for joining us today. To start, could you tell us a bit about Skoll Global Threats Fund’s mission and key activities?

 The Skoll Global Threats Fund is a private foundation based in California and we are committed to safeguarding humanity against global threats. In particular, we focus on a number of global threats that this challenge touches on: water, climate, and pandemics. We believe that the dramatic advancement in data and technology in the past decade, as well as our ability to connect with different people from different sectors, has the potential to give us some exciting solutions to tackle these very big threats that we face.

Why is this an important public good problem?

 We live in an increasingly interconnected and complex world. While the rapid exchange of goods, information, and ideas has brought opportunities to many, the increased interconnectivity has also increased our vulnerability to systemic risks.  In the last 10 years, we have seen an increasing number of water and climate shocks, such as extreme local floods and droughts that have triggered global crises and led to disease outbreaks, social unrest, migration, political instability. For example, droughts in China and the Middle East and a heat wave in Russia all contributed to high food prices that contributed to the start of the Arab Spring. We need a better way to monitor and alert if, where, and when these types of events may happen in the future.

Briefly, what are you looking for with the challenge?

We are really looking for new ideas and new approaches that can identify early indications that a water or climatic event in one location, such as floods or droughts, can trigger direct and indirect impacts elsewhere in the world. It is exciting to sometimes hear that there is so much data in the world, but what we are looking for is how to harness that data to solve big global threats.

What could strong submissions lead to?

We believe that the strong submissions can be the beginning of creating a near-real time monitoring system to predict these types of globally networked risks. As sectors tend to be siloed, and data disparate, we hope that  the submissions can lead to creative ways of fusing and analyzing data across disciplines, for a more thoughtful and informative analysis.

Any final words of advice or guidance for people looking to enter the Challenge?

We are really excited to see what the solvers come up with! We are looking for new, unusual, and diverse ideas. We are really hoping to see that a new network of innovators on water and climate shocks emerges out of this competition.

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