Dr. Larry Brilliant Joins Jeff Skoll to Combat Global Challenges
PALO ALTO, Calif., April 14, 2009 — Jeff Skoll, founder and chairman of the Skoll Foundation and Participant Media, announced today that he has hired Dr. Larry Brilliant as president of a new organization Skoll is launching to address urgent threats confronting humanity and the planet. Brilliant will focus the new organization, the Skoll Urgent Threats Fund, on identifying and supporting innovative high-impact initiatives to combat climate change, water scarcity, pandemics, nuclear proliferation and Middle East conflict. Brilliant will also serve as senior adviser to Skoll to ensure alignment of work on these urgent threats across Skoll’s business and philanthropic activities.
Brilliant is renowned for his key role with the World Health Organization in eradicating smallpox from Asia. He was the founding executive director of Google.org, where he led the development of the innovative group’s strategy and, most recently, served as vice president of Google and chief philanthropy evangelist. His extensive knowledge and networks across a range of social and environmental issues will help him develop the strategy and partnerships to get the Skoll Urgent Threats Fund up and running quickly. Brilliant is familiar with Skoll’s vision for social and environmental change, having served on the Skoll Foundation board since 2007.
“Over the last few years, it has become increasingly apparent that humanity’s failure to address critical issues like climate change and nuclear proliferation aren’t just making these challenges more difficult; they’re putting life on the planet at risk,” said Skoll. “This new organization is designed to make serious headway on these issues by identifying and supporting the most innovative initiatives and solutions out there. I can’t think of anyone better prepared to shape and lead this effort than Larry Brilliant.”
“This is an extraordinary opportunity for me to bring my life’s work and experience to join with so many others who feel the urgency of the times to work on the most critical challenges facing us as global citizens,” said Brilliant. “Jeff Skoll is a tremendously innovative proponent of social change, creating a unique, powerful and diverse set of both philanthropic and business tools to promote change. I look forward to working closely with him, the Skoll Foundation and his business ventures to make sure we’re as effective as we can be in changing course for our children’s future. I am also tremendously grateful to Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Sheryl Sandberg who were my first board of directors at Google.org for giving me the opportunity to work for Google.org and to learn so much from working at Google, one of the most remarkable companies in the world.”
The Skoll Urgent Threats Fund will be a new organization, chaired by Skoll, with a mandate to identify and support initiatives, organizations and individuals driving large-scale change on these global challenges. The initial budget for the new initiative is $100 million, with additional funds available over time. Brilliant will build the new organization and develop its strategy and investment approach, leveraging the Skoll Foundation’s programmatic expertise and operating infrastructure in the process. Sally Osberg, CEO of the Skoll Foundation, will join Brilliant and Skoll on the board of the new entity.
“In the Skoll Foundation's 10 years of work, we have built a portfolio of outstanding social entrepreneurs, many of whom are attacking these urgent threats in highly innovative ways; this body of work will both benefit from and be a resource to the new Skoll Urgent Threats Fund and its activities,” said Osberg. “Even for those social entrepreneurs focused on other arenas – poverty, human rights, institutional responsibility, health – the negative impact of these urgent threats makes their challenges a whole lot tougher. Clearly, these are mutually reinforcing ventures.”
Skoll’s private company, Participant Media, produces movies such as "An Inconvenient Truth" and "The Kite Runner" and other content designed to inform and inspire audiences, with the goal of driving public engagement to make positive change. In addition, Skoll’s multi-billion dollar financial services firm, Capricorn Investment Group, brings a principled approach to its investment discipline. In his capacity as senior adviser to Skoll, Brilliant will seek opportunities to leverage these organizations and relationships to further drive positive change in the urgent threat areas.
About Dr. Larry Brilliant
Brilliant served a three-year stint as the first executive director of Google.org, the company’s philanthropic arm before becoming chief philanthropy evangelist for Google. He is an M.D. and M.P.H., board-certified in preventive medicine, epidemiology and public health. He was one of a four -person international team that led the successful World Health Organization smallpox eradication program in India and South Asia. He later founded the Seva Foundation of Berkeley, California, which works in dozens of countries around the world to eliminate preventable and curable blindness. Seva's projects have given back sight to nearly 3 million people. Last year, Time magazine named Brilliant one of the 20 most influential scientists and thinkers and one of the 100 most influential people in the world
Brilliant co-founded The Well, a pioneering virtual community, with Stewart Brand in 1985. He also holds a telecom systems patent and has served as CEO of public and venture-backed technology companies.
Earlier in his career, he was a professor of international health and epidemiology at the University of Michigan. He has authored two books, including The Management of Smallpox Eradication in India, and dozens of scientific articles on infectious diseases, blindness, and international health policy. He is currently writing a book for Harper-Collins on the world's most urgent threats and how to fight them.
Also in 2008, Brilliant was given a Global Leadership Award by the United Nations Organization. In 2006, he received the TED Prize. He was named "International Public Health Hero" by the University of California in 2004. Larry worked in India for WHO for more than 10 years, on smallpox, blindness and polio. His polio work for WHO led him to create the idea for a documentary, The Final Inch, which won an Oscar nomination in 2009 and is currently running on HBO TV.
After the September 11 attacks and the anthrax bio-terror attacks which followed, Larry left corporate jobs to volunteer as a “first responder” for CDC’s smallpox bio-terrorism response effort. After the Christmas 2004 Tsunami, Larry volunteered to work in refugee camps and personally collected and carried financial contributions to refugee organizations in Sri Lanka and Indonesia. He currently chairs a task force created by presidential directive, the National Biosurveillance Advisory Subcommittee.
He was elected to membership in the Council on Foreign Relations in 2009. He sits on the boards of The Skoll Foundation, Health Metrics Network, and Omidyar Networks Humanity United. He is an actively sought after speaker, and has received numerous other awards, prizes and two honorary doctorates.
About Jeff Skoll
Jeff Skoll is the founder and chairman of Participant Media, the Skoll Foundation and the Skoll Urgent Threats Fund.
As the founding president of eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY), Skoll developed the company's first business plan, generating entrepreneurial opportunities for millions of individuals around the world. He also pioneered creation of the eBay Foundation through the allocation of pre-IPO shares.
In 1999, Skoll launched the Skoll Foundation, which provides unrestricted financing and services to leading social entrepreneurs whose innovations are poised to achieve large-scale impact.
Skoll founded Participant Media in 2004 as an independent global media company focused on creating entertainment that inspires and compels social change. Participant’s films to date have garnered 16 Academy Award® nominations. These films include, among others, An Inconvenient Truth, Good Night and Good Luck, North Country, Syriana, Fast Food Nation, Jimmy Carter - Man From Plains, Darfur Now, The Kite Runner, Charlie Wilson's War and The Visitor. Participant will release a number of films in 2009, including The Soloist (with Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr.) on April 24.
Skoll serves on the board of the National Center for Arts and Technology and on a number of advisory boards, including the Ploughshares Fund and The Elders, launched by Nelson Mandela, Richard Branson and Peter Gabriel in 2007 to focus attention on critical global issues. Skoll was one of Time Magazine's 100 People of the Year in 2006 and received the Outstanding Philanthropist Award from the International Association of Fundraising Professionals in 2003. In 2008, he was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and in 2009 was awarded the Producers Guild of America Visionary Award.
Skoll holds a bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Toronto, and an M.B.A. from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He also holds an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Toronto.
About the Skoll Foundation
The Skoll Foundation was created in 1999 by eBay's first president, Jeff Skoll, to promote his vision of a more peaceful and prosperous world. Today the Skoll Foundation drives large scale change by investing in, connecting, and celebrating social entrepreneurs and other innovators dedicated to solving the world’s most pressing problems. Social entrepreneurs are individuals dedicated to innovative, bottom-up solutions that transform unequal and unjust social, environmental and economic systems.
The Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship is the foundation's flagship program. There are currently 59 organizations represented by 72 remarkable social entrepreneurs in the program, working individually and together across regions, countries and continents to deliver solutions to the world’s most challenging economic and social problems. The Skoll Foundation connects social entrepreneurs and other partners in the field via an online community at www.socialedge.org, and through the annual Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship. The foundation also celebrates social entrepreneurs by telling their stories through partnerships with organizations like the PBS Foundation and the Sundance Institute, with the goal of promoting large-scale public awareness of social entrepreneurship. For more information, visit www.skollfoundation.org.