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About the Forum

On January 12-13, 2021, health, science, and policy leaders from around the world gathered at the Futures Forum on Preparedness to debut groundbreaking research on the global COVID-19 response and reimagine the future of public health. 

We unveiled research on 23 nations’ COVID-19 responses, undertaken by 78 researchers from 47 institutions, that outlines lessons learned across nations and recommendations to improve public health interventions. We also released Health Security Net, the most comprehensive collection of pandemic preparedness policy ever published, containing over 1,200 reports chronicling 25 years.

By bringing social scientists and public health experts together, we aimed to build a global, interdisciplinary network that could turn these insights into action by further disseminating the research, organizing working groups, and launching a challenge opportunity.  over the coming months and years. 

The Futures Forum on Preparedness was hosted by Schmidt Futures, in partnership with the Social Science Research Council.

Groundbreaking Research

A central puzzle of COVID-19 is why some nations have so successfully contained the virus while others have failed. Even more puzzling is how nations with similar systems of government and demographics have experienced the pandemic in such different ways.

To understand what drives divergent outcomes, Schmidt Futures partnered with the National Science Foundation to support teams at Harvard, Cornell, and Columbia universities examining how public trust, leadership, and political culture have impacted 23 nations’ COVID-19 responses, including the first major intra-African study. This research, undertaken by 78 researchers from 47 institutions, pinpoints key variables to determine why some nations’ COVID-19 responses succeeded while others struggled. The findings will help public health authorities and policymakers mount a more effective response to COVID-19 and better prepare for future pandemics.  

With support from Schmidt Futures, Georgetown University’s Center of Global Health Science and Security is also releasing Health Security Net, an online, searchable library containing over 1,200 global reports chronicling 25 years of pandemic preparedness policy. This collection of reports, testimony, and expert advice will become the most comprehensive repository of its kind ever published.

Working Groups

Schmidt Futures launched two working groups to operationalize the ideas from the forum. The African Pandemic Response Innovation Working Group will be led by the Center for Pandemic Research at Columbia University, in partnership with Resolve to Save Lives. The Learning and Accountability Working Group will be led by the Center for Global Development and will help governments structure how they learn from the successes and failures of our response to COVID-19 and improve preparedness in the future.

Challenge Opportunity

Schmidt Futures announced a new challenge opportunity to source the best ideas for increasing trust and solidarity as they relate to public health. In partnership with the National Academy of Medicine, and with advisory support from the Social Science Research Council, we will seek proposals for concrete, evidence-based solutions to develop trust within communities and build interdisciplinary collaborations when deploying public health interventions. Local governments, public health systems, and other institutions are eligible to participate. Winners receive funding and resources, particularly for securing key talent.

Schmidt Futures

Schmidt Futures bets early on exceptional people making the world better. Founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt, Schmidt Futures is a philanthropic initiative that brings talent together into networks, bets on the most promising ideas through competition, and equips people to scale through partners and thoughtful application of modern tools.

Schmidt Futures COVID-19 Work

As COVID-19 has spread across the globe, disrupting the lives of billions of people and causing immense physical and economic hardship, countless individuals and organizations have risen up to tackle this generational challenge. 

Through early efforts to coordinate philanthropic funding and seed promising efforts, Schmidt Futures has helped accelerate innovation in COVID-19 diagnostics, treatment, policy, public health communications, and resilience.

Our work has included:

  • Funding therapeutic research at the Mayo Clinic, Oxford, and the University of Washington, which resulted in the treatment of tens of thousands of patients
  • Helping to create the Families and Workers Fund to advance direct cash support and policy responses for working families affected by COVID-19, along with the Ford Foundation, Open Society Foundations, JPB Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation, and Amalgamated Foundation
  • Providing early support for COVID Act Now to build COVID-19 data dashboards and customizable decision simulators that more than 20 states and many counties actively use in their work, a website that more than 1 million people are accessing directly, and an active API
  • Supporting a working group with the World Health Organization and pharmaceutical manufacturers on accelerating vaccine delivery, as well as an ad hoc philanthropic coordinating group with more than 100 participants
  • Staffing the New York State Governor’s Reimagine Commission, chaired by Eric Schmidt, which is tasked with finding ways that New York can build back better, focusing especially on the areas of internet connectivity, telehealth, and workforce development 
  • Launching a worldwide Reimagine Challenge, backed by scholarship prizes, for post-secondary students to share their own ideas for how to help society respond and recover