Innovation Summit

Tackling Ebola through Innovation

On Tuesday, April 21, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation in partnership with the Skoll Global Threats Fund and the U.S. Agency for International Development hosted the Ebola Innovation Summit at the Innovation Hangar in San Francisco. The event was designed to foster collaboration and innovation leading to new solutions that can help end the Ebola crisis and improve health for the long term.

Attendees came from far and wide and represented a diverse array of people and industries needed to make new ideas a reality.  We know that it will take all types of people and organizations to reach the goal of zero cases of Ebola, and help build a stronger, healthier West Africa. In reflection of this, this unique event brought together representatives from the technology and private sectors, global non-profits, government, and academia, many of whom have extensive experience working throughout West Africa.

The event opened with remarks from Paul G. Allen urging us to “apply new solutions and better information to improve the management of future outbreaks. To overcome this 21st century challenge, we need 21st century solutions. Ebola is not somebody else’s problem. It is our problem. What we do today, will save lives tomorrow.” His full remarks can be found here.

The morning continued with a flow of other inspirational speakers, including the Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation for Sierra Leone, Hon. Madina Rahman; Dr. Olawale Maiyegun, Director of Social Affairs for the African Union; Dr. David Nabarro, Special Envoy on Ebola for the United Nations; Raj Shah, Distinguished Fellow at Georgetown University; Scott Case, co-founder and CEO of Main Street Genome; and Gabrielle Fitzgerald, Director of the Paul G. Allen Ebola program. A full agenda and list of speakers can be found here.

After a morning spent talking about lessons learned, and how these learnings can stimulate new solutions to the ongoing Ebola epidemic, we broke out into four challenge groups for the afternoon. These groups worked creatively and collaboratively to tackle specific challenges around data strengthening and coordination, diagnostics, social mobilization and emergency infrastructure and logistics.

During the afternoon, a buzz of conversation could be heard throughout the event venue. Presentations and small-team discussions were interspersed with clapping and cheers from some of the groups. Positive energy could be tangibly felt with people actively listening and understanding each other’s perspectives, and treating all ideas equally.

At the conclusion of the day, there was a consensus that the day had been fruitful – overwhelmingly people shared that they learned new and valuable information and/or and met a new contact that would lead to future collaboration. We really felt that we had begun to fulfill the mandate set out by Dr. Nabarro earlier that morning, when he said: “All of you, innovate in every way you can. The power of collaboration cannot be underestimated.”

Paul Allen speaks at the Ebola Innovation Summit

Participants interact and share new ideas.

Panelists at the Ebola Innovation Summit

David Nabarro, UN Special Envoy for Ebola, speaks at the Ebola Innovation Summit

Ideas from the day captured on post-it notes.