Letter from Ryan Stowers: In the face of crisis, CKF partners and grantees provide innovative solutions

In times of crisis, as in all times, the Charles Koch Foundation (CKF) endeavors to serve as a preferred partner for those who break down barriers and empower individuals to live happier, healthier and productive lives. Like many of our partners and grantees, CKF is taking meaningful steps to ensure the safety of our colleagues and their families during this period of concern and uncertainty. In communicating with our partners, we have been reminded of the phenomenal capacity of individuals from every background and circumstance as they confront this challenge and step up to aid their respective communities.

The Emergent Ventures fellowship and grant program is one such CKF grantee filling a crucial gap that often goes unnoticed and underappreciated until moments like this. Emergent Ventures recently announced over $1 million in prizes for coronavirus projects that will mitigate the pandemic, develop innovative solutions, and ensure that we learn from this crisis to improve outcomes for future outbreaks. That effort includes $500,000 to find a good treatment rapidly, $100,000 for the most novel approach to social distancing, and $50,000 for the best investigative journalism piece on the pandemic.

Other CKF partners have stepped to the forefront as K-12 and postsecondary education experiences unprecedented disruption due to COVID-19. With millions of students now transitioning to new venues for instruction as physical schools shutter during the crisis, it’s important to remember that learning shouldn’t be characterized or shaped by a place – learning is an experience. While the at-home learning model can be a tough adjustment for kids, families and hardworking educators alike, there is a tremendous amount of resources available, and a growing community of providers and models helping each other as they take on the roles of at-home teachers. Some of those resources are being shared through open and collaborative platforms, like the #LearnEverywhere campaign, a Stand Together community-supported effort that helps parents learn from other parents.

In the postsecondary education space, we’re partnering with those on the cutting-edge of innovation, like OpenStax and the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE). Working together, we are proudly announcing a new initiative, “One Shining Teaching Moment,” which will showcase what education entrepreneurs, faculty, and teachers are capable of doing in times like this. We’re also launching an effort to carefully examine the future of postsecondary education and the implications of COVID-19 disruptions on current approaches. This unique moment forces us to question certain assumptions and ask ourselves how society can open up options for quality education in the most impactful and efficient ways possible in times of challenge and beyond. These helpful tools and innovations are needed now more than ever.

Emergent Ventures, OpenStax, ACUE and numerous other CKF partners are demonstrating that people can do extraordinary things, especially when they come together in response to crisis and think innovatively to create solutions. These are just a few examples of the bottom-up approaches we are excited about, and they are complemented by the thoughtful, student-focused efforts of faculty across the country who are adapting and innovating to ensure that their students continue to learn.

Now, as ever, the Charles Koch Foundation stands ready to provide meaningful support as we work through this crisis together, and learn and evolve as a result. The CKF team wishes everyone health and safety during this difficult time.

Ryan Stowers
Executive Director
Charles Koch Foundation

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