History

Global Challenges Foundation (GCF) was founded in 2012 by the Swedish finance analyst and author Laszlo Szombatfalvy. The mission is to work for a better global handling of the biggest catastrophic risks threatening humanity.

Our history

  • 2012

    The Global Challenges Foundation is founded by the Swedish financial analyst and author Laszlo Szombatfalvy. Its goal is to stimulate ideas on how to develop new decision-making models, able to better and more equitably reduce the major global catastrophic risks that threaten humanity, or even eliminate them. The foundation’s work is made possible by a donation from Laszlo Szombatfalvy of SEK 500 million (approximately USD 53 million).

  • 2014

    The foundation begins a collaboration with the Stockholm School of Economics. Starting in 2016, global risks will be a compulsory area of study during the first four semesters of the bachelor programme. The ten-year collaboration will involve 3,000 students in total, and will be financed by a grant from the Global Challenges Foundation of approximately SEK 40 million (roughly USD 4 million).

  • 2015

    The Global Challenges Foundation joins the Earth League, an alliance of the world’s leading climate researchers, to launch the Earth Statement, a petition for the climate which sums up the major conclusions of global research on climate change. The result is presented at the climate conference in Paris (COP21) at the end of the year. The petition is signed by a few hundred influential individuals from around the world, including Sir Richard Branson, Winnie Byanyima, Dr Mo Ibrahim and Mary Robinson.

  • 2016

    The Global Challenges Foundation launches its prize competition, “A New Shape”, which opens for entries in November. The New Shape Prize is the world’s largest competition in the social sciences, seeking original proposals for new decision-making structures that could galvanise effective international action to tackle global catastrophic risks.

    The Global Challenges Foundation publishes an annual report, Global Catastrophic Risks, in collaboration with the Future of Humanity Institute and Oxford Martin School, offering an overview of risks threatening over one billion people, and ways to better address those.

    The Foundation launches a new publication series, the Quarterly Reports. Each report offers original perspectives on global catastrophic risk and global governance from a diverse group of international experts, to guide the conversation around the New Shape Prize.

  • 2017

    When the New Shape Prize closes for entries in September, 2,702 entries from 122 countries have been submitted, in the UN’s six official language. Those ideas fall into four categories: reform of existing global decision-making institutions, new institutions for global decision-making, models that go outside traditional structures, and the emergence of a movement for global reform. Regional juries with more than 100 experts from all over the world review and assess the entries.

    The Global Challenges Foundation launches another prize competition, the Educators’ Challenge, which opens for entries in November. The goal is to find innovative methods of engaging students and the public in discussions about better frameworks for global cooperation.

    The annual report Global Catastrophic Risks 2017 is published. This report includes the GCF Risk Handbook, the world’s first complete and concise introduction to global catastrophic risks, prepared in close collaboration with a team of leading experts.

  • 2018

    The New Shape Forum is held in Stockholm in May, presenting the finalists of the New Shape Prize competition and hosting discussions on global governance. The forum gathers 250 experts on governance and risk from 65 countries. The international jury decided that no competition entry fully succeeded in meeting all the assessment criteria, and therefore no first prize is awarded. Instead, in accordance with the jury’s recommendation, three entries are awarded USD 600,000 each.

    At the New Shape Forum, the Global Challenges Foundation announces the opportunity for working groups interested in sharpening the best ideas from the competition to apply for funding. Five projects are selected on the basis of the functionality, legitimacy and viability of the ideas they propose to develop:

    • Global Governance and the Emergence of Global Institutions for the 21st Century
    • A World Security Community of Democratic Nations
    • Upholding the San Francisco Promise: The Roadmap to a Constitutionalised UN
    • Getting from Here to There: Practical Actions to Transform Global Governance
    • Planetary Condominium: The Legal Framework for the Common Home of Humanity

    In November, the those five working groups are announced at the first Paris Peace Forum, initiated by French president Emmanuel Macron, with the Global Challenges Foundation as one of the founding partners.

  • 2019

    The Global Challenges Foundation begins collaboration with Together First – an initiative led by the United Nations Association – UK, and bringing together contestants in the New Shape Prize, New Shape Forum guests, and 50 additional experts from around the world. The collaboration marks an important step towards the Global Challenges Foundation’s goal of developing and promoting a concrete reform agenda for improved global cooperation, in the lead up to the United Nations 75th anniversary in 2020.

    The Foundation also further expands its collaboration Global Governance and the Emergence of Global Institutions for the 21st Century, one of the five working groups selected in 2018. The project, starting from one of the entries awarded at the New Shape Forum, proposes a coordinated agenda of reform the UN to make the organization better serve its purpose. The collaboration is an opportunity for the Global Challenges Foundation to assess and develop a reformed governance model in collaboration and cooperation with other actors.

    The Educators Challenge closes with an awards ceremony held at the London School of Economics in May. A total of 72 entries from 30 countries were submitted to the competition. Among those, 10 entries are selected as winners of the Educators’ Challenge, with a special “people’s choice” for A Global Security System: an Alternative to War, a book presenting a tangible, interconnected vision of what a world without war could look like.