Hillary Clinton wore a black breathing mask imprinted with the word “VOTE” in Twitter and Instagram posts this weekend, posing in what appeared as a homespun effort to pitch “the must-have accessory for spring.” The posts bear an unassuming hashtag: #MaskingForAFriend.
But behind this hashtag and those fun posts — as well as similar ones by celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger — are a group of tech billionaires trying to answer a weighty, almost existential question: How can we make sure a devastating pandemic never happens again?
That’s one of the main focuses for a group formed by major tech philanthropists including Bill Gates and Eric Schmidt, who are behind a new push to cajole overseas governments to more fully fund international institutions like the World Health Organization (WHO). The group, called the Pandemic Action Network, is behind the #MaskingForAFriend campaign that seeks to change personal behavior. But its more important ambition is to change government behavior.
This initiative is one of the more forward-looking attempts from philanthropy to shape what the world looks like after the crisis, and one of the few focused on political advocacy.
The push is small for now, with just $1.5 million in initial cash from Schmidt Futures, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and other backers. But the Pandemic Action Network aims to lead a pressure campaign that shapes the policy debate, a debate that will be at the fore of the next wave of pandemic response efforts…