Partner with Leading Experts

The challenges before us are too big for any one organization to solve alone. So Vulcan and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation (PGAFF) partner with public entities, private companies, non-profits, tribes, and academia to maximize impact. Because together we’re not just stronger, we’re measurably more effective.

Partner with Leading Experts

Ebola: West Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo

West Africa:

  • Active: 2014-2015 
  • Funder: PGAFF & Vulcan 
  • Program Area: Legacy Pandemic Response 
Democratic Republic of the Congo:


  • Active: 2018-2020 
  • Funder: PGAFF + Vulcan  
  • Program Area: Legacy Pandemic Response 
An epidemiologist with the World Health Organization, speaks to a woman as part of the contact tracing effort during an Ebola outbreak in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Courtesy Junior Kann

In the fall of 2014, Ebola was spreading across West Africa at an unprecedented rate. What started as an initial case in a small, isolated village in Guinea grew rapidly to become the biggest and most complex Ebola outbreak in history. Paul G. Allen immediately pledged $100 million to help stop it. These funds provided critical supplies and much-needed personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers. The funding also filled often-overlooked gaps in data systems, emergency infrastructure, and even supported the safe burial of those who died from the disease.

When the West Africa outbreak finally ended in 2016, the impact of Allen’s funding became clear. That money helped fund rapid testing and case identification, paid to transport highly infectious patients back to the U.S. for emergency treatment, better equipped thousands of health workers, and strengthened infrastructure and health systems. 

Then, in 2018, another Ebola outbreak (which would become the second largest in history) struck the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Once again, we provided rapid funding to organizations like Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and a mobile emergency operation center designed and deployed by PATH. When it became apparent civil instability and community distrust were hamstringing response efforts, we launched the Ebola Response Accelerator Challenge, which funded projects with the World Health Organization, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and UNICEF.

As part of the effort to make this the last major Ebola outbreak, we supported the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations' (CEPI) introduction of a second Ebola vaccine in the DRC, which was deployed as a clinical trial in North Kivu. In 2020, the outbreak was stopped thanks to the heroic work of frontline healthcare workers, scientists, and the resilience of Congolese citizens. Lessons learned were immediately applied to combat yet another, smaller, Ebola outbreak in the western Equateur province. Various insights we gained have also informed our ongoing efforts to confront the COVID-19 pandemic.

Partners (West Africa): Airlink, CDC Foundation, Chembio, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, National Philanthropic Trust, PCI Media Impact, Save the Children, UNICEF, University of Massachusetts Medical School, U.S. Department of State, World Food Programme, World Health Organization and many more

Partners (DRC): Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA), Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), International Medical Corps, Internews, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), PATH, UNICEF, UNFPA, World Health Organization (WHO)

In March 2014, a small West African nation, Liberia, along with two other neighboring countries, were hit by the Ebola virus. Paul Allen pledged a $100 million…it’s a contribution that’s very hard to quantify because of its reach and what it was able to achieve, the result of his donation to save what was well on the way to a global crisis. 

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Former President, Liberia

This challenge is going to do more than just help one city adopt innovative and forward-looking ideas. Instead, it will serve as a catalyst for widespread change in communities across America.
Anthony Foxx, Former Secretary of U.S. Transportation Department

Smart City Challenge

  • Active: 2016-2020 
  • Funder: PGAFF 
  • Program Area: Climate 
Climate change is one of the greatest environmental challenges we face. A big contributor to the planet’s rising temperature is human-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that occur as we burn fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation. In fact, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), GHG emissions from transportation account for 28% of total U.S. GHG emissions.

To inspire a new way of thinking about transportation, with PGAFF’s support the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) launched the Smart City Challenge, an ambitious program designed to encourage American cities to electrify transportation systems in order to reduce GHG emissions. PGAFF’s commitment of $10 million, together with another $40 million from USDOT, aimed to help create a climate-friendly, modern transportation system. 

The Challenge generated an overwhelming response, generating applications from 78 cities across America. From there the pool was narrowed to seven finalists and, in 2017, the City of Columbus Ohio was chosen as the winner. Then, together with our partners at the USDOT, we helped Columbus put its Smart Columbus plan into action. 

The City of Columbus has reduced GHG emissions by 2.73% since 2016, directly engaged more than 100,000 residents, and surpassed their goals in electric vehicle (EV) purchases. The best practices Columbus developed, and the lessons learned throughout the program, are compiled in the Smart Columbus Playbook, inspiring other civic leaders to create change in their communities.

Partners: City of Columbus, U.S. Department of Transportation

Partner with Leading Experts

Dam Removal

  • Active: 2016-present 
  • Funder: PGAFF  
  • Program Area: PNW Conservation 

Pacific Northwest salmon stocks are dwindling; some populations are down to 10% of historical levels. This dramatic decrease has impacts on our ecosystems, economy and culture. One of the most alarming implications is to the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales, whose primary diet is Chinook salmon. They are quite literally starving to death.
One way to reverse this decline is to re-establish the connection to salmon spawning and rearing habitat currently blocked by dams and other man-made barriers. Our first efforts to make that happen occurred when PGAFF partnered with American Rivers, an environmental NGO that restores damaged rivers, to remove the Middle Fork Nooksack Dam just outside Bellingham, WA.

The old and obsolete Middle Fork Nooksack River Dam just outside of Bellingham, Washington. The dam was removed in 2020 to help revitalize salmon populations. Courtesy American Rivers.

The project had been a Chinook recovery priority for years. But it had not moved forward because of the costs involved, so in late 2016, PGAFF provided funding to reinvigorate the project. We took a collaborative approach, supporting stakeholders working to identify a design for dam removal and helping to marshal additional private funds. These efforts made it possible to unlock public co-funding from the City of Bellingham and the state’s Puget Sound Acquisition and Recreation Fund, which ranked this a top priority and contributed $10.5M, the most it has ever provided to a project. With the removal of the dam now complete, attention is turning to restoration of key areas — including 16 river miles of Chinook salmon habitat and 26 miles of bull trout territory. 

Building on this success, in 2019, PGAFF funded several projects to remove additional dams including the Pilchuck Dam in Washington and four more in Oregon. Removing the Pilchuck Dam alone will restore 37 miles of salmon habitat, protect local landowners from flooding, and open one-third of the Pilchuck River to salmon access. 

In 2020, five dams were removed, 73 miles of Chinook habitat were restored, and more than 100 miles of habitat for salmonids, lamprey, and bull trout were also repaired. As of this writing, scientists are already seeing signs of increased salmon activity in new areas. 
Partners: American Rivers, City of Bellingham, City of Snohomish, Environmental Protection Agency, Lummi Nation, NOAA Fisheries Restoration Center, Nooksack Indian Tribe, The Puget Sound Partnership, Resources Legacy Fund, The Tulalip Tribes of Washington, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

It is possible to create a more sustainable future by restoring a free-flowing river to provide critical habitat for threatened species and to meet the needs of communities. We hope this [Middle Fork Nooksack] example of tremendous collaboration and innovation can inform and inspire other river restoration efforts in the region and nationwide

April McEwen, Associate Director, American Rivers’ River Restoration Program and Project Manager, American Rivers

For us at Cocoon House, this partnership with Paul Allen and the Seattle Seahawks provided so much more than just funding. It gave us an incredible opportunity on one of the region's biggest stages – CenturyLink Field – to spread our message of hope to youth throughout our region. Together, we are helping to change the path for youth, giving them the chance for a bright future and hope in the weeks, months and years ahead.
Cassie Franklin, CEO of Cocoon House

Youth Homelessness

  • Active: 2016-2017  
  • Funder: PGAFF 
  • Program Area: Communities 
On any given night, 1,000 youth and young adults experience homelessness in King County. Statewide, the picture is even more grim where more than 40,000 youth and their family members experience some of form of homelessness. This is a dire situation that disproportionally impacts people of color, and youth who identify as LGBTQ+. It exacerbates long-standing educational inequalities and increases the risk of exploitation and human trafficking.

To help address this complex crisis, PGAFF funded an expansion of YouthCare, one of the earliest Seattle emergency shelters to serve minors. PGAFF also funded measures to help reduce youth homelessness in the first place. 

The foundation joined forces with the Seattle Seahawks and Cocoon House to strengthen substance abuse services, create life skill classes, and provide basic needs like food and shelter. As a result, nearly $300,000 was raised to provide a range of new services. 

And, because studies have shown that individuals who were homeless in their youth are more likely to experience homelessness as an adult, we also supported the Legal Counsel for Youth and Children program and Schoolhouse Washington, an organization working to advance legal rights, advocate, and influence policy for the long term.  

These public-private investments are helping. Since 2018, King County has seen a steady drop in the number of youth and young adults living on the streets. But our resolve to tackle the challenge from all angles remains strong. So in 2020, we and our partners opened Gardner House and Allen Family Center, an expansive housing facility that also provides vital services for families across King County. 

Partners: Cocoon House, Legal Counsel for Youth and Children, Schoolhouse Washington, Seattle Seahawks, YouthCare

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