Skoll Foundation


The New Heroes

The New Heroes tells the dramatic stories of 14 daring people from all corners of the globe who, against all odds, are successfully alleviating poverty and illness, combating unemployment and violence, and bringing education, light, opportunity and freedom to poor and marginalized people around the world.

Also known as “social entrepreneurs,” they develop innovations that bring life-changing tools and resources to people desperate for viable solutions. What is possible? You’d be surprised. Take a journey into a world where people take action to make a big difference.

Airing on PBS in 2005, The New Heroes was our first sponsorship of social entrepreneurship programming. Hosted by Robert Redford and produced by Redhill Productions, this four-hour documentary series tells the dramatic stories of 12 social entrepreneurs who bring innovative, empowering solutions to the most intractable social problems around the world.  We hosted a concurrent house party campaign that resulted in more than 1600 house parties in 60+ countries raising more than $250,000 for the featured social entrepreneurs. Available on DVD for purchase from Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Episode 1 – Dreams Of Sanctuary

The series begins its global exploration of social entrepreneurs with a look at those who are helping the desperate, the destitute and the determined to make a new beginning – from Moses Zulu’s home and school for AIDS orphans in Zambia to Mimi Silbert’s San Francisco-based Delancey Street foundation, which helps drug addicts, criminals and the homeless turn their lives around. This episode also travels to India to follow Kailash Satyarthi on a harrowing slave camp raid, where seconds might make the difference between life and death. “It is not possible to change a society without starting from the bottom, from the villages and communities,” says Satyarthi, as he explains his plan to eradicate slavery in India through a nationwide network of child-friendly villages and a line of carpets that are made without forced labor or child slavery.

Episode 2 – Technology Of Freedom

The second program turns to the work of “compassionate capitalists,” who have created self-sustaining businesses to maximize human benefit, not profit. These include Martin Fisher and Nick Moon, the founders of ApproTEC, who invented an economical water pump that gives Africa’s subsistence farmers a chance to make a living, and Fabio Rosa, a modern Brazilian cowboy who battles government monopolies to bring electricity to remote regions in his country. In this program the series also returns to India to meet Govindapa Vin Kataswami — better known as Dr. V — who, working with social entrepreneur David Green, has applied the latest industrial techniques to make sight-saving surgery available for the poor. “Our goal was not to see how much money we could earn and have a big comfortable house and a big car,” says Dr. V. “The goal was to see how many people we could help. The more money we earn the more people we could help.”

Episode 3 – Power Of Enterprise

The third program in the series looks at how social entrepreneurs are working to break the cycle of poverty by empowering people to earn a living. Among the foremost of these is Muhammad Yunus, a.k.a., “the banker to the poor,” whose Grameen Bank has provided 4.7 billion dollars in loans to 4.4 million families in Bangladesh and inspired similar credit operations in a hundred countries. “I saw the conventional banking standing on its head,” says Yunus of his project. “So I turned it around so it can stand on its feet.” This episode also travels to the jungle city of Pucallpa, Peru, where Albina Ruiz Rios has been forming micro-enterprises to clean up garbage that is sullying the environment, contaminating water and causing disease in poor neighborhoods. And it ventures into the violence-plagued slums of Rio de Janeiro, where Maria Teresa “Tete” Leal leads the Coopa-Roca sewing cooperative, a fair labor shop that creates clothes seen on the runways of the high-fashion world.

Episode 4 – Power Of Knowledge

The final program looks at the new heroes who are working to improve lives by creating opportunities for education in societies that often leave children to fend for themselves. Among these are Sompop Jantraka, who has started a school for young Thai girls with the goal of saving them from entering into or being sold into prostitution, and Dina Abdel Wahab who has started schools in Egypt for that nation’s often-neglected children with disabilities. And the program returns once more to India, this time to Calcutta, where Inderjit Khurana has set out to bring education to children who beg in the train stations — setting up a school right on the railway platforms. “These were kids who were surviving on their own. Making all decisions, all adult decisions and hardly leading a child’s life. I wanted somehow to alter this if I could. Give them back a childhood and hold out hope for the future.”

To order a copy of the series please call:

1 800 440 2651

or write to:
Oregon Public Broadcasting
PO Box 2284
South Burlington
VT 05407

Available on two part DVD set.
$29.95 plus S&H

Also available:

The New Heroes CD. Composed by Christopher Hedges. Music inspired by the series.
$14.95 plus S&H


© 2015 Skoll Foundation.