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USAID, Skoll Foundation and Grand Challenges Canada Announce Joint Investment in VisionSpring

October 28, 2014 by

Announcing a joint initiative which will increase access to eyeglasses among poor in Central America:

“Our goal through these two investments isn’t just to deliver powerful tools for self-empowerment to communities in Central America and Bangladesh,” said Sally Osberg, President and CEO of the Skoll Foundation, who pointed out the larger impact at stake. “Our goal is to demonstrate the operational and financial success of inclusive business models like VisionSpring’s to the vision industry and others in the private sector. Those corporations are interested in extending their global reach to new markets for growth, and hundreds of millions of consumers in these communities are in need of services. We hope that VisionSpring’s work will provide the blueprints to close the market gap.”

Learn more from the press release:

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Skoll Foundation, and Grand Challenges Canada announced a joint investment in VisionSpring, a pioneering social enterprise, to scale up their innovative business model for providing affordable and appropriate eyeglasses and vision care to people living at the base of the economic pyramid.

“Over 700 million people need eyeglasses but lack access to affordable options,” said Kevin Hassey, CEO of VisionSpring. “This creates further disadvantage among hardest-to-reach communities, because if you can’t see, you can’t learn, and if you can’t see, you can’t work. This all adds up: uncorrected vision costs the global economy $202 billion annually. Eyeglasses are simple, but critical, tools for empowerment.”

Founded in 2001 by U.S. optometrist Jordan Kassalow, OD, MPH, VisionSpring has brought eyeglasses and high-quality vision care to nearly 2.0 million people living at the base of the economic pyramid. In addition to sourcing affordable eyeglasses for partner nonprofit organizations around the world, VisionSpring operates a network of optical shops in small and mid-sized urban locations in El Salvador and India. These shops target low-income customers left behind by higher-priced retailers and also act as hubs for trained staff to travel into rural villages, visiting those who might not otherwise be able to access quality care or eyewear and who often live in even deeper poverty. With this investment, VisionSpring will be able to expand from five stores to 27, with new hub-and-spoke locations planned for Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala, where 35 to 60 percent of the national populations fall below the poverty line. The stores are projected to serve over 1.3 million people during the next five years.

Importantly, the growth will also enable VisionSpring’s Central American operations to generate larger sales volumes and economies of scale needed to become financially self-sustaining. “VisionSpring flips the traditional business model of the eyeglass industry,” said Christopher Jurgens, Director of Global Partnerships in the Center for Transformational Partnerships, Global Development Lab at USAID. “Instead of low volume and high margin sales, they aim for low margin products sold at high volume. Their hub-and-spoke distribution model helps to increase geographic and socioeconomic reach in a cost-efficient way.”

The investment in VisionSpring’s Central America operations complements another investment in VisionSpring’s work in Bangladesh, led by the Skoll Foundation and Grand Challenges Canada in late 2013. In Bangladesh, VisionSpring and BRAC, a non-governmental organization, partner to train and equip BRAC’s national network of community health workers to conduct vision screens and distribute appropriate eyeglasses alongside the other health education and services they deliver. The investment by Skoll and Grand Challenges Canada will extend the VisionSpring partnership to all 48 districts of Bangladesh where BRAC offers comprehensive health services. The partnership is projected to sell over 1.5 million pairs of eyeglasses in five years and will enable the program to become cost-neutral for BRAC.

Sally Osberg, President and CEO of the Skoll Foundation, pointed out the larger impact at stake. “Our goal through these two investments isn’t just to deliver powerful tools for self-empowerment to communities in Central America and Bangladesh. Our goal is to demonstrate the operational and financial success of inclusive business models like VisionSpring’s to the vision industry and others in the private sector. Those corporations are interested in extending their global reach to new markets for growth, and hundreds of millions of consumers in these communities are in need of services. We hope that VisionSpring’s work will provide the blueprints to close the market gap.”

Dr. Peter A. Singer, Chief Executive Officer of Grand Challenges Canada states: “Few health issues affect a human life as much as vision impairment and reduced eyesight do. Vision care is one of the most cost-effective interventions in health care. By supporting the innovative solutions of VisionSpring on its path to sustainability, Canada is helping to bring into sharper focus the lives of 2.8 million of the world’s poorest people so they can more fully enjoy their lives and improve their livelihoods.”

The investment is the second investment being made under the auspices of the Innovation Investment Alliance, a Global Development Alliance between the Skoll Foundation and USAID, supported by the global humanitarian agency Mercy Corps, which focuses on investing in the proven innovations of social entrepreneurs to help them scale up and expand their impact.

The USAID-Skoll Innovation Investment Alliance pairs USAID’s expertise in scaling development solutions with Skoll’s experience investing in and connecting the world’s most disruptive and innovative social entrepreneurs who are driving solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. The global humanitarian organization Mercy Corps joined the Alliance in September 2012 to help identify and evaluate organizations that represent good candidates for funding, as well as to oversee monitoring of the individual ventures and assess their impact in solving pressing global challenges.

Grand Challenges Canada (funded by the Government of Canada) aims to bring successful innovation to scale, catalyzing sustainability and impact, with a determined focus on results, and saving and improving lives.



The Skoll Foundation launches second annual Social Entrepreneurs Challenge

October 27, 2014 by

Challenge offers $3 million in prizes and match funding for innovative organizations 

PALO ALTO, CA, October 27, 2014 – Today the Skoll Foundation is launching the second annual Social Entrepreneurs Challenge. Hosted on CrowdRise, the Challenge is designed to provide some of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs with an innovative platform to raise funds. This year, more than $3 million in prize and match funding will be available to participants. Organizations participating in the Challenge are recipients of the “Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship” and represent some of the most successful entrepreneurial organizations in the world.

Working on the frontlines, social entrepreneurs fight disease, poverty, and injustice with their innovative approaches, proving that health care, education, and basic needs can be delivered efficiently and equitably, that sustainability trumps depletion, and that large-scale impact is possible. “With recent news and events, many people may feel discouraged about the state of our world,” said Sally Osberg, President and CEO of the Skoll Foundation. “But these social entrepreneurs give us hope. They are making progress on the world’s most urgent problems, and the Social Entrepreneurs Challenge gives us all an opportunity to support their work—and be part of their success.”

The Challenge gives individuals the ability to support and fundraise for social entrepreneurs, and helps leverage their gifts by providing match and prize funding to the organizations. This year, the Challenge will coincide with Giving Tuesday, a national day of giving held the week after Thanksgiving on December 2. Giving Tuesday gives donors an opportunity to support these organizations as part of their holiday and year-end giving plans. The Social Entrepreneurs Challenge will run from October 27 through December 5, 2014.

Donate and learn more about the Challenge at

Press Contact: Suzana Grego,, 650.331.1021         


First-of-its-Kind Report Ranks U.S. Insurance Companies on Climate Change Responses

October 22, 2014 by

Big news from Ceres today, which got coverage in the New York Times, Bloomberg, Reuters and others. Read the stories in the NY Times: Insurers Retreat from Weather-Related Disasters; Bloomberg: Munich Re Among Insurers Set for Climate Risk, Ceres Says and Reuters: U.S. insurance firms failing to address climate change risk – report

The press release:

Only Nine of 330 Insurers Get High Grades; The Hartford, Prudential, Munich Re and Allianz Are Among Top Scorers

Amid growing evidence that climate change is having wide-ranging global impacts that will worsen in the years ahead, a new report from Ceres ranks the nation’s 330 largest insurance companies on what they are saying and doing to respond to escalating climate risks. The report found strong leadership among fewer than a dozen companies but generally poor responses among the vast majority.

The report, Insurer Climate Risk Disclosure Survey Report & Scorecard: 2014 Findings & Recommendations, ranks property & casualty, health and life & annuity insurers that represent about 87 percent of the total US insurance market. The companies were ranked on a half-dozen climate related indicators, including governance, risk management, investment strategies, greenhouse gas management and public engagement (such as their climate policy positions.) The report is based on company disclosures last year in response to a climate risk survey developed by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).

“Despite being on the ‘front line’ of climate risks, most of the company responses show a profound lack of preparedness in addressing climate-related risks and opportunities,” said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, a nonprofit sustainability advocacy group. “A big positive in the report’s findings is the strong leadership among a small number of property & casualty insurers – a trend that needs to become far more mainstream if the industry is to accelerate global responses to this colossal threat.”

Read the rest:


Investigation Shows Massive Laundering of Illegal Timber

October 17, 2014 by

Brazil is laundering illegal timber on a ‘massive and growing scale,’ according to a new Greenpeace investigation published in The Guardian and other media. Skoll Awardee Imazon’s data was used as part of the evidence. An excerpt from The Guardian, which said that illegally logged timber is being sold on to buyers in the UK, US, Europe and China:

“Estimates of the scale of the problem are based on satellite date analysis by Imazon. Using publicly available images, the organisation traces the degree of degradation of key areas in the Amazon, estimates the amount of timber felled in unauthorised areas and then compares this with official figures for timber sales. According to Paulo Barreto of Imazon, the situation is rapidly getting worse. He says the area illegally logged increased by 151% in Pará and by 63% in Mato Grosso between 2011 and 2012. Greenpeace says this data and the findings of their investigation point to alarming gaps in the government’s control system.”

Read the details and see maps:

Earlier this month, Adalberto Verissimo of Imazon was quoted in the New York Times story, “Clashing Visions of Conservation Shake Brazil’s Presidential Vote”:

Adalberto Veríssimo, a researcher at Imazon, a Brazilian institute that uses satellite imagery to track deforestation, said he expected the deforestation rate to climb about 5 percent from 2013 to 2014.

“We’re witnessing an increase in speculative deforestation and forest destruction for the government’s own infrastructure projects,” Mr. Veríssimo said. “There’s been a rearrangement of priorities, with the Amazon targeted for massive investments. Naturally this opens the way for new deforestation.”




Dr. Jordan Kassalow Wins Helen Keller Service Award

October 14, 2014 by

Congratulations, Jordan Kassalow,  who won an award from Helen Keller International (HKI) last week!

A former Director of HKI’s River Blindness Division, VisionSpring Founder and Co-Chairman Dr. Jordan Kassalow was presented with the Helen Keller Service Award by his longtime friend Neil Blumenthal, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Warby Parker, at Helen Keller International’s second annual World Sight Day Luncheon at the Conrad Hotel in New York City.

Co-Chairs Lily Dorment and Graham Macmillan, both of whom have longtime associations with HKI and Dr. Kassalow, welcomed guests with their warm recollections of their early careers spent with Jordan providing vision care to disadvantaged communities in El Salvador.  Guests also heard from HKI’s President and CEO, Kathy Spahn, about our eye health programs which reach millions of people each year.  Dr. Kassalow accepted the award with a moving speech about dedicating his life to providing not only sight but also opportunity to disadvantaged people around the world, inspiring the guests to follow their passion with the assertion from Mark Twain that “the two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

Read more:


Skoll Awardee Visit: Cecilia Flores-Oebanda

October 13, 2014 by

Every so often, we have the pleasure of a visit from a Skoll Awardee. One of our most recent was Cecilia Flores-Oebanda, founding president and executive director of the Visayan Forum Foundation, a Manila-based organization she started in 1991. Visayan fights against human trafficking, child prostitution, modern-day slavery and child labor. Every year 60,000 to 100,000 Filipino children are trafficked into sexual exploitation or forced labor. Their latest movement, iFight, stemmed from “The Fighters,” the two-hour CNN film about Visayan’s work.

By partnering with key government personnel, faith based groups and academic institutions, the iFight movement seeks to prevent, eradicate, and track down the worst perpetrators and educate youth.

Here is an excerpt from her talk with Skoll Foundation staff.

Why are we doing this? The long-standing reality of Filipinos is that we are a migrant country. There are more than 20 million Filipinos working abroad, and that only includes the documented ones. It makes our economy stable. Because we are the domestic worker export capital of the world, this makes us more vulnerable to trafficking. Children are uprooted for needed cash for their families, which gives rise to online sex exploitation. We have passed laws on domestic work, but there are flaws in the system.

The other emerging reality is armed conflict and political unrest. Because of this, a lot of families are agreeing for their children to work somewhere else. This unfortunately means they go with the traffickers.

There is an emerging problem with Arab Spring and Winter spring. Because of problems with security and safety, the Filipino overseas contract worker is vulnerable. The system is supposed to make sure contract worker has a contract before they leave country, but this isn’t always the case. Workers can go to Saudi Arabia and work there without any regulations. These are the types of things that demonstrate our country’s increasing vulnerability to slavery and human trafficking.  read more


Congratulations to Malala, our Skoll Awardee, and to Kailash, who Founded Skoll Awardee Organization GoodWeave

October 10, 2014 by

The Skoll Foundation congratulates the two 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Winners, Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi!

Earlier this year, Malala was awarded the Skoll Global Treasure Award, personally conferred by Skoll Foundation Chairman and founder Jeff Skoll at the Skoll World Forum. Kailash founded Skoll Awardee organization Goodweave, led today by social entrepreneur Nina Smith. Kailash was featured in the Skoll Foundation’s “New Heroes” series on PBS.

“Nobel Peace-makers Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi prove what’s possible in the world,” said Sally Osberg, president and CEO of the Skoll Foundation. “Today’s recognition of two magnificent agents of change shines a light on our shared responsibility to protect and educate the most precious asset of all: our children.”

Above, watch Malala accept the Skoll Global Treasure Award earlier this year.

Below, see the New Heroes story about Kailash, and Kailash speaking at the 2009 Skoll World Forum.


GoodWeave Founder Wins Nobel Peace Prize

October 10, 2014 by

From the cocoa fields of Côte d’Ivoire to the carpet sheds of Uttar Pradesh, there are 168 million children around the world who toil in obscurity.  Today, their plight took center stage.  This morning, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the 2014 peace prize to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai, two individuals who have staked their lives on the belief that children – regardless of gender, geography, faith, caste or societal circumstance – belong in classrooms.

In the announcement from Oslo, committee chairman Thorbjorn Jagland said: “Showing great personal courage, Kailash Satyarthi, maintaining Gandhi’s tradition, has headed various forms of protests and demonstrations, all peaceful, focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain.”

In the 1980s, once on an engineering career track, Kailash Satyarthi began rescuing children from bondage.  As chairman of the South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude, he fought against child slavery one factory at a time, one child at a time.  He conducted rescue raids and liberated children who were enduring extreme violence, some brutally beaten if they ever tried to escape.

Following one such raid, Satyarthi personally returned a trafficked boy to his home village. When he went to board a train home, Satyarthi saw dozens and dozens of children destined for the looms in the hands of middlemen.  Arrested for causing a disturbance at the station, Satyarthi suddenly realized that this situation required a larger solution.

“Something else had to be done. I thought, ‘Consumers have to be educated!’” Satyarthi said in a 2013 interview.  This realization was for him a turning point and for the child labor movement, a profound shift in thinking and strategy.  In addition to exposing the ugly truth behind beautiful rugs, Satyarthi set out to establish a certification system that would incentivize manufacturers to stop exploiting children as well as guide consumer purchases.  Thus the RugMark label (now GoodWeave) was born. The first carpets with that certification were exported from India in 1995.

Today, GoodWeave works in the top consumer capitals of the world and in the key rug-producing areas across Asia, expanding most recently to Afghanistan.  Their programs in weaving villages near Kabul, Mazar and soon Herat are reaching girls, many of whom resemble Malala.  And in the two decades since Satyarthi’s jail cell a-ha moment, the organization has gone on to reduce the number of “carpet kids” in the region by two-thirds.

The head of GoodWeave International, Nina Smith upon hearing the news, said: “So many of us were motivated to join this struggle to protect the lives of vulnerable children because of him.  This is an incredible moment for Kailash, for GoodWeave, for the children who have been forced to sacrifice their youth and their education for the benefit of business, and for the 130+ carpet importers and retailers who have taken a stand.”

GoodWeave is now preparing to finish the work that Satyarthi began and reach the 250,000 children left on looms through their “Stand with Sanju” campaign.  It is inspired by the real life story of a Nepalese girl – not unlike Malala – who went from carpet loom to classroom.

As Kailash looks back on his journey, he remains optimistic that the model can be used in other industries from chocolate to mining. “At the time we launched the certification, nobody had heard the phrases, ‘corporate responsibility,’ or ‘corporate accountability.’ But we have given voice to many initiatives in the world. And some of the basic ingredients of GoodWeave now are being used as great lessons by others. In the end, we can change the world in this way.”


Lending a Hand: How Direct-to-Farmer Finance Providers Reach Smallholders

October 9, 2014 by

The Initiative for Smallholder Finance just released a new briefing. Here’s more, from their announcement:

The vast majority of smallholder farmers are financially underserved. Giving these smallholders access to appropriately structured financial products and services can help bridge the smallholder finance gap and, in turn, combat extreme poverty by supporting more than two billion of the world’s poorest people who live in households that depend on agriculture for their livelihood.

A new briefing from the Initiative for Smallholder Finance explores the 150+ finance providers offering finance directly to smallholder farmers. The new research:

  • Introduces four distinct business model archetypes that financial providers deploy to reach smallholder farmers
  • Highlights common practices and challenges financial providers face as they try to serve smallholders with appropriate financial products
  • Identifies ways that successful direct-to-farmer finance models can reach sustainable scale through learning, knowledge sharing and innovation

Read it here:



Camfed Recognized By the OECD For Taking Innovation to Scale

October 8, 2014 by

Congratulations, Camfed! Last night in Paris, Camfed was recognized by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Here’s more, from their announcement:

Camfed is being recognized as a model of best practice in taking innovation to scale by the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the OECD.

“This is a tribute that we greatly value – to be recognized as having a model that can be successfully scaled,” said Lucy Lake, CEO of Camfed. “We are committed to ensuring that vulnerable girls across the globe secure their right to education in view of the huge benefits that this will unlock.”

Camfed’s programme currently extends across five African countries, 116 districts and 5,000 schools. Last year alone this programme benefitted 2.2 million children, including 105,000 girls receiving bursaries to complete their secondary education. read more


Celebrating a Decade of Impactful Social Innovators at Oxford

October 7, 2014 by

10th anniversary of Skoll Scholars at Oxford’s Saïd Business School

The Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Saïd Business School is celebrating ten years of the Skoll scholarships, providing financial support for up to five students a year to join the Oxford MBA and pursue entrepreneurial solutions for urgent social and environmental challenges.

Established in 2004, the selection process for the scholarships is challenging and rigorous with the Centre looking for individuals who can both demonstrate a strong track record in a social venture and who wish to improve their knowledge of market-oriented practices to increase the effectiveness of their venture to achieve real world impact.

‘We are looking for unique individuals with the single-mindedness and persistence to pursue their social venture goals and the resilience to face failure and rebuild, as do most of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs’ said Dr Pamela Hartigan, Director of the Skoll Centre. ‘We seek those with unfailing determination to explore the environment for opportunities and resources and to take action. We are looking for entrepreneurial leaders with the personal qualities necessary to achieve success: many of our scholars show a selfless willingness to take personal, and sometimes financial, risks to pursue their goals and have an unwaivering vision of the possible.’ read more


TEDGlobal 2014 Speakers to Watch

October 1, 2014 by

We’re looking forward to TEDGlobal 2014, in Brazil Oct. 6 to 10. Here are the speakers who are Skoll Awardees or partners:

  • Charmian Gooch, anti-corruption activist: Global Witness co-founder Charmian Gooch exposes how a global architecture of corruption is woven into the extraction and exploitation of natural resources.
  • Rodrigio Baggio, digital inclusionist: At the Center for Digital Inclusion, Rodrigo Baggio works to narrow the digital divide.
  • Michael Green, social progress expert: Michael Green helped create the Social Progress Index to measure what matters.
  • Joe Madiath, social entrepreneur: Joe Madiath brings Indian villagers together around water and sanitation projects.
  • Mark Plotkin, Amazonian ethnobotanist: As fast as the rainforest is disappearing — the people of the rainforest are disappearing even faster. Mark Plotkin works to preserve generations of knowledge.

Read their bios and see the rest of the speakers:



YouthBuild USA Announces Partnership with Starbucks and Schultz Family Foundation

September 30, 2014 by

YouthBuild USA, which helps low-income youth to rebuild their communities and their lives, has added retail and barista skills training to their program through a new partnership:

YouthBuild USA is pleased to announce an exciting new partnership with Starbucks Coffee Company and the Schultz Family Foundation:  the Retail Excellence Training Program (RETP). This national program gives YouthBuild students an opportunity to learn customer service skills – based on the same training Starbucks store employees receive – through classroom and on-the- job experience in retail or café settings.  The training is currently available in Gulfport, Mississippi, through CLIMB YouthBuild; in Harlem, New York through the Abyssinian Development Corporation YouthBuild program; and in Starbucks’ hometown of Seattle through YouthCare’s YouthBuild program.

Over the course of 8 to 10 weeks, each student completes 80 hours of technical retail and barista skills training and 80 hours in a customer-service role.  Upon completion the graduates receive four college credits, accredited by the American Council on Education, and a paycheck for their hands-on service in the café.  They also receive assistance with their job search, applications, interview preparation, and placement.

The Retail Excellence Training Program is folded into existing YouthBuild programs.  This means enrollees in the program, all low-income 16- to 24-year-olds, are also working with their YouthBuild program towards obtaining their GEDs or high school diplomas.  They have learned construction skills building affordable housing for homeless and low income people in their communities. They’re working with YouthBuild staff who provide the love, respect and high standards that YouthBuild programs are famous for and who guide them toward setting their own personal goals and achieving them.

Learn more:



This Week: Talks by Charmian Gooch and Paul Farmer in San Francisco; Molly Melching in Seattle

September 29, 2014 by

Three Skoll Awardees are giving public presentations this week, and tickets are still available.

On Oct. 1 at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, Charmian Gooch of Global Witness will discuss Global Witness’ vast body of work, and focus on exposing and eliminating anonymous companies. Her talk begins at 7 p.m. and costs $25. Use promo code GLOBAL WITNESS to get 25 percent off.

On Oct. 3 at the Nourse Theater in San Francisco, Dr. Paul Farmer of Partners in Health will give firsthand reports from doctors on the front lines of Ebola. His talk is at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $20.

On Oct. 3 at Town Hall in Seattle, Molly Melching of Tostan will speak about her work in Senegal and how she uses deep listening as a tool. Her talk is at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are free; registration is still required.



Gary White and Matt Damon’s Talk at Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting

September 25, 2014 by

The press has been buzzing about‘s plenary at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting (CGI) this week, so we wanted to share some news coverage. Watch the organization’s co-founders, Matt Damon and Gary White, on stage above, at 53 minutes after the video begins.

Here’s an excerpt of the plenary coverage from LiveScience:

Damon told the audience that every 20 seconds, a child under the age of five dies from a preventable waterborne disease. Water, sanitation and hygiene problems kill more than 3.4 million people each year, and 99 percent of these cases occur in the developing world, according to

And the Huffington Post:

Damon, together with fellow co-founder Gary White, explained how a lack of potable water and sanitation leads to fatal illnesses, but is also just as much of a women’s issue, since women and girls are often assaulted while relieving themselves in public. And while the pair agrees that there will never be “enough charity” to solve the water crisis, they remain optimistic about their progress, pointing specifically to the critical role microloans play.

The Boston Globe focused on a fun moment:

Cambridge-bred clean water advocate Matt Damon spoke Tuesday at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York. The cofounder talked about his mission to get clean and safe water to all, and did a pretty solid impression of former President Bill Clinton while onstage.

And don’t miss Gary White’s recent op-ed in The Guardian, called “We can solve the water sanitation crisis, but we need your help.”


Camfed and Room to Read Part of Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Reach 14 Million Girls

September 24, 2014 by

One of the most exciting announcements at today’s Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting was by Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Chelsea Clinton and Julia Gillard, who announced a collaboration of more than 30 groups to improve learning and leadership opportunities for young women and girls. Two of these organizations are Skoll Awardees Room to Read and Camfed.

This collective effort, CHARGE – Collaborative for Harnessing Ambition and Resources for Girls’ Education – has committed over $600 million dollars to reach 14 million girls over five years.  Camfed will spend $100 million to help marginalized girls in sub-Saharan Africa complete secondary school and transition to secure livelihoods. And Room to Read will invest $12 million to serve an additional 15,000 girls in nine countries to ensure that girls transition to secondary school and then from school to the workforce or higher education.

Here’s more, from Camfed’s announcement:

Camfed today announced our goal to support one million girls through their secondary school education and into successful, secure livelihoods.

“Our goal is to reach marginalized and excluded girls in rural communities in sub Saharan Africa and support them to complete a full cycle of secondary education,” said Lucy Lake, CEO of Camfed. “Our commitment to these students doesn’t end with graduation. We will work with them and support them to move forward from school into economic independence and positions of leadership. We are excited to sign up for this Commitment,” said Lake. “This is an ambitious undertaking that will multiply opportunities for girls and young women in rural areas of Africa.”

In addition to Camfed’s own announcement, Pearson, in partnership with Camfed, committed to offering Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) qualifications to 5,000 Camfed Learner Guides in Ghana, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. The 5,000 Learner Guides are young women school graduates who will return to school to teach and guide more than 150,000 girls to improve their attendance, retention and education in secondary school. Through the BTEC, a transferable vocational qualification, Learner Guides will acquire an important, internationally benchmarked qualification that provides a stepping stone into formal higher education and teacher training.


Medic Mobile’s New Film: Who Are Community Health Workers?

September 23, 2014 by
Medic Mobile has just released a new film. Here’s what they say about it (watch it above!)
“With UN Week upon us, there’s a beautiful chance to turn the mainstream conversation toward the health and wellbeing of the global community. Luckily the global community has health advocates at the neighborhood-level who are radically changing how people access healthcare. Community health workers are local members trained to provide basic, life-saving health services in some of the hardest-to-reach places. Their efforts are especially important in areas where people aren’t likely to see a doctor in their lifetime.
The World Health Organization estimates there are over 1.3 million community health workers worldwide, including the United States, but their work is largely uncredited. From ensuring that every child receives their immunizations, to increasing the use of bed nets to prevent malaria, community health workers are improving the statistics in underserved communities. Malawi in particular has made tremendous progress in lowering child mortality, cutting under-5 deaths by 71% due in a large part to their robust health worker program based on a study by UNICEF. Many health workers are now on the front-lines battling the Ebola outbreak and can be at risk of sickness and violence. This video made by the Skoll foundation is a look at the lives of three community health workers in Kenya where Medic Mobile partnered with Kilifi Kids and the Ministry of Health to train 450 community health workers to register women as soon as they become pregnant to ensure regular antenatal care visits. This is a small snapshot of a larger group of amazing people that take on the care of their communities every day. Please share their story.”



New Report: Illegal Land Clearing for Commercial Agriculture Responsible for Half of Tropical Deforestation

September 22, 2014 by

Exports from Illegal Conversion Worth US$61 Billion and Responsible for 25 Percent of Tropical Deforestation; Brazil’s and Indonesia’s Illegal Land Clearance Highest in the World 

A comprehensive new analysis released earlier this month says that nearly half (49%) of all recent tropical deforestation is the result of illegal clearing for commercial agriculture. The study also finds that around half of this illegal destruction was driven by overseas demand for agricultural commodities including palm oil, beef, soy, and wood products. In addition to devastating impacts on forest-dependent people and biodiversity, the illegal conversion of tropical forests for commercial agriculture is estimated to produce 1.47 gigatonnes of carbon each year—equivalent to 25% of the EU’s annual fossil fuel-based emissions.

“We’ve known that the production of agricultural commodities is a principal driving force behind deforestation, but this is the first report to show the outsize role that illegal activities play in the production of hundreds of food and household products consumed worldwide,” said Michael Jenkins, President and CEO of Forest Trends, a Washington-based NGO that published the report. “Increased agricultural production will be necessary for food security and to meet the demand of the emerging global middle class. However, the world must also wake up to the scale of how much of this agricultural production is taking place on land that has been illegally cleared. Urgent action is needed to help countries where these agricultural products are being grown, both for governments to enforce their own laws and regulations, and for businesses aiming to produce commodities legally and sustainably.”

According to the study, Consumer Goods and Deforestation: An Analysis of the Extent and Nature of Illegality in Forest Conversion for Agriculture, 90% of the deforestation in Brazil from 2000 to 2012 was illegal, primarily due to the failure to conserve a percentage of natural forests in large-scale cattle and soy plantations, as required by Brazilian law. (Much of this occurred prior to 2004, when the Brazilian government took steps to successfully reduce deforestation.) And in the forests of Indonesia, 80% of deforestation was illegal—mostly for large-scale plantations producing palm oil and timber, 75% of which is exported.

While other countries also experience high levels of illegal deforestation, Brazil and Indonesia produce the highest level of agricultural commodities destined for global markets, many of which wind up in cosmetics or household goods (palm oil), animal feed (soy), and packaging (wood products). Read the rest:


Roger Martin and Sally Osberg’s New Article in Rotman Magazine

September 21, 2014 by

Skoll Foundation President and CEO Sally Osberg and Roger Martin, academic director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the Rotman School of Management, just published an article in Rotman magazine. The piece, called “Moving the World Forward: The Quest for a New Equilibrium,” is drawn from their forthcoming book, A New Equilibrium: Harnessing the Power of Social Entrepreneurship. “By combining elements from government policy and business entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurs are moving the world forward in creative ways,” their article begins.

An excerpt:

“Social progress, by which we mean transformation of the prevailing conditions under which most members of a society live and work, is almost always the result of a successful challenge to an existing equilibrium. The path to change, however, doesn’t always run smoothly…

…every once in a while, backed by revolutionary rather than normal thinking, the world moves forward in a big leap to a fundamentally new equilibrium. The existing equilibrium is shattered, even if it appeared relatively stable, and even if many powerful people and organizations were invested in it. Over the course of history, such paradigm shifts have typically been driven by two entities: government policy innovation and business entrepreneurial creation.

…Social entrepreneurship is a much newer form of positive equilibrium transformation that occupies and utilizes key features of the two poles in myriad combinations. The ability to draw from the principles and tools of both government policy innovation and business entrepreneurial creation produces the potential for endless powerful combinations.

The most exciting part is that social entrepreneurship makes possible equilibrium shifts that neither of the traditional forms can achieve on their own.”

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World’s Leading Institutional Investors Managing $24 Trillion Call for Carbon Pricing, Ambitious Global Climate Deal

September 18, 2014 by

Blackrock, CalPERS, PensionDanmark, Deutsche, South African GEPF, Australian CFSGAM, Cathay Financial Holdings among 348 investors urging heads of state to take strong action on climate 

Days before UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon convenes the Climate Summit at the United Nations to spur climate action and facilitate a global climate agreement in 2015, nearly 350 global institutional investors representing over $24 trillion in assets have called on government leaders to provide stable, reliable and economically meaningful carbon pricing that helps redirect investment commensurate with the scale of the climate change challenge, as well as develop plans to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels.

“Gaps, weaknesses and delays in climate change and clean energy policies will increase the risks to our investments as a result of the physical impacts of climate change, and will increase the likelihood that more radical policy measures will be required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said the statement – the largest of its kind by global investors on climate change. “Stronger political leadership and more ambitious policies are needed in order for us to scale up our investments.”

According to the International Energy Agency, the world must invest at least an additional $1 trillion per year – a Clean Trillion – into clean energy by 2050 if we have any hope of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius and avoiding the worst impacts of climate change on our environment, health and the global economy. Yet global investment in clean energy was just $254 billion in 2013.

The statement recognizes the role investors play in financing clean energy, outlines the specific steps they are committing to take, and calls on policymakers to take action that supports, rather than limits, investments in clean energy and climate solutions. It was coordinated by the four investor groups on climate change – Ceres’ Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR) in the United States, the European Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC), the Investors Group on Climate Change (IGCC) in Australia and New Zealand, and the Asia Investor Group on Climate Change (AIGCC) – with the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) and Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI). read more


© 2014 Skoll Foundation.