Skoll Foundation



Renee D. Kaplan to Speak on Women in Philanthropy Panel

January 14, 2015 by

If you’re in Seattle, don’t miss Women Leaders in Philanthropy on February 5 at the Harbor Club downtown.

Skoll Foundation Chief Strategy Officer Renee D. Kaplan will speak alongside Sandra Archibald, Dean and Professor, University of Washington Evans School of Public Affairs, and Rosario Pérez, President and CEO of Pro Mujer. The panel moderator is Melissa Merritt, Vice President, Waldron. The panel is sponsored by Global Washington, which supports the global development community in Washington state that is working to create a healthier and more equitable world, and Waldron.

“We will hear the candid stories and points of view of three successful women from different areas of the social sector,” Merritt says. “They will describe their journeys to leadership. We will ask them about their biggest barriers or struggles, the importance (or not) of mentorship and from where that should come, generational differences in the desire to lead, whether the concept of “leaning-In” is a myth or real, how to achieve balance and the effect of all this on the state of women in leadership in the future of the sector.”

Merritt formed the group “Women Leaders In Philanthropy” three years ago to provide a peer support group to women coming to Seattle to run organizations as the result of Waldron’s searches. They meet quarterly in round-robin fashion for round table discussions and informal conversation. Some valuable connections and collaborations have come from these gatherings.

To register, visit


Sundance Institute Expands Support for Filmmakers Spotlighting Urgent Social Issues with a $2.5 Million Grant from the Skoll Foundation

January 13, 2015 by

Sundance Institute | Skoll Stories of Change Initiative Adds Feature Film and New Media Project Support 

Panel during Sundance Film Festival with Laura Poitras, Jehane Noujaim,  Orlando Bagwell, Carne Ross and Jess Search

Park City, UT — Sundance Institute, in collaboration with the Skoll Foundation, will broaden the scope of the Sundance Institute | Skoll Stories of Change initiative, which connects independent storytellers with renowned social entrepreneurs to support the creation of films that shine a spotlight on solutions to urgent social issues.

With an additional $2.5 million grant from the Skoll Foundation, the initiative will expand to include feature film and new media artists as well as documentary filmmakers.

Over the past seven years, Stories of Change has supported 66 social entrepreneurs, 50 documentary filmmakers and storytellers, 11 documentary films, 11 multi-platform media projects, and 20 convenings, workshops, and labs.

Highlights include the Academy Award-nominated film Open Heart, which spurred the government of Rwanda to make eradication of Rheumatic Heart Disease a priority for their country, and the documentary Rafea, broadcast around the world as part of the Why Poverty initiative.

Keri Putnam, Executive Director of Sundance Institute, said, “Through the generous support of Jeff Skoll and the Skoll Foundation, we look forward to supporting brave documentary, narrative, and new media artists working to improve the world around them through storytelling. The evolution of this collaboration will build on the greatest strengths of the existing program, increase its reach, and enable us to bring vital independent stories to broader audiences.”

“The Skoll Foundation lives and breathes Jeff Skoll’s unwavering belief in the power of storytelling,” said Sally Osberg, president and CEO of the Skoll Foundation. “Sundance Institute, as led by Robert Redford, is a leading voice for independent storytelling and whose community of world-class storytellers share with Skoll a deep commitment to highlighting injustice and shining a light on solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. We’re proud and excited to expand our support to broaden the reach of these stories and their potential to help us envision and work toward a better world.”

The renewed Sundance Institute | Skoll Stories of Change initiative will kick off an exciting new phase with a reception at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival on Sunday, January 25. The event will feature a panel discussion looking at timely, issue-driven stories focused on democracy and accountability with Laura Poitras (Director, CitizenFour), Jehane Noujaim (Director, The Square), Orlando Bagwell (Director, UC Berkley J-School, Eyes on the Prize), Carne Ross (Founder, Independent Diplomat), and Jess Search (Chief Executive, BritDoc).

Stories of Change is a multi-year, multi-million dollar initiative of Sundance Institute and the Skoll Foundation. The partnership began in 2007 with the goal of bringing together the power of storytelling with the impact of social entrepreneurship. The partnership includes global gatherings of leading filmmakers and social entrepreneurs, including at the Skoll World Forum and the Sundance Film Festival, as well as investments in a portfolio of documentary film projects featuring social entrepreneurs and their innovations.

The Skoll Foundation was established by Jeff Skoll in 1999 to pursue his vision of a sustainable world of peace and prosperity. The Foundation’s mission is to drive large-scale change by investing in, connecting, and celebrating social entrepreneurs and the innovators who help them solve the world’s most pressing problems. Social entrepreneurs are society’s change agents—creators of innovations that disrupt the status quo and transform our world for the better. Join the Skoll Foundation on Facebook and Twitter, and learn more about the 2015 Skoll World Forum.

Sundance Institute
Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, Sundance Institute is a nonprofit organization that provides and preserves the space for artists in film, theatre, and new media to create and thrive. The Institute’s signature Labs, granting, and mentorship programs, dedicated to developing new work, take place throughout the year in the U.S. and internationally. The Sundance Film Festival and other public programs connect audiences to artists in igniting new ideas, discovering original voices, and building a community dedicated to independent storytelling. Sundance Institute has supported such projects as Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, Sin Nombre, The Invisible War, The Square, Dirty Wars, Spring Awakening, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and Fun Home. Join Sundance Institute on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.


Google Earth’s 6 New Projects—and Imazon—in New York Times

January 9, 2015 by

Imazon is featured in today’s New York Times in a story called “Mapping the World’s Problems.” Here’s an excerpt:

Nearly a decade ago, an environmental group in Brazil grew concerned that government data and maps about Amazon deforestation were out of date and hard to view. The group, Imazon, decided to create its own monitoring tools, using information from satellites. Imazon’s efforts caught the attention of Google, the search engine giant. Now, monthly reports on the Brazilian Amazon are produced through Google Earth Engine, a technology platform within the company.

Future projects include mapping the locations of fishing vessels, which can help detect illegal fishing; tracing the spread of malaria; showing sea-ice melt; and depicting fires, such as the flaring of natural gas from North Dakota’s shale fields. The European Union’s Joint Research Center, working with Google Earth Engine, presented a paper last month on mapping the planet’s permanent and seasonal water sources. Other projects, to be presented at the United Nations’ conference in Japan this March on disaster risk reduction, include a tool that will help model and map rising sea levels as they affect areas that differ in elevation.

Read the rest:


EcoPeace Middle East Win: Israeli High Court Denies Request of Israeli Military to Approve Battir Separation Barrier

January 5, 2015 by

Great news from EcoPeace Middle East, which received news coverage from HaaretzAFP and more

From their press release:

January 4, 2015 

Following two years of deliberations, the Israeli High Court of Justice today decided to deny the request of the Israeli military to confirm the legality of the proposed route of the separation barrier that was planned to cut through the unique terraced landscape of Battir.

The case is based on a set of petitions filled by the Palestinian village of Battir, neighboring Israeli residents across the ‘green line’ and the cross border environment organization EcoPeace Middle East (formerly Friends of the Earth Middle East), protesting the proposed building of the Separation Barrier on the site of the ancient terraced landscape of Battir.

Nader Khateeb, Palestinian Director of EcoPeace Middle East said: “This is an important win not only for Battir but for cross border cooperation between like- minded Palestinians and Israelis who have worked together for so many years. Trust building is a very powerful way to build peace and prevent building concrete barriers. This helped maximize constructive international attention to our cause. Together we undertook research to strengthen our case. Together we helped create political will that led to UNESCO registration of the Battir site. Together we were able to reveal that the security imperative claimed by the Israeli military to be hollow.”

The head of the local council of the village of Battir, Engineer Akram Bader, was relieved to hear of this decision, saying “great efforts at all levels were made to defend the rights of our peoples, of nature and its beautiful scenery”.

Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director of EcoPeace Middle East stated, “The Battir landscape managed to survive 4000 years of various conquests. The High Court decision today opens the New Year 2015 with Battir symbolizing a beacon of hope for a better future in our region.”

Learn more:


New Video on Child Marriage from Kenya: Convincing Men that Ending Child Marriage is their Responsibility

January 2, 2015 by

Happy New Year!

As the Christian Science Monitor shines a spotlight on child marriage in its new article, “Too young to be a bride: More countries aim to curb child marriage,” we would like to share a video following Wanjala Wafula, a women’s rights activist from Kenya, in his day-to-day work. He seeks to convince men that ending child marriage is not just a necessity: it is their responsibility. The film explores the complex factors that perpetuate child marriage and how men can take a more active role in upholding the rights of girls.



Five Ways to Tap the Crowd to Drive Change

December 20, 2014 by

On December 5th, the second annual Social Entrepreneurs Challenge, hosted on CrowdRise, came to an end. And what an ending it was! The goal was for social entrepreneurs to raise $3 million over a six-week campaign to unlock match and prize funding from the Skoll Foundation. By the final week of the Challenge, donations continued to pour in, and the entrepreneurs ultimately raised more than double our goal—$6.6 million.

In total, the Challenge raised $11 million, including $3.25 milion in matching grants and a $1.2 million Chairman’s grant from the Skoll Foundation.

Last year, we launched the Social Entrepreneurs Challenge to what we considered to be great success, exceeding even our top goal.

This year, we aimed higher. We tested and piloted new strategies and achieved more than we ever thought we would.

We’re thrilled with this success, but also excited to see that we were able to learn from last year’s Challenge and craft strategies that brought this effort to the next level and led to unprecedented results.

As many other groups look to leverage crowdfunding and other unique approaches to fundraising, we wanted to share some of the our top five pointers for building successful crowdfunding campaigns:

  1. You know what they say about early birds. It may feel unnecessary to think about a year-end fundraising campaign in early summer. But that’s precisely what we did with our CrowdRise partners and social entrepreneurs.

In July, our communications team sent sample communications plans, timelines, and marketing collateral to Challenge participants. We also sent them tips about building their email lists and social media networks, and about reaching out to high net worth donors. We hosted fundraising webinars before the Challenge started.

These early steps helped lay the groundwork for a successful fundraising campaign and allowed the social entrepreneurs to build and create their contacts and content during the “dog days of summer”.

  1. Mash it up! Maintaining momentum and excitement over a six-week fundraising challenge can be…well, a real challenge.

To keep the nearly 70 participating organizations engaged, we worked with CrowdRise to create a wide variety of weekly contests. Each week focused on different ways to reach goals, such as getting as many unique donors as possible, or reaching a certain threshold to be eligible for prize funding.

These opportunities allowed social entrepreneurs to reach out to their donors and networks with various giving options. We also created a page for essays on The Huffington Post, and used social media to build interest for the duration of the Challenge.

  1. Constructive competition is cool. A good dose of healthy competition can go a long way—especially when prize funding is involved.

We structured the Challenge to encourage competition among social entrepreneurs, which got their donors inspired to help them win. Deadlines and targets for the contests, which maximized different strengths and assets at different points throughout the campaign, helped create a sense of urgency every week.

  1. And collaboration is even cooler! That said, competition isn’t everything—after all, we shouldn’t lose sight of the essential “social” part in “social entrepreneur”.

For one week of the Challenge, we paired social entrepreneurs into teams so that they could support each other and share ideas. When we announced this special “collaboration” week, social entrepreneurs shared their esprit de corps with us, each other, and their networks. Some of them even shared their donors!

  1. Don’t BIAY (Build It All Yourself). Engage in existing events. This year, we timed the Challenge to leverage #GivingTuesday, the global day of giving held the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

Our social entrepreneurs were able to provide audiences with a tangible “give back” option, and leverage the visibility and PR that broader #GivingTuesday activities provided.

We also wanted to pilot a new effort to link our online campaign with a physical, in-person event, so we co-hosted a #Give2Future event for #GivingTuesday with the Institute of the Future in their terrifically new, open, and welcoming space. We used the #Give2Future gathering to talk about the future of philanthropy and social entrepreneurship and to share information and exciting news about the Challenge.

We are heartened to see how many people participated in the Challenge—as fundraisers, donors, and champions. Ultimately, participating social entrepreneurs and their staff members worked very hard to ensure success.

But the great news is that their efforts this year will continue to reap results in 2015 and beyond. It came as no surprise that the organizations that embraced the campaign and involved most of their staff and supporters were the most successful in “crowd-raising” funds.

We couldn’t be more delighted that the Social Entrepreneurs Challenge proved to be a great way for individuals to support people and ideas driving solutions to the world’s thorniest problems.

As we look to bring 2014 to a close, our thanks go out to all of the participating social entrepreneurs and donors who helped make this Challenge such a remarkable success!


Health Care Without Harm Calls for Climate Action at White House Event

December 16, 2014 by

WASHINGTON, DCAt a senior-level White House event yesterday, Health Care Without Harm and health executives from across the country called for an increased commitment from the health sector to take the significant and measurable actions that the mitigation of climate change demands.

Moderated by Counselor to the President John Podesta, the meeting signaled the launch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Sustainable and Climate Resilient Health Care Facilities Initiative. As part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the Initiative will produce tools and information to help health care facilities prepare for the impacts of climate change and increase their resilience.
HHS recognizes climate change as one of the top public health challenges of our time. The National Climate Assessment confirms that changes in climate threaten human health and well-being in many ways, including through impacts from extreme weather events, wildfire, and decreased air quality; that some of these health impacts are already underway in the United States; and that climate change will amplify some of the existing health threats the nation now faces in the future.

read more


Eric Schwarz is Carsey Social Innovator of the Year

December 12, 2014 by

Congratulations, Eric!

DURHAM – Eric Schwarz, founding chief executive officer of Citizen Schools and executive chairman of US2020, was named the Carsey 2014 Social Innovator of the Year.

Schwarz will be honored at the New Hampshire Social Venture Innovation Challenge Monday, Dec. 15 at the University of New Hampshire, where he will deliver the keynote address on social entrepreneurship and systemic social change. The challenge and Schwarz’s speech are free and open to the public but registration required at The Carsey Social Innovator of the Year Award recognizes a New England leader with a demonstrated commitment to social innovation.

“Eric Schwarz has changed the opportunity equation in our country,” said Yusi Turell, executive director of the UNH Carsey School of Public Policy’s Center on Social Innovation and Finance. “By growing Citizen Schools and using its successes to impact education policy, Eric has not only helped local children ‘beat the odds’ in educational attainment, he has ‘changed the odds’ for all American children. Eric is a visionary, a critical thinker and outstanding leader.”

Schwarz founded Citizen Schools in Boston in 1995 to support a vision of offering students in low-income communities a longer learning day, including hands-on “apprenticeships” led by volunteer “Citizen Teachers” from local businesses and universities. Now in seven states, Citizen Schools partners with public middle schools to expand the learning day for children through academic mentoring and skill-building apprenticeships. More than half of the skill-building apprenticeships are focused on STEM subjects and activities.

US2020 is a STEM mentoring initiative inspired by a White House call to generate large-scale solutions to the nation’s educational challenges in the STEM fields. US2020’s goal is to match 1 million STEM mentors with students by the year 2020.

In addition to his keynote address, Schwarz will lead a workshop, “The Opportunity Equation: Innovative Models for Business and Citizen Engagement in K-12 Education,” with New Hampshire panelists Fred Bramante of the National Center for Competency-Based Learning; Tanna Clews of the N.H. Charitable Foundation STEM Pathways Initiative; state Rep. Mary Stuart Gile, who serves on the N.H. House Education Committee, and Mark Greenlaw of FIRST.

For more about the Carsey School of Public Policy, visit

Learn more:


How much is being done for the world’s 450 million smallholder farmers?

December 12, 2014 by

Today, we’re sharing a new infographic and briefing from Dalberg – Global Development Advisors.


Technical assistance programs can help smallholder farmers improve their agronomic skills, business and financial skills, and access to markets. Currently, $8 billion is spent on such programs each year, which may sound like a lot, but equates to an average of only $18.66 per farmer. Learn more about technical assistance for smallholder farmers — and what can be done to make it more effective — in this infographic from the Initiative for Smallholder Finance.


Agricultural technical assistance can address many constraints to smallholder financing. On the supply side, financial services and advisory support programs help banks and financial institutions overcome constraints of product design and distribution for smallholder farmers. On the demand side, technical assistance prepares farmers for financing through value chain development programs or government extension programs.

Both aspects of technical assistance are important. But new data from the Initiative for Smallholder Finance finds that 97% of technical assistance funding currently goes to programs that address demand side constraints, while relatively little technical assistance funding goes to the supply side to mitigate risk and boost confidence for financial institutions involved in smallholder financing.

Building off research on the anatomy of the agricultural technical assistance market, this briefing explores how donors, financial institutions, and technical assistance providers can improve the efficacy of technical assistance to close the smallholder financing gap.


Click to view the full-size infographic


GoodWeave Founder Accepts Nobel Peace Prize

December 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 when GoodWeave Founder Kailash Satyarthi accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, alongside Malala Yousafzai.

In his opening remarks, committee chairman Thorbjorn Jagland acknowledged Mr. Satyarthi for founding GoodWeave as a part of his long career of working to end the exploitation of children for others’ economic gain.

As Kailash spoke, he called us all to action, declaring, “I refuse to accept that the shackles of slavery can ever be stronger than the quest for freedom.” He asked the audience to hold their hands over their hearts and listen to the child inside. (The text of Mr. Satyarthi’s speech is available here.)

As Mr. Satyarthi accepted the medal, he had company on stage as he evoked the hundreds of thousands of children who have been rescued or liberated, because of his campaigns and on the ground work. “At GoodWeave, we thought about the 50 children we have liberated this year so far and the more than 3,500 since our founding,” said Nina Smith, Executive Director of GoodWeave International. “We also imagined by his side the 2,450 children who in 2014 got to hold books instead of tools, and the 12,165 boys and girls who have been educated since GoodWeave began.”

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. 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.”


Congratulations, Malala and Kailash!

December 10, 2014 by

Take a moment, if you can, to read through this account of today’s 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Awards to two remarkable human beings: Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi.

I think we’d all agree that the Nobel committee really hit it out of the park this year!

Read more about the Skoll Foundation’s ties to these two inspiring people:



Girls Not Brides’ New Film on Ending Child Marriage in Zambia

December 9, 2014 by

We’re happy to share Girls Not Brides’ new film, which tells the story of Mirriam, a 17 year-old girl from rural Zambia with big dreams and big ambitions. Where Mirriam lives, however, child marriage is all too common: two in every five girls are married before they are 18.

Together: Ending Child Marriage in Zambia is a short documentary that asks what can be done to enable girls like Mirriam to avoid child marriage and fulfil their potential?
It tells the story of partnership, of how civil society activists, girls, traditional leaders, and the government are coming together to make sure that no girl is married as a child. It also considers how, if we can build momentum in a country where rates of early marriage are among the highest in the world, then perhaps we can pave the way for change not only in Zambia but far beyond.



Gawad Kalinga Has Built More than 2,000 Houses Since Typhoon Haiyan

December 8, 2014 by

With the recent Typhoon Hagupit in the central Philippines this weekend, we thought it would be a good time to share some of the current impact of Skoll Awardee Gawad Kalinga (GK) after last year’s Typhoon Haiyan.

To date, GK has:
  • 2,923 houses funded, of which 70% are under construction or completed. They expect to start the rest by January 2015 and their goal is to raise funds and build 3,000 houses more by end of 2015.
  • 3,652 kids eating nutritious meals daily through the “Kusina ng Kalinga” anti-hunger program piloted in Alang-alang, Leyte.  They intend to open 10 more kitchens that will serve 6,000 kids more by year end, and address hunger for 50,000 children by end of 2015.
  • 797 Balangay boats distributed across the fishing communities of the Visayan islands; their goal is to build 700 boats more by June, 2015.
  • 1.7 Million volunteers for Bayani Challenge 2014 mobilized to bring hope and a clear message of Walang Iwanan in Haiyan-affected areas; they continue to encourage volunteers to sustain these efforts, with the goal of involving 6,000 barangays by June, 2015.

Learn more:


Nelson Mandela Remembered: A New Film from The Elders

December 5, 2014 by

Today is the first anniversary of the passing of Nelson Mandela. The Elders have produced a new film which you can view above. In it, Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter and fellow Elders talk about what Nelson Mandela was like to know as a person, his impact and the legacy that he left behind.

Don’t miss our past blogs:


A Stories of Change Media Advisor Reflects on Sundance

December 3, 2014 by

In a recent blog, “Story Plus Impact Equals True Love: Matchmaking Filmmakers and Social Entrepreneurs,” Dara Kell focuses on her recent experience at the Stories of Change Convening, a 3-day storytelling workshop where Sundance-supported filmmakers help Skoll-Awarded Social Entrepreneurs identify and develop their organization’s stories in an immersive lab-like setting.

Here’s an excerpt:


Social entrepreneurs encounter some of the most challenging dilemmas in some of the most interesting places in the world. And even here in the United States, their work provides access to stories we may take for granted. Rebecca Onie from Health Leads described low-income families in Boston coming into emergency rooms needing not health services, but really, housing, food and heat in winter. What happens when doctors start to write prescriptions not for medicine but for food? Natural drama, moments of crisis, life-affirming resolution, are built into their work.

SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS ARE CREATIVE SOULS, JUST LIKE FILMMAKERS “If we can’t find a way, we’ll make one” – Gopi Gopalakrishnan, World Health Partners

Read more of what she learned, and her work with Proximity Designs, here:


Founder of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. Invests $10 Million in the Future of Fair Trade

November 25, 2014 by
Bob and Christine Stiller Award Unprecedented Challenge Grant to Nonprofit Fair Trade USA
Bob Stiller, long-time Fair Trade enthusiast and founder of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. (now Keurig Green Mountain, Inc.), and wife Christine Stiller, just awarded a monumental $10 million challenge grant to nonprofit organization and leading Fair Trade certifier Fair Trade USA. This investment will help fund three critical work streams aimed at increasing the reach and impact of Fair Trade certification for farmers and workers worldwide.
The grant is particularly unique for Fair Trade USA, as it stipulates that an additional $10 million be raised in order to unlock the funds, for a total goal of $20 million. “It’s a challenge not only to the organization, but also to other donors and investors out there looking for a tangible way to shift sustainable trade from niche to norm,” said Mr. Stiller. “The idea is to build momentum around this increasingly important work.”

While the largest portion of the gift will fund critical capacity-building programs at origin, the full plan is multifaceted, focusing on:

  1. Building the entrepreneurial capacity of farmers and workers through increased trainings and technical assistance programs, and the deployment of new technologies that enable resilient supply chains and provide critical business management tools
  2. Strengthening the certification model by improving and clarifying standards, and launching a robust new Impact Management System that ramps up data collection and deepens supply chain transparency
  3. Deepening consumer engagement to increase market demand and broaden the availability of Fair Trade Certified™ products

“We have a tremendous amount of work ahead of us,” said Paul Rice, President & CEO of Fair Trade USA, “but we also have a clear plan to get there. Through the philanthropy of individuals like Bob Stiller, we can help channel the power of the world’s largest economy into a leading solution for empowering producers worldwide.”

This generous grant, the largest ever awarded to Fair Trade USA, will also kick-start a momentous new goal for the nonprofit—$1 billion back to Fair Trade farmers and workers by 2020. As a baseline, producers have earned $350 million in additional income through Fair Trade since 1998.

Stiller, who is also a member of Fair Trade USA’s board of directors, adds: “Since entering the coffee industry in 1981, I’ve seen Fair Trade become a staple of better business for producers, companies and consumers. I’m a supporter and a champion, but I’ll also be the first to say that it can do more. We’re only at the tip of the iceberg in terms of potential impact, and I want to see Fair Trade be even more effective, reach more people and begin shifting practices at a larger scale. That’s the challenge I’m extending.”



Mark Plotkin’s TEDGlobal Talk Now on

November 24, 2014 by

Starting today, you can watch Mark Plotkin’s TEDGlobal 2014: South! talk, which he gave in Rio last month. Mark is a scientist who works in the rainforest to document how people use local plants, and is the co-founder of Amazon Conservation Team (ACT). ACT is dedicated to preserving South American rainforests and works with local indigenous communities to devise and implement its conservation strategies.

An excerpt from Mark’s TED talk:

“The shaman looked me in the face, smiled, and said, ‘Take off your shoe and give me your machete!’ He walked over to a palm tree and carved off a fern, threw it in the fire, applied the fern to my foot, threw it in a pot of water, and had me drink the tea.  The pain disappeared for seven months. When it came back, I went to see him again. He gave me the same treatment and I’ve been cured for three years now. Who would you rather be treated by?”

[Later in the talk, he says, to roaring applause]:

“We introduce technology to the contacted tribes, not the uncontacted tribes, in a culturally sensitive way. This is the perfect marriage of ancient shamanic wisdom and 21st-century technology. We’ve done this now with over 30 tribes. Mapped, managed, and increased protection of over 70 million acres of ancestral rainforest. This allows the Indians to take control of their environmental and cultural destiny.”

(We should note, doing so has laid the groundwork for the eventual protection of those lands by providing the basis for forest management plans designed by the very people who inhabit them, with 38 million of those acres already better monitored against illegal incursions).

Watch the talk at, and learn more about Mark in this recent interview.



Canada Honors Girls Not Brides

November 20, 2014 by

Congratulations, Mabel van Oranje and Girls Not Brides on this award!

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird presented the 2014 John Diefenbaker Defender of Human Rights and Freedom Award to Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage during a ceremony in Ottawa. This is the first of three awards that will be presented over the coming weeks.

“Girls Not Brides is working tirelessly to bring hope to millions of girls and young women around the world by putting an end to child, early and forced marriage,” said Baird. “Canada is proud to partner with them and honour them for their work on this noble cause.”

During the ceremony, Baird, on behalf of the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, announced that Canada will contribute $10 million to Canadian and international civil society organizations as part of an ongoing global effort to end this practice. read more


It’s World Toilet Day: Here’s What Skoll Awardees Are Doing

November 19, 2014 by

Today is World Toilet Day.

Many Skoll Awardees work in the sanitation space, including Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP),, Slum Dwellers International, Gram Vikas, Nidan, and Water for People.

“World Toilet Day is a day to take action,” says UN-Water, which coordinates the day. “It is a day to raise awareness about all people who do not have access to a toilet – despite the human right to water and sanitation. It is a day to do something about it. Of the world’s seven billion people, 2.5 billion people do not have improved sanitation. 1 billion people still defecate in the open. Women and girls risk rape and abuse because they have no toilet that offers privacy.”

WSUP released a new exhibition, My Toilet, which documents women and girls and their toilets to build a visual representation of the day to day reality and the effect this has on their lives, both positive and negative. Some of its photos were published in the BBC earlier this week. has a site dedicated to the day,, which features a one-minute video of a widowed mother of four in India talking about what life was like before she had a private toilet. On, you can also choose an Instagram meme and use the hashtag #toiletsWIN.

Learn more about how Slum Dwellers International, Gram Vikas, Nidan and Water for People are helping solve the world’s sanitation problem.

We will leave you with a quote from UN-Water about the poor sanitation in the world: “We cannot accept this situation. Sanitation is a global development priority. This is why the United Nations General Assembly in 2013 designated 19 November as World Toilet Day. This day had previously been marked by international and civil society organizations all over the world but was was not formally recognized as an official UN day until 2013.”


3 Tips from Social Entrepreneurs: Improving Education, Building Partnerships, and Stopping Modern-Day Slavery

November 17, 2014 by

Over the years, Skoll Awardees have shared some valuable lessons. In this first blog in a series, we’ll feature some of them. While the below topics are quite different, they are all addressing fundamental issues to solve a societal problem.

Today, we’ll hear from Ellen Moir of New Teacher Center, on how teacher roles must evolve; Jordan Kassalow of VisionSpring on how to build partnerships; and Dan Viederman of Verite on ways to solve modern-day slavery.

  • Tip Number One, from Ellen: Shift to a more personalized style of learning. “A teacher’s role must evolve to include being a continuous learner – someone who is curious, persistent and reflective. These are the three dispositions of highly effective teachers.” Read more from Ellen.
  • Tip Number Two, from Jordan: Find synergies between your nonprofit and a large company, and connect the dots. “Millions can’t see their cell phones without eyeglasses.  At Davos, I spoke with Ajay Banga, the President and CEO of MasterCard.  Although he never thought of this problem, it made immediate sense given that he relied on his eyeglasses to see his phone.  Given the future of mobile money to his business, he was intrigued and loved the idea of coupling the sale of phones with eyeglasses.”  Read more about partnerships from Jordan.
  • Tip number three, from Dan: When stopping modern-day slavery, start with the basics. “Identify where migrants are working, how they got there and what conditions they face: what recruitment agents were used? How much debt are they carrying? Were government officials bribed to facilitate their migration? Do they have access to their passports?” Read three more tips from Dan.

Find lots more lessons from social entrepreneurs:



© 2015 Skoll Foundation.