Skoll Foundation



5 Lessons of Hope from a Social Entrepreneur Who was Jailed

May 21, 2015 by

Cecilia Flores-Oebanda and some of her children were jailed for four years for fighting against the Marcos regime of the Philippines. (Former President Ferdinand Marcos was removed from power in 1986). Her organization, which helps stop human trafficking in the Philippines, was “strained and challenged” two years ago.

But she made it through. And she learned a lot. And today, she’s sharing those lessons with other social entrepreneurs.

“I thought life was in prison was the worst life,” she shared during the “Down is not Defeated” panel at the 2015 Skoll World Forum. “But after I began working with women and children, I realized my life in prison was nothing compared to what they endure.”

Here are 5 learnings from Cecelia:

  1. Don’t lose your endurance. “Fighting slave traders is a game of endurance. I am a very stubborn person and don’t run in a fight.”
  2. Stay inspired. “The children that I serve are the air that I breathe. I am energized by them, and become more proactive and strategic because I need to ‘gather the troops’ to support our fight. Otherwise, I am alone, and traffickers can easily kill you.”
  3. Know your weaknesses. “I am very honest with myself. I know what I am capable of—and not capable of—and that makes me more humble and grounded.
  4. Don’t lose sight of the larger goal. “I am always focused on the big goal: freedom. That the day will come that Filipino women, men and children will be free to explore opportunity without the fear and risk of being sold and enslaved. That gives me hope.”
  5. Your employees are not a family that you manage. “Sometimes my professional relationships suffer with my staff because I have personal relationships with them. I want everybody to be happy, but that also has a negative impact. Invest in a system within the organization.  You need transparency and structure.”

Listen to more of her wisdom in the video, above, and read her firsthand account:


Ma Jun to The Guardian: China is at a Tipping Point

May 19, 2015 by

In a new feature about 2015 Skoll Awardee and “China’s most well-known environmentalist” Ma Jun, he tells The Guardian: 

After decades of growth at all costs, Ma says China is now at a tipping point. “The development and growth model of the last 35 years has been increasingly dependent on energy and pollution-intensive industries, but how can we go on growing all these sectors every year with double digits?

“I think its time to change and balance the environment and growth. If we don’t do that we’re going to suffer a hard landing one day very soon,” says Ma.

China’s leadership has promised a “war on pollution” to regain public trust, but it is the decisions of local government officials, says Ma, that dictate what action, if any, is taken against major polluters.

The article goes in depth about how Ma Jun is helping empower citizens to tackle unsustainable growth, and is a beautiful illustration of what it means to disrupt the status quo. Read the rest:


The Outsourcing Sector’s Shift to Impact Sourcing as the New Norm

May 18, 2015 by

In a recent Huffington Post blog Skoll Awardee Jeremy Hockenstein—co-founder and CEO of Digital Divide Data (DDD)—posits, “Nowadays, almost every major company and institution outsources business processes offshore. Imagine the social impact if each of these companies directed just 5 percent of that spend toward socially targeted outsourcing?”

Impact sourcing is “outsourcing that benefits disadvantaged individuals in low employment areas.” Hockenstein explains that Impact Sourcing has come a long way since its humble beginnings only some years ago; now “an estimated 10 percent of the total BPO global employed workforce works in Impact Sourcing—and the number is growing.” He explores the many reasons why Impact Sourcing is becoming mainstream:

“Part of this development is driven by the growing demand for competitively priced outsourced service. As buyers search for new labor markets beyond traditional sourcing destinations such as India and the Philippines, there has been tremendous growth of outsourcing to non-traditional markets in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Most important, Impact Sourcing has demonstrated evidence of positive business and social impact.

“By accessing a qualified, trained, untapped talent pool with skill sets aligned to match client needs, Impact Sourcing performs on par with traditional BPO [business process outsourcing] companies. In addition, impact workers are stable and highly motivated. [Research] has shown that attrition among [Impact Sourcing Service Providers] are 15-40 percent lower compared to traditional BPOs. Impact workers stay because they feel loyal towards the employer that helped train, provide employment, and in the case of DDD, educate them. … The outcome is better quality work, especially over the long term.”

Read the full article here.

In the Spring issue of the Professional Outsourcing Magazine, DDD Marketing Manager Christina Gossmann describes the benefits of socially responsible outsourcing, which can leave a lasting effect on the communities in which suppliers work. “In recent years[,] Impact Sourcing has increased in scale and quality to become a commercially viable market solution,” she explains.

Gossman explores how the model of Impact Sourcing provides quality and cost at parity with traditional BPO services, but with enhancements that extend into both the business and social realms. In addition to the lower attrition rates, sourcing from new geographic markets increases resource flexibility and reduces risk, and Impact Sourcing’s local presence can serve as a gateway to strengthen companies’ brand image and ultimately increase sales in those geographies.

Looking through the lens of the social realm, Impact Sourcing is also an impactful way to leverage the $300 billion outsourcing industry for good. Youth unemployment is one of the most critical global development challenges of today, and Impact Sourcing “enables these young people to acquire valuable technical and soft skills that prepare them to succeed in professional environments – in the Impact Sourcing industry and others.”

Learn more about the benefits of Impact Sourcing, DDD’s incorporation of education, and the integration of impact sourcing here.

With all those benefits, it’s no wonder Impact Sourcing is transforming the BPO sector. And now, the front-page headline of PULSE Magazine from IAOP—the premiere industry association in the sector—declares: “Impact Sourcing is the New Norm.”

The equilibrium change that DDD has been working to create has started to become a new standard.

Read about this important systemic shift in the current PULSE Magazine issue, available here.  You can learn more about DDD and impact sourcing in the video below.



HCWH Divests from Fossil Fuels, Releases Impressive Stats on Hospital Program

May 15, 2015 by

Today we’re sharing two pieces of news about Health Care Without Harm:

  • Health Care Without Harm and Practice Greenhealth have together divested their fossil fuel investments. Employee retirement plans at both organizations are now free of fossil fuel holdings and previous holdings have been replaced with climate friendly investments. Read more here.
  • The Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI) released its 2014 Milestone Report, announcing the collective impact of nearly 1,000 hospitals across the country that reduced their environmental footprint, lowered costs and improved the health of patients and staff. Read the details here.

On a non-related note, read how you can help HCWH’s partner organization in Nepal post-earthquake:


Boys Campaigning for Girls’ Education

May 12, 2015 by

In India, a country with more than 3 million girls out of school, Skoll Awardee organization Educate Girls trains young people to go into villages to find girls who are not in school and help get them back into the classroom. These young volunteers — both young women and young men — engage village leaders and community members to increase appreciation of and demand for girls’ education.

The Christian Science Monitor explores the context and impact of Educate Girls’ work in India. An excerpt:

Boys campaigning for girls’ education is not common in most parts of the world but in India’s Rajasthan state they are at the heart of a drive to get more girls into schools.

…Some 60 percent of Educate Girls’ 4,500 volunteers are boys, founder and executive director Safeena Husain told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“Having these boys as champions for the girls is absolutely at the core of what we’re trying to achieve,” Husain said in an interview.

…Educate Girls’ approach to is to define hotspots where many girls are out of school, often in remote rural or tribal areas, and then deploy its volunteers to bring them back into the classroom, said Husain.

Read the full article in The Christian Science Monitor.


One Social Entrepreneur Shares How He Gets Media Coverage

May 11, 2015 by

Jim Fruchterman founded Benetech in 2000. Since then, his organization has been featured in numerous publications, such as Barron’s, The New York Times, and public radio station KQED.

At the recent Skoll World Forum, Jim sat down with Morgan Clendaniel, founding editor of Co.Exist (Fast Company’s innovation site), to share how to get media coverage. We covered excellent media-pitching tips from Morgan on the Skoll World Forum Online, which you can read here.

Today, we’re sharing nuggets from Jim’s experiences. We hope they inspire you!

“I’m a geek from Silicon Valley who writes software for disabled people and human rights groups,” Jim said at the start of the discussion, while introducing himself as moderator.  “We’ve done press relations badly, and sometimes, well.”

Some insights from Jim:

  1. Use different social media channels for different needs. “We run a web site that serves 350,000 students in the U.S. and we reach them through Facebook. When we are talking to journalists, we are doing it in Twitter. Our press releases are blog posts that we Tweet out and we reach narrow audiences. I will send a blog post to a congressional staffer or a donor.”
  2. Share a story, not your model. “A lot of social entrepreneurs are proud of what we do, but the average person is very non-interested in our novel hybrid financing structure. They want to know, some young girl whose life was completely transformed by your intervention. That is the hook. Journalists want to know there is something real behind that, that this isn’t the one cherry-picked story that is the exception to all the rules.”
  3. Ask your partners how they want to be portrayed. An audience member who works with an organization serving the homeless asked about sharing “non stereotypical” photos of homeless people. “The disability field is very sensitive to this,” Jim replied. “It’s called the ‘Jerry’s Kids Phenomenon, let’s show people photos of really obviously visually disabled kids and make people feel terrible about them.’ Most of us in the social enterprise field have the same attitude you do. We don’t do charity to the communities we work with. We work in partnership for social change. So what we do with our partners, is, how do you want to be portrayed in the media? We do walk away from stories that say things like, ‘This person’s life, benighted by blindness.’ Time out! We are talking about empowerment here. I want to hear a story about how this blind person volunteered to help other blind people and it’s great.'”
  4. Think about small, specialty publications. “For example, we want to reach special education teachers. If we send a press release to Special Education Member Network, they will publish it. That’s not ‘real journalism’ that you just published a press release, but it is reaching the audience and taking advantage of the network.”

Jim also shared how media can help in more ways than one. In response to an audience question about motive, Jim gave four answers: “More social impact, policy change, reach more donors, and reach the people I want to help.”

We don’t have an advertising budget, usually. So, often, the media is a cost-effective way to reach the community we want to help. We serve disabled kids; I can’t take an ad out in the New York Times. But if I get someone to write a story about a disabled kid who they never thought would graduate from high school but now got into college, then another parent will say, ‘why isn’t my kid getting that service? It’s free.’  But because it’s free, I can’t advertise.

…More of our mission is first. Yes, we want more donors, but …there are better ways to reach donors than to get most stories. But, a Fast Company, a New York Times, donors do read those outlets and they will share stories. A story in your local newspaper might help get a local philanthropist.

A lot of us are engaged in policy. Politicians care deeply about how interested the electorate is in an issue. When the Internet was shut down over bad laws in the U.S., we were 88 out of 90 organizations fighting it, but we had a story on how this kind of law was going to hurt disabled kids and human rights groups, as opposed to Google and the like, so our little voice was an important voice.”

Watch the entire session above.


Nepal Earthquake, GoodWeave, and “Getting Beyond Better”

May 8, 2015 by

In Nepal, where handwoven carpets are the No. 1 export, Skoll Awardee GoodWeave has been tremendously affected. In a new Nonprofit Chronicles story, reporter Marc Gunther writes,”…All of this is a work in progress, and the Nepal earthquake is a reminder that the best-laid plans can be rocked, literally, by forces beyond anyone’s control. A GoodWeave day care center and an office have crumbled. A staff member lost his immediate family. If, in the years ahead, Nepal’s carpet industry collapses, much of the progress made by GoodWeave will be undone. ‘This industry is going to have to be rebuilt, sustainability,’ GoodWeave founding executive director Nina Smith says. ‘Otherwise the buyers are going to go elsewhere.’ That would be terrible not just for the children of Nepal, but for the entire nation.”

Gunther quotes Skoll Foundation President and CEO Sally Osberg and her “Getting Beyond Better” book coauthor:

“As Sally Osberg and Roger Martin, a foundation director, write in the current issue of the Harvard Business Review: ‘When enough consumers vote with their wallets, retailers and suppliers get the message—and entire systems are forever altered.’ It’s far from an easy solution, though, because it relies on consumers, retailers, suppliers and NGOs to do what governments ought to do–protect children. Try marketing that.”

The article also mentions GoodWeave’s short video, Stand with Sanju, which was Winner of a Stories of Change award from Skoll Foundation and Sundance. The three-minute video depicts the real and triumphant journey of an 11-year-old girl named Sanju.

Read the rest: and how you can help GoodWeave and other Skoll Awardees affected by the earthquake:





Indigenous Reserve in Colombia Quintupled in Size

May 6, 2015 by

After 20 years of diligent work, conservationists, human rights activists and indigenous communities are celebrating a massive achievement in southwest Colombia: the expansion of the Inga people’s Yunguillo Indigenous Reserve—an area of extraordinary cultural and environmental importance—from 10,675 to 55,341 acres (more than 85 square miles).

The Yunguillo Indigenous Reserve is home to many sacred sites for the Inga people, as well as many threatened species including spectacled bears and jaguars. The expansion also protects the headwaters of the Caquetá River—a major tributary of the Amazon River whose watershed covers 250,000 square kilometers.

The Tilinguera River runs next to the Inga community of Yunguillo and connects to the Caquetá River—one of the major tributaries of the Amazon River. Click to enlarge

The Executive Board of INCODER (the Colombian Institute for Rural Development) approved the expansion today. The decision represents important progress in the implementation of Constitutional Court decision No. 004 of 2009, which safeguards at-risk indigenous communities’ claim to their traditional lands. The Inga tribe of the region will now have increased protection and additional rights to their territory—an area increasingly threatened by mining concessions and other development projects.

“This represents a huge victory, not only for the Inga communities, but for the protection of one of the world’s most biodiverse areas,” said Liliana Madrigal, co-founder of the Amazon Conservation Team in Arlington, Virginia. “The expansion connects Doña Juana National Park (162,741 acres) and Serranía de los Churumbelos National Park and secures an important piece of the Andes-Amazon-Atlantic Corridor proposed by President Santos.”

Nydia Becerra Jacanamejoy, the governor of Yunguillo, expressed how this land is intricately tied to Inga identity and how the Inga are equipped to protect it.

School kids and teachers in the Inga community of Yunguillo. Click to enlarge

“We consider Mother Earth to be both the reason for our existence and our reason for surviving,” she said. “To use the land and its resources properly and respectfully, we observe the traditions passed down over generations. We maintain our identity by maintaining these traditions, while adapting to new conditions in order to protect our territory. We do not believe that identity is possible without territory or that we can protect these lands without a strong sense of collective identity.”

This important achievement is the result of coordinated efforts by the Inga community of Yunguillo, its four communal councils (Osococha, San Carlos, Tandarido and Yunguillo), INCODER, regional indigenous organizations including OZIP, and the Amazon Conservation Team. Thanks to efforts by these groups, the Inga community preemptively developed a plan for territorial management in the expanded reserve. Yesterday, they put this plan into action.



For Blue Ventures Conservationists, the Solution is Marine Protection

May 5, 2015 by

The Guardian reports on Blue Ventures and its radical approach to conservationism. Al Harris, a 2015 Skoll Awardee, explains how creating closures can help revive local fish stocks. The story begins with the Vezo people of southwest Madagascar, whose coastal fishing villages were struggling to sustain themselves.

An excerpt:

Unsurprisingly, the villagers [had] mixed feelings when Blue Ventures suggested closing one of their fishing grounds. Nevertheless, they agreed to a trial closure for a few months in 2004. “When we opened it they caught 1,200kg of octopus in one day,” recalls Gildas Andriamalala, who joined the project as a student researcher. “We invited people from 20 villages just to see it … to show the community that if they look after their resources they will benefit.”

…Blue Ventures has gone on to become a globally influential community conservation program. Coastal communities in Madagascar quickly took up the model and the country now boasts hundreds of these marine areas that are monitored and protected by local people. “Today you’ve got in excess of 11% of Madagascar’s coastline under local protection,” says Harris, “which is extraordinary for one of the poorest countries in the world.”

…Harris believes that marine conservation can only be sustainably enacted by working closely with those who depend on the sea, helping them to recognize the importance of conservation at a human level.

The model has since been replicated in neighboring countries and the local people of fishing villages in Madagascar have “set a humbling global example.”



The Impact of YouthBuild’s Work with Opportunity Youth

May 5, 2015 by

In the United States, at least 2.3 million low-income 16- to 24-year-olds are not engaged in education, employment, or training*. A New York Times piece features Skoll Awardee YouthBuild USA as a powerful example of how programs that support academics and on-the-job training for low-income young adults can turn the statistics around.

An excerpt:

Kids who have “reached a dead end” are offered “a community that helps them find their purpose,” [said founder] Dorothy Stoneman[.] Seventy-seven percent of those who join earn a high school diploma, a G.E.D. or an industry-recognized credential, and 61 percent are placed in jobs and postsecondary education.

…Teachers and counselors make themselves available around the clock, and not just for schoolwork — they go to court with their students and help them get a driver’s license or draft a college application. Most of the participants build or repair homes for poor or homeless people, earning a modest stipend.

Melody Barnes, formerly President Obama’s chief domestic policy adviser, says YouthBuild graduates are “determined, smart and civic-minded, and but for programs like this one they would have been left behind,” she said.

Read the rest:

YouthBuild was also featured in The Boston Globe in an article that showcases YouthBuild’s work to ease economic disparities in Boston and reflects on comparisons between Boston and Baltimore.

An excerpt:

The sound of hammers and saws cuts through the morning air as nearly two dozen youths build a house on North Avenue, just off of Dudley Street. They’re attaching gray-blue siding, constructing the front deck, and installing insulation in what is to be a three-bedroom, single-family home.

But these men and women are building much more. Organizations like YouthBuild Boston are laying the foundation for community and opportunity, helping prevent what happened in Baltimore, where peaceful protests roiled into a night of rioting this week over the death of Freddie Gray from injuries sustained in police custody.

“Just imagine waking up every day and wondering ‘What am I going to do? When am I going to get a job?’ ” Greg Mumford, YouthBuild Boston’s deputy director, said Thursday. “There’s nothing to do, so you’re just hanging around.”

Read the full article:


*From website. Source:One in Seven; Ranking Youth Disconnection in the 25 Largest Metro Areas,” 2014, Sarah Burd-Sharps and Kristen Lewis. 


Sally Osberg, Roger Martin on Stamina and Tough-Minded Optimism

May 4, 2015 by

At the Skoll World Forum last month, Jeff Kehoe of the Harvard Business Review Press led a conversation about how social entrepreneurs are transforming society’s unjust equilibria.

Skoll Foundation President and CEO Sally Osberg and strategy guru Roger Martin talked about their upcoming bookGetting Beyond Better: How Social Entrepreneurship Works.

As Osberg explained: “Social entrepreneurs attack systems and equilibria in society that are stuck in place and desperately in need of change.” Martin added that the book aims to extend the knowledge of social entrepreneurs to provide models for their peers; and to make it easier for funders and stakeholders to understand and identify social entrepreneurs, increasing investment in the sector.

“The real challenge today is summoning the body of evidence that shows us what social entrepreneurship is getting done in the world,” said Osberg. “This will give more leverage and impetus for us to track this wave and prove to governments and businesses what is possible.”

Martin spoke of the tensions that social entrepreneurs have to deal with. “You have to abhor the current situation and understand how to change it. You’re an expert, but also an apprentice. You have to both experiment and commit.” read more


The Elders Conclude Visit to Moscow

May 1, 2015 by

This week, six members of The Elders visited Moscow for talks on geopolitical issues with Russian officials including President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. The Elders is an independent group of former heads of state and key international organizations. Skoll Foundation Founder Jeff Skoll and President and CEO Sally Osberg sit on its Advisory Council.

During their three-day visit the representatives from The Elders were keen to hear about the Russian Government’s views on current geopolitical crises around the world, from the situation in Ukraine and prospects for implementation of the Minsk II agreement to the complex and dangerous situation in the Middle East.

Concerned about increasing international confrontations and geopolitical tensions, The Elders held constructive and open talks with President Putin. They plan to continue such discussions with other governments moving forward. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Anan said, “We are pleased to have had the opportunity to discuss Russia’s role in international affairs with the President. To be successful in defusing conflicts and building trust, high-level dialogue and effective action are essential.”

As an organization dedicated to the pursuit of peace, The Elders seek to encourage all concerned to help de-escalate global tensions and the risk of further conflict.

Read more about The Elders’ conversations in Moscow here.


How to Help Skoll Awardees Working in Nepal

April 29, 2015 by

Last week, a mammoth earthquake hit Nepal and killed more than 5,000 people and injured at least 10,000. The UN, which just launched a $415 million appeal, says more than eight million people have been affected and some 70,000 houses have been destroyed.

Many Skoll Awardee organizations work in Nepal. Here are some, and how you can help:

  • BasicNeeds‘ partner-led program with mentally ill people and careers is focused on the districts of Myagdi and Baglung in Nepal, both of which are very close to the epicenter of the earthquake. BasicNeeds partner staff report around 540 injured people and 2900 houses damaged with people living and sleeping outside of their homes in cold temperatures. “People are scared to go inside their houses, we have experienced over 100 aftershocks over the last two days. We have still not been able to contact families in the most remote villages,” says Padam Raj Shrestha of Livelihoods and Education Development Society (LEADS) Nepal. Food and medicines, including those for long-term mental health conditions, are rapidly running down with the real possibility of patients becoming very ill with less chance of being able to regain their current stability levels. BasicNeeds is urgently seeking an initial £10,000 to ensure that LEADS Nepal can obtain immediate supplies of food, water, pharmaceutical drugs and blankets:
  • Thankfully, Medic Mobile’s teammates in its Nepal office are safe. Medic Mobile’s regional director, Jay Evans, has been sleeping outside with his family and neighbors as aftershocks continue. Electricity is scarce but Jay has been able to update his @jaymedicmobile Twitter feed; follow him for real-time updates from the MedicMobile team. All donations to Medic Mobile between now and May 30 will go directly to supporting efforts in Nepal.
  • GoodWeave has staff and residents at its Hamro Ghar center for rescued children. While the Hamro Ghar building is damaged, all of the kids and staff there are safe. They are still trying to track down everyone on their team and learn more about how vulnerable carpet weaving families have been affected. They also still need to inventory damage to their day care centers and other programs. GoodWeave has established an emergency fund to help ensure their safety and recovery:
  • Room to Read’s John Wood was just interviewed on CNN about where they see the need and how to help. They have shared that 100 percent of its staff in Nepal are safe. RTR’s Kathmandu office and field offices are closed this week.  Many Room to Read project sites are  in the Lamjung and Dhading Districts,  two areas greatly affected by the earthquake. While they don’t yet know the condition of their Literacy Program project sites or the impact on their Girls’ Education Program participants in these remote communities, in the coming weeks and months, its team in Nepal will assess the damage. Towards that effort, they have set up the Nepal Education Fund that will ensure Room to Read can support children and teachers by helping to rebuild the educational system in Nepal.
  • Health Care Without Harm’s partner organization, Health Care Foundation of Nepal, works with HCWH on health care waste management and helped set up Nepal’s only functional ambulance service.  HCWH is putting out an appeal to support the ambulance service’s work.

Putin to Meet with The Elders

April 28, 2015 by

Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to meet with representatives of The Elders on April 29, 2015. The Elders is an independent group of political and public leaders who have previously held top positions in their respective countries and international organizations. Skoll Foundation Founder Jeff Skoll and President and CEO Sally Osberg sit on its Advisory Council.

The Elders representatives—Kofi Annan, Chair of The Elders, former UN Secretary-General and Nobel Peace Laureate; Martti Ahtisaari, former President of Finland and Nobel Peace Laureate; Lakhdar Brahimi, former Foreign Minister of Algeria; Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway and Deputy Chair of The Elders; Jimmy Carter, former President of the United States of America and Nobel Peace Laureate; and Ernesto Zedillo, former President of Mexico—have traveled to Russia to discuss some of today’s key foreign policy issues including the Middle East, how to combat terrorism, and United Nations reform.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the representatives that this meeting reflects Russia’s deep respect for the activities of the Elders. “The dialogue with you definitely enriches the international agenda,” he said. “It’s gratifying that this experience is coupled with energy, determination and willingness to contribute to the solution of international problems.”

Read the full article at TASS Russian News Agency.


Sally Osberg & Roger L. Martin: “Two Keys to Sustainable Social Enterprise” in Harvard Business Review

April 27, 2015 by

Sally Osberg and Roger L. Martin, who have a new book coming out in October, just wrote a new article in the May 2015 issue of Harvard Business Review. Their new book, “Getting Beyond Better: How Social Entrepreneurship Works,” sets forth a bold new framework demonstrating how and why meaningful change actually happens in the world, and providing concrete lessons and a practical model for businesses, policymakers and civil society organizations. Here is an excerpt from the HBR article, now online:

“Social entrepreneurship has emerged over the past several decades as a way to identify and bring about potentially transformative societal change. A hybrid of government intervention and pure business entrepreneurship, social ventures can address problems that are too narrow in scope to spark legislative activism or to attract private capital.

To succeed, these ventures must adhere to both social goals and stiff financial constraints. Typically, the aim is to benefit a specific group of people, permanently transforming their lives by altering a prevailing socioeconomic equilibrium that works to their disadvantage. Sometimes, as with environmental entrepreneurship, the benefit may be extended to a broader group once the project has provided proof of concept. But more often the benefit’s target is an economically disadvantaged or marginalized segment of society that doesn’t have the means to transform its social or economic prospects without help. The endeavor must also be financially sustainable. Otherwise the new socioeconomic equilibrium will require a constant flow of subsidies from taxpayers or charitable givers, which are difficult to guarantee indefinitely. To achieve sustainability, an enterprise’s costs should fall as the number of its beneficiaries rises, allowing the venture to reduce its dependence on philanthropic or governmental support as it grows.”

Read the rest, and pre-order “Getting Beyond Better.”




EcoPeace Middle East Shows PBS NewsHour “How Israel Became a Leader in Water Use”

April 27, 2015 by

EcoPeace Middle East Co-Founder Gidon Bromberg was on PBS NewsHour this weekend. An excerpt from the nearly 8-minute segment, which you can watch above:

Reporter Martin Fletcher: For decades, Israel and its neighbors diverted the Jordan’s flow to supply drinking water and water for crops. While the river is down 95 percent from its historical flow, there’s hope that someday, it could return to its former glory. That’s because Israel today has more water than it needs — it’s gone from drought to water surplus in just a few years – impressive anywhere, but especially in the arid Middle East, one of the driest regions in the world….The Israelis have achieved something extraordinary. Five, six, seven years ago it was all about save water and bathe together, and now they’ve got more water than they need.”

Gidon: “It is remarkable. It’s been a slow process. So Israel’s leadership in treating sewage has taken place over the last fifteen years, but the breakthrough has been in the development of membrane technology for desalination because that breakthrough in technology dramatically reduced the costs of desalinating seawater.”


Song, Laughter and Art at the Skoll World Forum Closing Plenary

April 18, 2015 by

We sang. We saw images of war. We saw beautiful art that inspired a little boy who eventually became president of a large foundation. We heard a musician from Mozambique play his guitar and sing songs of social change. We laughed with the “Egyptian Jon Stewart.”

Every single speaker and artist got a standing ovation, and it’s no wonder. Our souls were moved. Our hearts were moved.

The evening opened with Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship Chairman Stephan Chambers saying, “I didn’t warn you that there would be anger, inspiration, modesty, strong-minded, robust, combative, positive disagreement and grace and ambition. Thank you for bringing those things here this week.” He announced the Sing for Hope piano that people wrote on (literally!) during the Forum, which will have a permanent home at Oxford University’s Said Business School, where the Forum is held.

Egyptian Political Satirist Bassem Youssef announced that he’s building a platform with YouTube, to “give the new generation what we thought we lost. We want to give them hope. A few years from now, we will not be controlled by the same people who gave us the Arab Spring. Before this decade is over, we will have independent media.”

Monica Yunus and Camille Zamora, opera singers and co-founders of Sing for Hope, walked out on stage singing vocalese. Then, they talked to us, showed a stunning video of the impact their work has had on New York, and asked the audience to sing. Each said said, “Aaaaaaahhhhhh” in a different tone, and, according to my conversation with Yunus and Zamora afterward, we sounded great!


Ford Foundation CEO Darren Walker showed us how art magazines he looked at as a child changed the course of his life: “I am certain I would not be standing before you today if not for my exposure to the arts,” he said.

Walker also said, ”Jeff Skoll: Congratulations to you for this Forum…for your courage, your humility and your audacity. Sally Osberg: “You are indefatigable. It is your ability to think…which makes you one of the most respected and admired CEOs in all of philanthropy.”

Documentary photographer Susan Meiselas showed us how powerful photographs can change history. She said documentary photography can be “long and thankless, but it’s important that you persevere.”

Skoll Awardee Ned Breslin talked with singer and guitar player Feliciano dos Santos of the Massukos band—then the band caused us to dance. A short film showed video and photographs of the past week, reminding everyone of the best moments from the Forum.

And Chambers sent us home. “Each year, I think we have reached peak Skoll. Each year, I think we can’t get more motivated, balanced, angry and inspired, and each year I am wrong. You astound me. You astound me with your creativity, and I am humbled. Thank you.”



Investors push SEC to require stronger climate risk disclosure by fossil fuel companies

April 17, 2015 by

Just one day after BP adopted a shareholder resolution to support better carbon asset risk disclosures following disappointing global oil demand and low oil prices, 62 institutional investors representing nearly $2 trillion in assets called on the Securities and Exchange Commission to push for better disclosure by oil and gas companies of critical climate change-related business risks that will “profoundly affect the economics of the industry.”

In a detailed seven-page letter to the SEC, organized by the nonprofit sustainability advocacy group Ceres, investors noted that the current low price environment is effectively providing a stress test for the fossil fuel sector of the risks it is likely to face due to climate change, citing a number of material risks facing oil and gas companies – including expanding carbon-reducing regulations, growth of renewable energy and weakening oil demand – that are not sufficiently disclosed in their financial filings. These risks are commonly referred to as “carbon asset risks.”

Given these climate-related trends, investors are especially concerned about the industry’s excessive capital spending on high-cost, carbon intensive projects such as Arctic drilling, ultra deepwater drilling and Canadian oil sands projects. read more


Skoll Awards Ceremony 2015 Highlights

April 17, 2015 by

There is no better way to open an Awards Ceremony than with the Soweto Gospel Choir dancing down the aisles.

So began the 2015 Skoll Awards Ceremony.

Yesterday, Skoll Foundation President and CEO Sally Osberg led the community on a journey, back 800 years, to the Magna Carta. This charter for personal liberties “stoked the early embers of freedom,” and the blaze caught around the world. As Sally said, “Then, as now, the driving force for change was the quintessentially human drive to set things right.” We saw this drive in each of the four 2015 Skoll Awardees.

Jagdeesh Rao Puppala demonstrated how the work of the Foundation for Ecological Security is about much more than simply helping people manage their forests, pastures, and water. Even skeptics within villages came to see the value of Commons—a farmer found that improved vegetation in the Commons led to better crop productivity in his own land; a widower’s daughter was able to use the fodder from the village pasture to feed the family bulls, freeing up hours of every day and allowing her to go back to school. “What we saw as a simple planting of trees was a larger story of how people connected economically, socially, and emotionally to the Commons,” he said.

Alasdair Harris introduced us to the “not-so-small-scale” fishers, the millions of people living along coasts who depend on fisheries for survival. With fish stocks collapsing and where people have no alternative to fishing, people are struggling to find enough to survive. Blue Ventures works with communities to show how taking less from the ocean can actually lead to more, catalyzing locals to protect their own seas. “When sustainable fisheries make real sense for this not-so-small-scale sector, we have a hope of putting conservation in the hands of those with the greatest interest in its success,” he told the crowd.

Safeena Husain shared the story of a Padma, a young woman whose life was transformed when, after escaping an abusive marriage as a girl, she returned to school and ultimately became one the most educated people in her village. Today, Padma works to get girls back to school.

“Padma is an Educate Girls Team Balika, a community volunteer who is shifting the equilibrium in favor of girls’ education,” she said. She is just one of the 4,600 Team Balika members throughout India, working to unlock the transformative power of girls’ education. These passionate catalysts enrolled 80,000 out-of-school girls last year alone, changing norms and convincing villages about the incredible merits of educating girls.

Ma Jun described how pollution in China has reached such a magnitude that it cannot be addressed without extensive public participation. The Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs works to provide citizens with tools to put pressure on major polluters.

IPE’s innovative Blue Map app enables users to access and tweet the records of emitters. This “micro-reporting” has motivated hundreds of major coal and industrial power plants to respond—and the app has now topped 3 million downloads. With such engagement and momentum, Ma Jun looks to expand IPE’s operations and amplify its impact.

A short video about each awardee’s work played just before they went up to stage to receive their awards. Watch them here:

The next recognition was for the Skoll Global Treasure Award. Jeff Skoll honored Graça Machel, “a hero to people all over the world, whose life story is a testament to the power of radical thinking.” Driven by the idea that all people have a right to dignity, Mrs. Machel is a renowned international advocate for women and children’s rights.

In a conversation with Camfed founder Ann Cotton, Mrs. Machel explained how justice and human dignity are the threads in her life. Upon seeing the suffering of children in Mozambique and around the world, the protection of children came as a call to amplify their voices. “No one is voiceless. The difference is not everyone has a platform where their voice can be heard.” She told a story about an experience in Tanzania, where after a meeting on FGM and child marriage in the community, a group of girls presented her with a gift. “I’m worried about them, and they come and give me a gift. These children are not giving up, so who am I to give up?”

Graca Machel captured a sentiment that underlies so much of the Skoll World Forum. As Sally Osberg closed, she reminded us that the choices we make and refuse to make will keep us accountable for years to come—and that is what drives us to make the world better.


Skoll Foundation and UN Foundation Grants Fuel Partnerships Between Social Entrepreneurs and UN Agencies

April 17, 2015 by

The Skoll Foundation and the United Nations Foundation today announced the winners of a unique set of grants—totaling US$1 Million—that will enable partnerships between social entrepreneurs and United Nations agencies, funds, and programs designed to drive impactful social innovations. This first-time grants application process encouraged Skoll Awardees to partner with UN agencies. This pairing combines the expertise of the world’s most successful social entrepreneurs with the multinational scale of UN agencies’ work.

The announcement of the Skoll Foundation / UN Foundation Scaling Social Innovation Grants was made at the Skoll World Forum, being held this week in Oxford. Three programs will receive grants that will enable the partners to scale up innovative programs to benefit people around the world:

Bringing Books to People with Print Disabilities – Benetech and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) will partner to use technology to bring written content to millions of visually impaired people in India. The partnership will support expanded production of books in accessible formats in local languages, and make accessible books available through the cloud-based Bookshare library and the International Book Exchange service of the WIPO-hosted Accessible Books Consortium (ABC).

Increasing Financial Inclusion and Social Protection for the Rural Poor – Fundación Capital will provide advisory services to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and government partners to implement models that enable the rural poor to build savings, increase incomes, and improve living standards. Fundación Capital has adapted and deployed these models with governments in 12 Latin American countries. Marking the first expansion of Fundación Capital’s work into Africa, this partnership will enable knowledge sharing between African, Latin American, and Caribbean governments.

Greening Procurement of Health Care Products—Health Care Without Harm, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the secretariat of the UN Interagency Task Team on Sustainable Procurement in the Health Sector, will collaborate to drive the procurement of sustainable health care products across the UN system, representing US$3.4 billion in annual health care purchasing. The grant will be used to develop tools to guide procurement of safer alternatives to hazardous chemical products in order to protect health care workers, patients, communities, and the environment.

Sally Osberg, President and CEO of the Skoll Foundation, said, “Helping social entrepreneurs increase the reach of their transformative innovations is central to the Skoll Foundation’s approach to driving solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. The ability of social entrepreneurs to see opportunity where others see only challenges, combined with the global reach of UN agencies, has the potential to tip the scale toward a more just, peaceful, and prosperous world.”

“Innovation and partnership are key to solving today’s biggest global challenges,” said Kathy Calvin, President and CEO of the United Nations Foundation. “The United Nations is working with innovators around the world to drive progress and improve lives. By bringing together entrepreneurs and the UN, we can scale up innovative ideas for a better world.”



© 2015 Skoll Foundation.