Skoll Foundation



Sally Osberg and Jessica Jackley on Social Entrepreneurship, Kiva and More

August 25, 2015 by

Skoll Foundation President and CEO Sally Osberg recently sat down with Jessica Jackley, co-founder of Kiva. Their thoughtful and impactful discussion at the Commonwealth Club of California focused on Jessica’s new book, Clay Water Brick: Finding Inspiration from Entrepreneurs who do the Most with the Least. 

Topics included Jessica’s time in the field while at Kiva and what she learned from the entrepreneurs she met, the trend of savings, the story behind the title of her book (hint: it’s about an entrepreneur), the importance of providing for families, microfinance, crowdfunding, how Jessica decided to include her personal life in the book, managing risk based on a bad experience, and making decisions with the “head and heart.” Jessica says she is now consulting with companies on how to support working mothers, is on the board of nonprofits and has another project in the works she can’t share yet.  “I want to get back to alleviating poverty,” she says.

A short excerpt:

Sally: Kiva is approaching $1 billion and in sharing many metrics about borrowers, lenders and reporting repayment rates consistently on its web site, that doesn’t tell the story of Kiva’s impact. How are you going about the challenge of seeing whether Kiva’s loans actually alleviate poverty?

Jessica: Kiva does a great job of providing a window of how the field partners actually work. There are a handful of markers of social impact and the organizations explain what that looks like to them, such as training, prioritization of women…Change happens in ways we can measure quantitatively. Not just repayment rates. I get excited about the touchy-feely story stuff; I love seeing the stories speak for themselves.  I have met people whose businesses failed after getting the loans but their lives are still changed for the better and they are grateful for that opportunity…Maybe they are now much better equipped to take a bigger swing at things and get it right…I’ve seen changes in their confidence because of going through the training and the program that goes along with a loan…It’s in the mission that poverty alleviation …but I also think about the impact in the lives of lenders. To participate and believe great things are possible is a good thing for the world…


Sending our admiration and wishes to President Carter

August 20, 2015 by

Our thoughts are with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who today begins treatment for melanoma. The extended Skoll community has so enjoyed its meaningful collaboration with President Carter through the Skoll Foundation, Participant Media, and The Elders.  We wish him a hasty and complete recovery.

Here’s sending our abiding admiration—along with strength and love—to President Carter, his wife Rosalynn, and his family.

Video from The Guardian.


5 Ways Social Entrepreneurs Can Make Their Content Go Viral—from an editor at Upworthy

August 17, 2015 by

Adam Mordecai is editor-at-large at Upworthy. When he’s not trying to get millions of page views (300 million to date) on issues like racial justice, climate change and economic inequality, he focuses on training new curators and advises nonprofits on how to tell great stories.

He recently shared some of his best tips for going viral to an audience full of social entrepreneurs at the Skoll World Forum, and today we’re sharing them with you. But first things first: “Going viral is partly science, partly luck and partly hard work,” Mordecai says. “There is no recipe guaranteed for success every time.”

Take heart. “There is data and science behind virality.”

Five of our key takeaways from Adam:

  • Facebook is the driver of the Internet, and that’s where we put all our focus. Facebook wants strong stories, clear headlines, timely stories, authentic voice, and added context. (See above video around 26:12 for details and examples)
  • Tell really good stories. Give people a reason to go to that page. Stories that build empathy are the ones that are needed to make a better world. If you give people all the information they want but they don’t feel connected to it, it’s going to be much harder for them to retain the information.
  • Ask these three questions when you are making a piece of content: 1. Is the content substantive, engaging and maybe even entertaining? 2. If a million people saw it, would the world be a better place? 3. Does the content deliver on the headline?
  • Headlines matter. Framing your content matters. Upworthy did an experiment (which you can see completely at 20:00) and in it, there were two headlines. One was “Two monkeys got peed on and see what happens next” and the other was “Remember Planet of the Apes? It’s closer to reality than you might think.” They were published separately on the same video. The first headline got 700 times the views.
  • You’re not always going to win. Some of your failures will be your best learning experiences, ever.

5 Skoll Community Interviews on The Daily Show

August 6, 2015 by

Today is Jon Stewart‘s last day on his popular The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, so we thought it fitting to share clips from his past interviews with luminaries in the Skoll Foundation community.

Malala Yousafzai, recipient of the 2014 Skoll Global Treasure Award:


President Jimmy Carter, who spoke at the 2008 Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship and is one of The Elders (Skoll Foundation Founder Jeff Skoll and CEO Sally Osberg are members of The Elders Advisory Council):


Filmmaker Jehane Noujaim shares the history of her film “The Square.”  In the extended web-only segment, she talks about censorship, and discusses why “it’s a really dark time now” in Egypt.


Arianna Huffington, who wrote the foreword to our CEO Sally Osberg and board member Roger Martin’s upcoming book and spoke at the 2012 Skoll World Forum closing plenary:


President Mohamed Nasheed, who spoke at the 2012 Skoll World Forum closing plenary:


Prioritize, Capitalize, Right Size and More: 5 Insights from the Skoll Foundation on Monitoring and Evaluation

July 28, 2015 by

Ehren Reed, the Skoll Foundation’s Director of Evaluation, was recently asked what matters when he is looking at the measurements social entrepreneurial organizations use.

“Organizations have the power to achieve the change donors are looking to make,” he says. Here are some of his “izes,” as he calls them:

  1. Contextualize. It’s helpful when I can see clearly how the work is contextualized within an organization’s efforts. Whether it’s Kevin Starr’s 8- Word Mission Statement or a theory of change, there needs to be clear description of their goals, and the actions they are doing to lead to that. I want to know how those metrics you’re sharing connect with that core strategy.
  2. Prioritize. There are a ton of things that you could be measuring. The fact that you have gone through an exercise to winnow it down to meaningful measures is a good sign. Those measures should be influenced by what you are able to do with that information. If you are collecting something you are not making use of, you are wasting time and money.
  3. Capitalize. Don’t answer a question that you need not answer. There are certain outcomes and indicators that are critical to your work, and more attributable to your efforts. Concentrate on those. There are others that you can say, ‘We made a contribution to those.’ Leave those alone. For example: Citizen Schools increases graduation rates of students who attend their program by 20 percent over a control; that’s the compelling story. I don’t need to know whether that leads to greater income generation after high school graduation; there are studies that already show me that. Be efficient with the way you are spending your dollars.
  4. Right Size. Not everyone in the organization needs to look at all the same data. At One Acre Fund, workers in the field pay attention to which farmers are attending trainings, what types of uptake are they having with particular techniques they are being taught, and types of repayment rates. That’s the type of information they need to know to see if they are doing their job effectively. Middle managers look at aggregated data. Leadership looks at only a key set of performance indicators. So right size your approach accordingly.
  5. Systematize. The idea that we see M and E as a separate report gives me pause; it’s a dangerous misnomer. It needs to be part and parcel of your programmatic activity. If it’s all focused on a report which comes out once a year, and there is not a lot behind the scenes leading up to that report, that gives me pause. An example: Your car dashboard metrics allow you to know if your car is functioning effectively. You look at the dashboard every day. It’s only when you get to the selling of the car that you say, ‘It gets a lot of miles per gallon,’ or ‘It’s been in two minor accidents.’

Hear more from Ehren:


What 5 Experts Think of the Millennium Development Goals

July 14, 2015 by

The United Nations just released its 2015 Millennium Development Goals report, so we thought it was a good time to share the thoughts of five experts who joined the United Nations’ Tomas Anker Christensen in discussing the MDGs—and measuring development efforts in general—at the recent Skoll World Forum. Launched by world leaders and the UN in 2000, the MDGs gave eight measurable goals to alleviate poverty and improve lives by the end of 2015.

Listen to the conversation, above, moderated by Pamela Hartigan of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepeneurship. Panelists included Michael Green of the Social Progress Imperative, Bjorn Lomborg of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, Bunker Roy of Barefoot College, Dorothy Stoneman of YouthBuild USA, and Patrick Awuah of Ashesi University.

We know not everyone has time to watch a one-hour session, so here are some highlights from each:

  • “Metrics makers are not connected to the very poor people who live on less than a dollar a day,” Roy said. “These are the people Mahatma Gandhi called the very last man and woman. With due respect, these goals are a joke, because they don’t relate to the lifestyle and reality of rural communities living around the world who are living a hand-to-mouth survival existence.”
  • “Focus more money on the best targets and just spend the money there…that’s like quadrupling global aid,” Lomborg said, referring to the number of targets or goals. “If we ask governments to do fewer things that are harder to screw up, they will more likely have done a lot of good in 2030.”
  • “Ultimately, this is about…holding leaders to account by citizens and making these things part of the political debate….what the MDGs did have was an underlying concept: extreme poverty,” Green said, after his earlier remarks on his Social Progress Index and examples of how it’s worked. “So whatever you spoke about related to the MDGs, everyone kind of knew what it was…It needs to be an underlying concept for these ‘people’s goals’  communicated in a simple form so that it becomes part of the political debate so a politician can say, ‘Vote for me because GDP went up and we made progress on this’ …and it’s not about 17 goals.”
  • “When we began to measure, we decided to ask the nonprofits we work with, what should we measure?” Stoneman said. “So they set the objectives and we have measured them for 25 years: How many people apply? How many people come every day? We measure academic gains, academic achievement, industry-recognized credentials, completion of the total program, placement in jobs or post-secondary education or retention of jobs and post-secondary education, and recidivism for those who have had previous problems with the law…we encourage the government to hold people accountable for outcomes but when they do it too rigidly, it creates a negative effect….”
  • “There is a lot of positive that came out of the MDGs around poverty, infant mortality and maternal care; that gives me hope that if goals are stated properly, we can in fact achieve them,” Awuah said.

Read more:



Doing the Unexpected: How One Social Entrepreneur Changed Paths

June 30, 2015 by

Jenny Bowen thought her work was almost done. After 17 years of running Half the Sky, she had helped transform China’s child welfare institutions, and she could “see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

“We have lots of work left to do, but I can see where it’s going. So done, right? Mission accomplished.”

Or so she thought.

But then, she stepped back to reflect on her life while writing her memoir “Wish You Happy Forever: What China’s Orphans Taught Me About Moving Mountains,” and “now I am writing  a whole different story…you just end up going from one to another.”

Thus is the life of a social entrepreneur, who “disrupt a status quo they see as sub-optimal,” according to Skoll Foundation President and CEO Sally Osberg.

Jenny’s new endeavor is called OneSky. Jenny shared a little about it at the Skoll World Forum this year: read more


The Stigma of Mental Illness in Pakistan: BasicNeeds on PBS NewsHour

June 22, 2015 by

Up to 40 percent of the population in Pakistan could have mental health issues, yet getting help isn’t easy. The stigma against mental illness is prevalent, and even for those who do want to get help, psychiatrists are in short supply. As part of the PBS NewsHour “Agents For Change” series, special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro looks at the efforts being made by BasicNeeds to change this situation.


“It’s All the Same Thing” – Mark Plotkin on Preserving the Amazon

June 4, 2015 by

“’Who cares about the Amazon? We have to worry about global warming and climate change.’ Well guess what, it’s all the same thing.”

In a beautiful new 2-minute film, ethnobotanist and Amazon Conservation Team co-founder Mark Plotkin explains the interconnectivity between many of today’s greatest global challenges and the Amazon rainforest.

“Whether you’re interested in changing climate, whether you’re interested in too many poor people, or whether you’re interested in drug resistant bacteria—which is a much greater threat to our species than climate change, deforestation, terrorism, nuclear weapons—you have an interest in the greatest expression of life on earth, which is the rainforest, which is home to most of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity.”

80% of our antibiotics come from nature, and the best antibiotics are waiting for us in today’s rainforests. It is, of course, crucial to protect those natural resources. The Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) works in partnership with indigenous people of tropical America to conserve the biodiversity of the Amazon Rainforest as well as the culture and land of its indigenous people.

ACT partners with the Trio Indians to create programs in which elder shamans pass their botanical healing wisdom to the next generation of healers within the tribe. Mark’s goal is to fully document the entire spectrum of Trio knowledge of animals and plants.

In honor of Mark’s 60th birthday this month, ACT seeks to raise $60,000 to create the first ever Shaman’s Encyclopedia of the Amazon. “The lasting importance of achieving these goals is the creation of a template that other tribal peoples throughout the Amazon can adapt to their own needs and – in so doing – have a positive impact on saving oral shamanic wisdom in all of lowland South America.”

Learn more about this groundbreaking project and how you can help support it:


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:


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:





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


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.”



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 World Forum 2015 Opening: “Belief is Rooted in Lessons from Home”

April 16, 2015 by

The sun was shining yesterday in Oxford, as the 12th Skoll World Forum kicked off its three-day convening of 1,000 delegates eager to accelerate entrepreneurial approaches and innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.

On the agenda hosted by Stephan Chambers, who helped found the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship 10 years ago, was a conversation about belief.

They discussed belief’s ability to inspire change, and propel us forward. To help start the conversation speakers such as founder and chairman of the Skoll Foundation Jeff Skoll and Archbishop Desmond Tutu shared their personal beliefs. One common theme was that belief is often rooted in the lessons that we learn from home—but it is for us to decide which ones we choose to carry forward.

Jeff was interviewed by Mabel van Oranje of Girls Not Brides, and shared his belief that we are all interconnected—that there is a force greater than all of us. Jeff’s beliefs are based on the values instilled by his parents, and by past experiences—seeing the dire way that people live in other parts of the world; loving to read as a young boy and being inspired by the power of stories; and as an entrepreneur, believing that anything can be accomplished when people rally around shared values.

Jacqueline Novogratz, CEO of Acumen, challenged us to think about other aspects of belief: What are the beliefs that make us more beautiful, and allow us to bring our best selves into the future; to bring our best selves to a world that is waiting for solutions?

Archbishop Desmond Tutu shared an infectious smile, commenting that when you come to believe that you count, you have a worth that is unquestionable. His daughter, Rev Mpho Tutu, shared that the faith she brings forward is one that she lives and experiences, not one that is written.

The Terrorist’s Son author Zak Ebrahim talked about being taught by his Muslim extremist father about the kinds of people he should associate with, and said that it was the isolation that was one of the most important ingredients to being indoctrinated. When he started to have more diverse interactions, it was those relationships that helped change his perspective.

Finally, Ophelia Dahl, president and executive director of Partners in Health and daughter of the writer Roald Dahl, grew up in a creative home, which inspired her with equal parts imagination and pragmatism. It is this perspective that gave her the inspiration and belief that she can change the world.

In the days to follow, the conversations around belief will continue to resonate throughout the halls of Oxford. What are the beliefs that inspire you?


New Video from Myanmar Shows How a $13 Pump Can Triple Farmers’ Incomes

March 27, 2015 by

Until two years ago, Myanmar (Burma) was very isolated with no access to what most farmers around the world had, such as credit, proper equipment and roads to get goods to market. In this Skoll Foundation visit to Myanmar, Proximity Designs co-founders Jim Taylor and Debbie Aung Din show how their organization has helped cause a 15 percent increase in rice yield. Before Proximity Designs, farmers spent up to eight hours a day carrying buckets of water to irrigate their fields. Now, with a low-cost pump operated by feet, they can water their crops in two hours, and make up to triple their previous income.

Watch and get a glimpse of the Proximity pumps in action; see farmers getting hands-on training, and finally, meet a farmer who can’t stop smiling as he shows off his new tractor. It’s a tractor he can afford because of Proximity’s products and services.


See Why Saving the Dead Sea is So Important in This CNN Segment Featuring Ecopeace Middle East

March 26, 2015 by

CNN Journalist Bill Weir travelled to the Middle East and shows us stunning images of the Dead Sea in this new “The Wonder List” segment, called “The Dead Sea is Dying.” He interviews EcoPeace Middle East co-founder Gidon Bromberg extensively.

“I went there thinking this might be a climate change story,” Weir said, “But it turns out it’s really a people story…and water management.”

In one part, Bromberg shows him an area where rehabilitation is taking place, and later tells him a nursery was built there to protect the wildlife. “This is by Middle East standards, a miracle,” Bromberg said, showing him a dam.

In other parts of the show, the loss of water is striking.

Watch the entire segment:



“Stand with Sanju” is a Top 5 Winner in the GlobalGiving Video Contest

March 9, 2015 by

In the fall, we told you about “Stand with Sanju,” a three-minute video which depicts the real journey of Sanju, a girl who went from being a carpet-factory slave to the first person in her family to attend school. Part of the Sundance Institute | Skoll Stories of Change initiative, the film was just chosen as a Top Five in the 2015 GlobalGiving Video Contest. “We had more than 60 amazing video submissions and a very tough job of choosing just a handful of winners,” GlobalGiving said on their blog.

Watch “Stand with Sanju” above, and learn more about the contest here.


© 2015 Skoll Foundation.