Skoll Foundation



Molly Melching on Why Development Projects Fail—and Disempower—at the Community Level

October 31, 2013 by

Molly Melching just wrote an op-ed for the Skoll World Forum Online and called “To Change Society, First Change Minds.” An excerpt:

“After arriving in Senegal in 1974, I lived in a small village near Thiès for three years. It was here that I realized a lack of basic, life-saving information was causing so much unnecessary illness, tragedy and death: Two children in the village were lame from polio; ordinary wounds became infected and led to hospital stays; there were many cases of measles; a baby died from dehydration.

It was also here that I began to understand why development projects have often failed and why they have even disempowered people at the community level.

To try a different approach, I partnered with the Senegalese villagers to design and implement a basic education program in African languages, and in 1991, I set up a nonprofit organization,Tostan, to continue that work.

In this program, people who had never been to school were for the first time able to understand why vaccinations are important, how to treat wounds in the village and how to ensure simple diarrhea does not lead to dehydration and death.”

Read the rest: and learn more about Molly’s book at


2013 Wise Prize for Education Awarded to Vicky Colbert

October 29, 2013 by

Congratulations, Skoll Awardee Vicky Colbert of Escuela Nueva! The above video was shown at today’s awards ceremony in Doha, Qatar.

From WISE:

The 2013 WISE Prize for Education, the first distinction of its kind to recognize an individual or a team for an outstanding, world-class contribution to education, has been awarded to Ms. Vicky Colbert of Colombia. Founder and Director of Fundación Escuela Nueva, Ms. Colbert is co-creator of the Escuela Nueva education model, widely known for its effectiveness in improving the quality and relevance of basic education in underprivileged schools across Colombia and beyond.

The Prize was presented by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation, at the Opening Plenary Session of the fifth World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) in Doha, Qatar, before more than 1,000 experts from diverse fields and over 100 countries. The WISE Prize for Education was established in 2011 to enhance the status of education by giving it similar prestige to other areas for which international prizes already exist, such as literature, peace and economics.  The Laureate receives an award of $500,000 (US) and a specially minted gold medal. Initiated in 1975 in rural Colombia, the Escuela Nueva model began as a bottom-up approach by bringing together a team of experienced rural teachers to transform education at the highest level.  Leading this approach, Ms. Colbert created important links between communities, families, teachers, research institutions and policy makers.

This unique pedagogical model became a national policy in Colombia in the 1980s and was replicated in various regions around the country.  It has since been adapted by a number of countries around the world and recognized as one of the most successful public policy reforms among developing countries by organizations including the World Bank and the United Nations.

In congratulating the 2013 WISE Prize for Education Laureate, H.E. Sheikh Abdulla bin Ali Al-Thani, Ph.D., Chairman of WISE, said: “Vicky Colbert has dedicated her life to revitalizing education through effective and relevant student-centered pedagogical methods that involve families and entire communities as well as teachers in the process. Her work has had a significant impact in Latin America and beyond, greatly expanding access to affordable quality education for the less-privileged.”

Ms. Vicky Colbert said: “I am very honored and humbled to receive the 2013 WISE Prize for Education. This Prize recognizes that bringing education to all children and empowering them for lifelong learning is an important foundation for human development, and it is something that can be achieved when teachers and children are given the right tools to lead change.”

Despite the political conflict that has plagued the country for several decades, Ms. Colbert has worked tirelessly as a quiet revolutionary to develop real opportunity through education.   To date, Escuela Nueva has been implemented throughout Latin America – including Brazil and Mexico – in the Caribbean, East Timor and Vietnam reaching more than five million children around the globe.


Muhammad Yunus in the Financial Times: A Profile

October 28, 2013 by

Skoll Global Treasure Award winner Muhammad Yunus just sat down with the Financial Times for an interview about his life. Yunus is very dear to the Skoll Foundation; not only has he spoken at several Skoll World Forums, he was just honored this past year (see video, above). Here is an excerpt of the profile about him:

“The roots of Yunus’s fame go back to the mid-1970s, when he was head of the university economics department in the Bangladesh port of Chittagong. He was born just outside the city – his father was a jeweller and the family lived above his shop – and he had returned there after six years of study and teaching in the US.

Wanting to understand the reasons for the dire poverty all around, he paid visits to a village near the university campus where he discovered people so poor that they could not pay for the raw materials needed for their tiny businesses. They were reliant on usurious middlemen. Yunus was moved to lend 42 of them $27 out of his own pocket to break the cycle.

It was the start of the microcredit revolution. Traditionally, banks shun the poorest as bad credit risks, since they have no collateral for loans. But with a series of increasingly ambitious experiments – initially with himself as guarantor for bank loans – Yunus established that many of the poorest could be good repayers: they knew a line of credit was their only chance to break out of indigence.

Out of this grew Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank, dedicated to lending small sums to tiny entrepreneurs. Then, as now, many were illiterate and more than 90 per cent were female – itself revolutionary in an Islamic country with a conservative attitude to women working.”

Read the rest:

And hear him speaking at past Skoll World Forum events:


The Citizens Foundation Featured on PBS NewsHour

October 15, 2013 by

The Citizens Foundation in Pakistan was featured on PBS NewsHour last night. Watch the segment above. Here’s an excerpt of the transcript:

JOURNALIST FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Mushtaq Chhapra says he and a few other successful businessmen decided they wanted to give back to society, and in 1995 they began building schools for the poor.

SKOLL AWARDEE MUSHTAQ CHHAPRA: If you look at the construction, we try to maximize or use the materials which are locally available.

FD: They founded The Citizens Foundation, widely known as TCF, which built and runs this K-12 school and nearly 500 others in villages and slums across Pakistan.

MC: We wanted to give them what our children, the children from well-to-do families, have been through and who have gotten that kind of education, with proper classrooms, books, curriculum.

FD: Things mostly absent from a deeply corrupt public government school system these children would otherwise attend, he says, with telling consequences, like the difference in graduation rates.

MC: The average percentage of the government’s results from the high school is in the vicinity of 40 percent to 43 percent. Citizens Foundation children have results of in excess of 95 percent.

Read the rest:


Mercury-Free by 2020

October 11, 2013 by

As governments were signing a global treaty in Japan today to phase out mercury use and emissions, Skoll Awardee Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) were launching an initiative to achieve this convention’s goal by 2020.

“I wanted to share this news with you directly, as the Skoll Foundation was so instrumental in our ability to make this happen,” HCWH President and co-founder Gary Cohen wrote in an email. “It’s not often we can celebrate a global treaty that advances our goals of creating a healthier and more sustainable world. Thanks to Sally Osberg and Jeff Skoll and the Skoll Foundation Board for believing in our vision and our ability to manifest it in the world.”

“Through this campaign, we have built a global ecosystem of collaborators that can now pivot to address the largest source of mercury emissions—coal-fired power plants—as well as continue their journey with us toward sustainable healthcare through the Green and Healthy Hospitals Network, powered by Cisco,” Cohen continued. read more


“Open Heart” Airs Monday on HBO

October 10, 2013 by

Earlier this year, we told you about a very special documentary: Open Heart. We’re writing today because it’s playing on television for the first time, on Monday at 10:20 p.m. EST/7:20 p.m. PST on HBO. (See the HBO trailer starting at 39 seconds, above).

Part of the Skoll Foundation/Sundance Stories of ChangeOPEN HEART was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Documentary Short category. While it didn’t win, our staffer Sandy Herz went to the Oscars and wrote about her experience.

Open Heart is the story of eight Rwandan children who leave their families behind and embark on a life-or-death journey to receive high-risk open-heart surgery in Africa’s only free-of-charge, state-of-the-art cardiac hospital, the Salam Center run by Emergency, an Italian NGO. Their heart valves, damaged and weakened by rheumatic heart disease, which develops from untreated childhood strep throat, leave them lethargic and weak. Some of the children have only months to live.

Here is the official media advisory:

Open Heart on HBO

Oscar-nominated documentary “Open Heart” premieres on HBO and features the Salam Center for Cardiac Surgery, run by EMERGENCY, on Monday, October 14th at 10:20 PM ET (7:20 PM PT)


On October 14th, HBO will premiere the Oscar-nominated documentary “Open Heart”, a powerful and touching story that follows eight children from Rwanda as they travel to Sudan to receive medical treatment for rheumatic heart disease (RHD), which develops from untreated strep throat. Far from their families and 2,500 miles from home, the children travel to the Salam Center for Cardiac Surgery in Sudan, Africa’s only hospital that performs high-standard cardiac surgery free of charge.

The Salam Center for Cardiac Surgery is run by EMERGENCY, an international non-profit organization founded in 1994 by the Italian war surgeon, Gino Strada and is based in Milan, Italy. In 2008, the organization established EMERGENCY USA based in San Francisco.

Although RHD is nearly non-existent among children in the US today, it continues to affect the lives of 18 million people in Africa, many of whom are children and who urgently need medical attention. Despite the fact that RHD kills 300,000 people per year, the Salam Center is the only facility in Africa that provides cardiac surgery free of charge. Funding for the Salam Center comes primarily from private donations (approximately 70%) as well as the Sudanese government (approximately 30%).

In addition to running the Salam Center for Cardiac Surgery in Sudan, EMERGENCY has also operated in high-risk and war-torn areas where many organizations don’t dare to enter including Afghanistan, Iraq, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic and more.



Landesa’s new Land Post-2015 Site, and more land rights news

October 2, 2013 by

Landesa just launched a website devoted to advocating for the inclusion of secure rights to land and other productive resources for women and men as a target in the post 2015 framework.

Since the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will expire in 2015, the international development community is developing a post “post-2015” global development agenda that takes into account factors that were previously ignored – factors that may help us make progress on some of the particularly recalcitrant challenges we face– factors like secure rights to land for women and men.

Much is at stake. The new framework will create a roadmap for how nations around the world spend their development dollars. This is likely the greatest window of opportunity in a generation for influencing how the world addresses its most pressing challenges.

Landesa hopes the website will help organizations join is in its advocacy efforts.

Towards that end,  the website includes a wide variety of resources such as: talking point on the importance of land rights, information about the post-2015 process, and a schedule of important eventsrelated to the post 2015 process.

Another new resource: Focus on Land in Africa (FOLA). The newly refreshed site highlights the critical connections between land and natural resource rights and development.

read more


FSG Releases 8 Case Studies of Collective Impact Initiatives

September 27, 2013 by

FSG is a nonprofit consulting firm specializing in research, strategy, and evaluation. They just released eight case studies of successful collective impact initiatives and we wanted to share them with you.

Here’s what they said:

“One of the most common questions we hear about collective impact is, ‘What works?’

To share examples of successful collective impact initiatives, we’ve created a series of case studies that feature collective impact initiatives across a range of issues areas. Each brief case study describes how the initiative began, how the five components of collective impact have taken shape, their results to date, and lessons learned. Many case studies also include a practitioner interview with the initiative’s backbone leader.

Backbone organizations, funders, and partners of collective impact initiatives will find these resources particularly valuable as a way to learn from other practitioners.”

Find out more about these collective impact initiatives:

-          Communities that Care

-          E3 Alliance

-          Memphis Fast Forward

-          Opportunity Chicago

-          Partners for a Competitive Workforce

-          The Road Map Project

-          Shape Up Somerville

-          Vibrant Communities


Molly Melching on Dowser: Empathy Often Forgotten

September 3, 2013 by

In a new interview with “solutions journalism” site, Tostan founder Molly Melching talks about empathy, the impact her book has made, and the 340 more villages in Senegal she plans to reach.

An excerpt:

“Q: Hillary Rodham Clinton said that However Long the Night’s story is ‘proof that commitment can drive transformational change.’ How do you think Tostan is changing the way we approach development?

A: I feel that empathy is often forgotten in the world of development. People are outraged about what’s going on in the world – and with very good intentions, they translate their outrage into telling people, ‘This is wrong!’ or ‘Stop this immediately!’ But we are talking about systemic change, and that goes deeper than telling people what to do.

There are things that are difficult to accept. I have had to live through the sights and stories of little girls being cut, hemorrhaging, and dying. And you are outraged. But with outrage alone, you can maybe save one girl, possibly a few girls. You need strategy to reach a critical mass of people who can make this a thing of the past – quicker than we ever thought possible.”

Read more:


Tim Hanstad on securing land rights for the world’s poor

August 28, 2013 by

“You can teach a person to fish, but who owns the pond?”

In a new Skoll World Forum video, Tim Hanstad, President and CEO of Landesa, describes how working alongside migrant farmworkers during his childhood sparked a passion for justice and began his fight for land rights for the world’s most vulnerable people.

Landesa has helped secure land rights for more than 105 million families, in 45 countries throughout the world.


Powerful Gram Vikas Film Part of New Charity:Water Campaign

August 27, 2013 by

Joe Madiath of Gram Vikas has a very simple yet powerful reason for working so hard to get clean water to India’s marginalized. He tells his own story in this video by Charity: Water—part of their new $2 million September campaign for his organization. As they wrote:

“Joe Madiath, the founder of our local partner, Gram Vikas, has built an organization focused on equality and human dignity. Through their water and sanitation program, Gram Vikas has helped more than 1,000 rural communities break the cycle of poverty by providing access to high-quality water solutions.

Their approach demands a high level of community participation — every single family, without exceptions, must adopt the Gram Vikas model of total sanitation before the village can receive clean water.”

Learn more:


How Skoll Awardees are Using Crowdfunding for Fundraising Success

August 8, 2013 by

We’re noticing an increasing number Skoll Awardees using crowdfunding for specific projects, and wanted to share more details in case you’re contemplating doing the same.

In June, Landesa launched its first crowd-funding effort with In this pilot effort, they featured their legal aid project in Andra Pradesh, with a goal of raising $10,000 to train and support 30 paralegals in the program. Those paralegals can, in a given year, help 1,000 families gain clear title to the land upon which they rely.

Landesa successfully raised the $10,000 needed.

In July, Search for Common Ground raised a little more than their $10,000 goal to launch a TV web series of their signature show, “The Team,” in America. See their Kickstarter promotional video, above.

“Although crowdfunding seems to be everywhere now, nonprofits were actually some of its earliest adopters,” writes Scot Chisholm, CEO & CoFounder, StayClassy (a crowdfunding site). “In the early days, nonprofits tied crowdfunding to their offline events, like runs, walks and rides.”

We at the Skoll Foundation partnered with the Huffington Post and CrowdRise, a crowdfunding site, on two campaigns and plan on doing one more. The first, called JobRaising, was geared toward creating jobs for America and raised $1,469,116 in donations to organizations who help support jobs.  82 percent of  those donations were less than $100.

Announced in March 2013, JVS Los Angeles (which provides job training, mentoring, expert career coaching, job placement and retention support) beat the field with $254,100 raised and received an additional $150,000 from The Skoll Foundation.    read more


Goodweave Fights to Unravel India’s Child Labor Issues

August 2, 2013 by

PBS NewsHour just aired a special segment on child labor in India and GoodWeave.

Here’s what GoodWeave executive director Nina Smith shared about it in a recent letter:

“The piece, Organization Fights to Unravel India’s Widespread Child Labor Abuses, brought our issue and our organization to the forefront, and for that, I am deeply proud. But most importantly, it brought the millions of invisible children who toil on looms out of the shadows and into the headlines.

I encourage all of you in the GoodWeave community to watch it. [above]

To get the story, special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro traveled to villages in eastern Uttar Pradesh, to what he called ‘the starting links of the long supply chain that leads to the export houses and the rug markets in the West.’

Using hidden cameras and cell phones, it didn’t take him long to find and document the problem. Raw footage from looms not monitored by GoodWeave showed: ‘clearly underage boys toiling alongside veterans, who themselves may have been here since they were boys.’ read more


Riveting Photos from ICTJ Show the Impact of the Special Court for Sierra Leone

August 1, 2013 by

The International Center for Transitional Justice, or ICTJ, has released a moving new multimedia project, “Seeds of Justice: Sierra Leone,” presenting five portraits of Sierra Leoneans whose lives were impacted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The Special Court, a hybrid court established jointly by the United Nations and the government of Sierra Leone, is nearing the end of its mandate to prosecute the most responsible perpetrators of crimes during the country’s civil war, in which tens of thousands of people were killed, raped, and mutilated, and hundreds of thousands were expelled from their homes.

As ICTJ writes on its blog:

“We wanted to know: What has the court done for their country? What will it leave behind once it closes its doors? How did the trials affect their lives?

This series of intimate, tender images from award-winning photographer Glenna Gordon helps to tell the stories of daily life in Sierra Leone after more than a decade since the end of the conflict. read more


Sonidos de la Tierra Film Goes Viral

July 31, 2013 by

An orchestra of Sonidos de la Tierra, a Skoll Awardee which played at the 2008 Skoll World Forum, is being made into a film. Called “Landfill Harmonic,” the film (which hasn’t been completed) is running a very successful Kickstarter Campaign receiving many Twitter and Facebook mentions (13,000 on Facebook alone). So far they have surpassed their $175,000 goal needed to complete two main production trips. The Orchestra of Recycled Instruments, which the film follows, may be the most widely known group of musicians to arise from Sonidos de la Tierra. More from the press release:


Hopes To Fund Film, Movement & Worldwide Tour of The Recycled Orchestra

 “Too many children in the world are born into lives with little or no hope”.

Landfill Harmonic reveals a mind-boggling, inventive effort to change that – musical instruments made from trash. In the barrios of Paraguay, a humble garbage picker uses his ingenuity to craft instruments out of recycled materials – and a youth orchestra is born. Music arises and children find new dreams.

A film about “The Recycled Orchestra”, a group of children from a Paraguayan shanty town who play instruments made entirely of recycled garbage. It is a heartfelt & moving story of how instruments made from recycled trash bring hope to children whose future is otherwise spiritless by the transformative power of music. Landfill Harmonic also highlights two vital issues of our times: poverty and waste pollution.

In November of 2012, the online teaser went viral, garnering nearly 3MM views and 100,000+ Facebook Fans overnight. People from all over the world were suddenly fascinated and inspired by a youth orchestra that was not known and playing with recycled instruments. read more


New Guidebook: Top Tips on Making Any “Gather”-ing Matter More

July 30, 2013 by

In the age of budget cuts, global footprint monitoring, quantum leaps in video conferencing and renewed attention on work/life balance, are large, in-person convenings going the age of the dinosaur?

The answer is: yes and no.  For some meetings, there is no need to immerse oneself in content – and people. Video conferencing is a wonderfully efficient tool to cut down on travel time, hassle and carbon footprint, while being able to see important body language cues. But for other meetings, the ability to connect in person, with a large body of like-minded  individuals, is priceless. This is especially true if you live and work in remote areas of the world, or just want to connect with people from around the world for a dose  of inspiration, new ideas and human connection.

The Skoll World Forum, of which I am director, is such a meeting. It is big. It brings people from all over the world to Oxford to connect, share and collaborate. It immerses people in a small town for three days and offers them time and space to breathe – a moment to absorb new ideas, jettison old ones, meet fellow travelers and ultimately, progress their work. read more


Search for Common Ground Bringing “The Team” to the U.S.

July 24, 2013 by

Search for Common Ground is “coming home.” After 236 international episodes of their incredible TV show, “The Team,” SFCG is now filming a pilot episode set in Washington, DC. They are raising funds for the U.S. show—a Web series—on Kickstarter. Watch a recent TV news segment about it:

And learn more from SFCG President John Marks:

“We at Search for Common Ground are concerned that America is divided. The political system verges on the dysfunctional. The gap between rich and poor is larger than ever. Ethnic and religious differences have become wedge issues. The unfortunate bottom line is that the country is not resolving urgent problems.

For 31 years, we have worked around the world to bridge differences. One of our most effective tools is TV drama. We call it ‘soap opera for social change.’ In 17 countries, we produce local versions of The Team. We take soccer, the world’s most popular sport and show that players of diverse races, religions, and incomes can come together. The core metaphor is simple: if team members don’t cooperate, they won’t score goals.

Just as America was changed by The Cosby Show and All in the Family, we believe that The Team could have a profound impact on the country.” See the trailer above.

Read the rest of his letter:


In Celebration of Nelson Mandela Day

July 18, 2013 by

“Mandela Day calls upon us all to care, to come together, to give of ourselves to one another. How we do so is up to each of us. But make no mistake: it is acts of compassion and good will, whether small or grand, that ‘bend that long arc of the moral universe toward justice.’” —Sally Osberg, CEO, Skoll Foundation

“We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in your hands to make a difference.” —Nelson Mandela

July 18th is Mandela Day, a day to help build a better world by giving back.

Nelson Mandela devoted 67 years of his life to combating injustice and fighting for human rights. In 2009 the United Nations honored his legacy by officially making his birthday ‘Nelson Mandela International Day’. Every year on July 18, people around the world mark the day by dedicating 67 minutes of time to volunteering and helping others.

The Elders, of which Sally Osberg and Jeff Skoll are advisory council members, celebrate Mandela Day each year and encourage others to do the same. “We want to inspire the conviction that we all can make a difference,” says The Elders Deputy Chair Gro Harlem Brundtland. “We can all take steps towards a better future.”

Last year, a group of Elders celebrated Mandela Day in London by visiting two local charities providing young people with support and training. Desmond Tutu and Mary Robinson also co-hosted an event with grassroots organizations, encouraging people to pledge their time to a charitable cause.

Watch the video above and see the Elders live blog at


PBS NewsHour Features New Teacher Center’s Solution to the Looming Education Crisis

July 15, 2013 by

PBS NewsHour recently addressed a looming crisis in education, and featured New Teacher Center’s work and their approach to solving the challenge: there’s a growing number of inexperienced new teachers joining the profession each year, and half will quit within five years. “As the country’s talking about developing teachers, I think there’s a much greater understanding and recognition that really talented teachers are not born. They’re made. And we have to be systematic about it and we need to really build off of the talent that we have in our school systems,” said Skoll Awardee Ellen Moir, New Teacher Center Founder.

The segment, “Mentorship for New Educators Helps Combat Teacher Burnout, Improve Retention,” opens in teacher Abby Miller’s third grade class at Sumner Elementary School on Chicago’s west side. She’s a first-year teacher who leads her classroom like a more experienced educator thanks to the support of a New Teacher Center mentor. Viewers also follow her mentor through her own training and hear how she’s making a difference across many Chicago Public Schools classrooms.


Roots of Peace “De-Mining the Holy Land” on ABC 7

July 10, 2013 by

Sometimes, it takes just one person to start a movement. This news segment follows an Israeli boy who lost a leg to a minefield — and Heidi Kuhn, head of Roots of Peace, to heed his call. “No child should be born anywhere in the world with the risk of losing life or limb to a landmine,” Kuhn says. “This is generational wisdom.”

The story will move you.  During the past 3 years, Kuhn has worked with interfaith organizations and political leaders in Israel and Palestine to assure that deminers representing both countries will be included in the historic Roots of Peace landmine removal program. Following the successful removal of landmines, the planting of grapevines and olive trees will occur.

Learn more:


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