Skoll Foundation



Jenny Bowen on Good Morning America

March 23, 2014 by

“Now the incredible story of a woman who adopted a baby girl from China and ended up reforming an entire orphanage system,” the Good Morning America anchor began. “One mom proving you really can change the world.”

That introduction was for Skoll Awardee Jenny Bowen and her new book, Wish You Happy Forever. Watch the GMA segment featuring Jenny and her book above.


Water For People Forges Partnership With Toms To Bring Safe Drinking Water To More Communities

March 12, 2014 by

Congratulations to Water for People on this big news, featured in Forbes and The New York Times:

Water For People and TOMS announced a strategic partnership to provide safe drinking water in developing countries. With an estimated 1.8 billion people living without access to safe drinking water, this partnership will help to support sustainable water systems that are locally run, built, and maintained to last for generations.

TOMS, known for its One for One shoe and sight ventures, is now entering the coffee market with TOMS Roasting Co. Under the guidance of a master brewer, TOMS Roasting Co. will offer six premium coffee varieties with beans sourced across the globe. For every bag of coffee purchased, TOMS Roasting Co. will work with Water For People to provide sustainable water systems to the countries from which the beans are sourced – Rwanda, Honduras, Peru, Guatemala, and Malawi. read more


Jenny Bowen’s Book Available Today

March 11, 2014 by

The second book in the Skoll Foundation-HarperOne partnership released today, and we’re very excited! Wish You Happy Forever is a new memoir that tells the story of China’s momentous progress in its treatment of orphaned and abandoned children.

When social entrepreneur Jenny Bowen launched Half the Sky in 1998, it seemed impossible that China would allow a foreigner to work inside government orphanages, let alone try to bring meaningful change. But gradually, after witnessing Half the Sky’s quiet perseverance and miraculous success, the Chinese government now partners with Half the Sky to make children’s’ lives better.

Jenny is in New York today, and her book tour continues to Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, California, Denver, Seattle, Portland, Austin, Chicago and Minnesota—see the exact dates.

Jenny has written a five-part series on “Half the Sky: A Voice for the children, Taking it to the Road,” “Millions of Forgotten Children, No Longer Forgotten“, “Half the Sky Foundation Founder and CEO Talks About ‘Wish You Happy Forever’“, “Half the Sky: A Rainbow for China’s Children” and “Half the Sky: Taking Our Solution to Scale.”

View the book trailer above.


Khan Academy to make SAT prep materials open and free

March 6, 2014 by

You likely heard the news that the SAT is undergoing major changes (no more essays, for one). What we are most excited about is Skoll Awardee Khan Academy’s game-changing role in the news: a partnership with College Board, the makers of the test.

“The partnership between Khan Academy and the College Board directly addresses one of the greatest inequities around college entrance exams: the culture of high-priced test preparation,” the Khan Academy says on its site. Now, for the first time, all students have the opportunity to practice for the SAT with completely free, best-in-class materials. We will work in close collaboration with the College Board to create thousands of in-depth practice problems and instructional videos available spring of 2015 – a full year before the launch of the redesigned SAT.”

Talk about system-level change!

Watch the above video of Skoll Awardee Sal Khan talking with College Board CEO David Coleman above to learn more, and visit Sal’s blog at


ARZU’s Work Featured on Al Jazeera America

December 30, 2013 by

The Afghan women used to sign their names with a thumbprint. Now, they can read and write—and their signatures are, of course, written. “What we’ve done, how we transformed their lives, it’s inspirational,” says Angela Attento, creative director of ARZU, in a story that recently aired on Al Jazeera America. Watch the rest, above.


Kiva Receives $3 Million Google Global Impact Award to Launch Kiva Labs

December 13, 2013 by

Some great news from Kiva: read more


New films bring community voices to the forefront on Human Rights Day 2013

December 10, 2013 by

In celebration of UN-recognized International Human Rights Day on December 10th, nonprofit organizations Tostan and Venice Arts, together with the Sundance Institute and The Skoll Foundation, will premiere a series of participant-produced films from community members in Senegal.

Through the three short films, which have been produced following training in participant-led media techniques and documentary filmmaking, community members share their own stories about how their lives are changing.

Earlier this year, Tostan was awarded a $20,000 grant by Stories of Change, a project of the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and Fund (DFP), supported by the Skoll Foundation, to train community members in participant-led filmmaking, which gives the power of the storytelling back to communities, providing them with the opportunity to share stories that are the most meaningful to them.

The training and technical support was undertaken by renowned filmmakers and trainers Venice Arts and additional funding for the project was received from Sida, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. read more


Remembering Nelson Mandela: CNN and BBC Interviews with The Elders

December 9, 2013 by

Nelson Mandela was the founder of The Elders, which Skoll Foundation Founder Jeff Skoll and CEO Sally Osberg sit on the Advisory Council of. Several of the Elders have been speaking about Mandela in the media since his passing. Here are two interviews we’d like to share today.

Mary Robinson remembers Mandela on CNN:

“I think it’s extraordinary that the thoughts on the world are on one man that most people who feel very acutely about haven’t met, and yet they know he was an extraordinary man. I hope we will think more about, ‘What is the compelling nature of our sense that this man was the best of us? Because he was.  He did represent those values. He also was great fun, had wonderful comic timing and was very humble.”

Watch the rest above.

Jimmy Carter interview with Justin Webb, who asks “Could the Mandela template properly be used elsewhere?” on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme:

“Nelson was very pleased with what we [as the Elders] tried to do. The last time he went out in public to meet with The Elders in Johannesburg and he came to our hotel so we would have a photograph together. Nelson carried to his grave his total commitment to resolve issues peacefully, forgive those who hurt him personally,  and try to look at the best side of people with whom he had differences.”

Listen to the rest at 1 hour and 16 minutes:


The Skoll Foundation Mourns the Passing of Nelson Mandela

December 5, 2013 by

The Skoll Foundation mourns the passing of Nelson Mandela and expresses its deepest sympathy to his family.

“Madiba leaves behind a long legacy of compassion and an unwavering commitment to justice,” said Sally Osberg, President and CEO of the Skoll Foundation. “He inspires us all to continue to drive toward a more peaceful and prosperous world.”

As advisory council members for The Elders—a group of global leaders founded by Mandela—Skoll Foundation Founder and Chairman, Jeff Skoll, and Sally Osberg have had the privilege of benefiting from and supporting Mandela’s vision for peace, justice, and human rights.

The Elders have issued a statement commemorating Nelson Mandela’s life and legacy.

See it here:


Jeff Skoll on 60 Minutes

November 17, 2013 by

Our founder Jeff Skoll was part of a 60 Minutes segment tonight about The Giving Pledge. Charlie Rose talked to Mr. Skoll about some of his films, the Skoll Global Threats Fund, and more. Watch it above.


Sakena Yacoobi Wins $1 Million Opus Prize

November 13, 2013 by

Congratulations, Sakena!

Just moments ago, Skoll Awardee Sakena Yacoobi of Afghan Institute of Learning won The Opus Prize, “given annually to recognize unsung heroes of any faith tradition, anywhere in the world, solving today’s most persistent social problems. This $1 million faith-based humanitarian award and two $75,000 awards are collectively one of the world’s largest faith-based, humanitarian awards for social innovation.

Opus Prize winners combine an entrepreneurial spirit with an abiding faith to combat seemingly intractable global issues like poverty, illiteracy, hunger, disease, and injustice.  Opus Prize winners demonstrate that change is possible, empowering and inspiring all of us.”

At the awards ceremony, Sakena said she will use the award to help educate Afghanistan’s youth and said, “Now I can do things that are my dream.”

She added, “Don’t feel pity for [Afghan women]. They are strong and they have dignity.”

It’s been a great awards season for Sakena: She also recently won the Global Generations Award and the Pioneer Award by Good Deals 13.

Learn more about today’s award:


Root Capital Launches Coffee Farmer Resilience Initiative with Skoll Foundation and Other Partners

November 7, 2013 by

Root Capital just launched its Coffee Farmer Resilience Initiative. The Initiative, a collaborative venture between Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, the Multilateral Investment Fund of the Inter-American Development Bank and the Skoll Foundation, stabilizes supply chains by investing in coffee farmers at the base of the value chain, who are on the front lines of battling the leaf rust epidemic in Latin America. They made the formal announcement before hundreds of coffee industry professionals at Let’s Talk Roya, a solutions-oriented conference hosted by Sustainable Harvest, a private sector partner helping to implement the Initiative.

Here’s more about it from Root:

“The $7 million initiative will allow Root Capital to lend more than $10 million for resilience investments, and provide financial management training, to 50 agricultural enterprises representing 40,000 farmers, reaching approximately 200,000 family members in farming communities in Latin America.

We launched the Initiative with a $2 million loan to an impressive Root Capital clientcalled SOPPEXCCA, a 650-member coffee farmer cooperative based in Jinotega, Nicaragua. SOPPEXCCA will use this loan to renovate farms ravaged by the fungus, replacing dead coffee trees with new, high-quality, rust-resistant varietals.”

Read more from Root Capital’s leader, Willy Foote: and read more about the initiative:


Jeff Skoll Speaks on XPrize Insights: Video

November 6, 2013 by

In today’s one-minute video on XPrize Insights, our founder Jeff Skoll talks about a meeting with John Gardner that deeply influenced his life. XPRIZE Insights is a video series that highlights leading thinkers of our time. Skoll said that Gardner told him about “individuals who were dedicated to solving literacy or the health system, education, saving the rainforest… and they needed a different kind of backing and that was at the dawn of what became known as social entrepreneurship.”


Sonidos de la Tierra Breaks Guinness World Record for the Largest Harp Ensemble

November 5, 2013 by

Sonidos de la Tierra recently broke the Guinness World Record for the largest harp ensemble. 420 Paraguayan harpists doubled the previous record of 201 musicians set in Edinburgh in 2006.

“For Paraguay, this achievement means much more than being the record holders of the world’s largest harp ensemble,” says Andrea Burt of Sonidos. “The Paraguayan harp is a national symbol of our culture. Thus, breaking the Guinness World Record with this instrument had the objective of promoting national pride, honoring the work of professional harpists, and empowering the children and youth of the Sonidos de la Tierra network, who come from underprivileged backgrounds.

#SUENAPARAGUAY, as the event was called, was declared of municipal, cultural, and national touristic interest. The performance of the 420 harpists was so powerful it made front-page headlines of the three biggest newspapers in the country last Sunday. The national fervor that resulted from this event illustrates the motivational power of music—the very same power that transforms lives and transcends boundaries.”

Watch the video above to hear them.


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.



© 2014 Skoll Foundation.