Skoll Foundation


Education and Economic Opportunity

Opportunity – for education, jobs, income, raising a family – divides those with a promising future from those without. Adequate preparation and access to education and employment opportunities make a rise out of extreme poverty possible. So does honing personal skills to enable professional advancement and unlock job opportunities. We advance innovations that enhance a person’s ability to improve her/his economic well-being and personal dignity.
Regions include: Africa, Asia, Latin America, Middle East, United States.


Aflatoun promotes a culture of saving, builds money skills and develops responsibility, reaching more than 540,000 children in about 5,000 schools in 32 countries worldwide.

Arzu pays women weavers above-market compensation for handwoven rugs and provides literacy, education and health benefits. Its rugs are sold on Arzu reconstructed the carpet supply chain to accommodate custom and contract orders, leading to a 44% growth in sales.

Barefoot College educates poor Indians (mostly women) through peer-to-peer learning and is transformational in that it relies on the passing on of traditional skills and knowledge. Locals are trained as doctors, teachers, engineers, architects, designers, mechanics, communicators and accountants and they use technology in innovative ways: mobile phones are set to work monitoring water quality through an online dataset, solar-powered cookers are constructed to break dependence on wood.

Benetech is a nonprofit technology company based in Palo Alto, California. Benetech pursues projects with a strong social rather than financial rate of return on investment, harnessing open source technology to create solutions to social issues. The Benetech Bookshareservice is the world’s largest accessible online library of copyrighted books for people with print disabilities such as blindness.

Camfed fights poverty and AIDS in Africa by educating girls and empowering young women. It packages scholarships, community support, and mentor networks to help girls succeed in school and prepare for jobs. More than 1.4 million have benefited from Camfed’s holistic intervention from elementary school to adulthood.

Change through Digital Inclusion (CDI) sets up computer labs and offers training in everything from basic computer services to IT skills. CDI has built more than 800 community centers in thirteen countries giving more than 1.3 million people access to the Web, the bulk in Brazil and many for the first time. CDI maintains computers that would otherwise be discarded by companies making upgrades, and supports use of the equipment in community development projects.

INJAZ Al-Arab is the only significant educational program in the Middle East focused on empowering young people by bringing leaders from the private sector into the classroom to teach entrepreneurship, work and life skills. It reaches 68,000 students a year in 13 Arab countries.

The Afghan Institute for Learning (AIL) provides education to 235,000 Afghan women and children and has impacted 7 million Afghans through teacher training and workshops on human rights, women’s rights, peace, and leadership.

The Citizens Foundation (TCF) provides affordable primary and secondary private education to low-income students in Pakistan’s urban slums and rural areas, with a focus on girls. Its model enables it to navigate Pakistan’s unique cultural environment and country constraints, allowing it to be more effective in attracting and retaining female students. Its model includes robust teacher and principal training, all of whom are female to appease parents; building safe schools close to students’ homes; fees relative to a family’s income and small class sizes limited to no more than 30 students (other schools can have as many as 100). TCF gains family buy-in, transforming often illiterate parents into believers in education. TCF serves 115,000 students, has 5,800 all-female teachers and principals, and a 50% female student body, compared to 15-20% in TCF communities. It has a 92% pass rate at matriculation level, versus the national average of 56%.

Citizen Schools transforms American after-school programs from an afterthought to part of large-scale education reform. Their program for low-income middle school students entails hands-on learning staffed by volunteer Citizen Teachers.

Civic Ventures develops ways for baby boomers to remain engaged in society through paving the path for the encore career. As people live longer, Civic Ventures provides tools for older generations to remain engaged and give back to society through meaningful work that uses their talents and experience.

College Summit helps students complete their college applications and develop a college list, producing a 20 percent increase in college enrollment for participants.

Community and Individual Development Association, or CIDA, created CIDA City Campus, South Africa’s first free university. They have provided education to more than 5,000 students who could not afford it otherwise.

Digital Divide Data’s
global partnership between its Western business arm and its high-touch Southeast Asian social service program creates a unique and scalable fair trade model for development across industries. They have graduated 400 people in Cambodia and Laos to high-skilled jobs in which they make more than 4 times the average regional wage. Their business is sustainable, generating over $3 million in revenue last fiscal year while realizing efficiency gains.

Escuela NuevaNew School” gives children in rural areas learning materials using curricula they developed themselves. Adopted by Colombia’s Ministry of Education and duplicated in 16 countries, in 2009 they provided 87,000 low-income children in Colombia with learning materials, covering 30 percent of the rural primary student population.

Free The Children (FTC) provides educational opportunities to children around the world, thus freeing them to pursue their dreams and bring about positive social change. They organize volunteer service trips to Asia, Africa and Central America and built more than 500 schools in those areas.

Friends-International helps prevent child abuse. Its model has been established or replicated in 12 countries. It has two key programs: ChildSafe, which involves local leaders and tourists in prevention, and The Street Children Network, which makes services available to street children.

Fundación Paraguaya gives microcredit and entrepreneurship education to thousands of small businesses. It became a leader in microenterprise development as Paraguay transitioned to democracy and developed a self-sustaining, productive agricultural school that offers credit upon graduation.

Gawad Kalinga transforms slums into peaceful and productive communities. It works with 2,000 communities in the Philippines and other nations where poverty exists including Cambodia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Engaging all sectors of society, mobilizing them to work together to end poverty, the organization is building a global army of volunteers on the ground and online, working with schools, corporations and other organized institutions to mainstream a culture of caring and sharing. Gawad Kalinga means to “give care”.

GoodWeave eliminates the exploitation of bonded child laborers in carpet manufacturing. In Nepal, Pakistan and India, the organization monitors factories, certifies carpets made without bonded labor and rescues and educates child laborers. 9,000 children have attended school under GoodWeave sponsorship.

Half the Sky (HTS) is challenging the institutionalized inefficiency of state-run orphanages in China. They convinced the government to exclusively partner with them and implement HTS models throughout the country.

Institute for Development Studies and Practices (IDSP) Pakistan allows students to become engaged in the social and economic development of their country by providing schools that impart skills for community leadership. So far, 1,200 people graduated from six different types of practice-based courses. Twelve ISDP Senior Fellows (six are women), who had no development experience, have worked on development projects ranging in size up to $1.3 million.

Kashf Foundation stands out from other microfinance institutions because of its offerings that empower women. Kashf is the first microfinance (MFI) to achieve financial sustainability in Pakistan; it’s the third largest MFI in the country, with 288,000 clients through 150+ branches. Kashf has a pioneering life insurance product and Forbes named Kashf a Top 50 Global Microfinance Institution in 2007.

Khan Academy strives to provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere – through online content delivered directly to independent learners worldwide or using a blended learning model in schools. It allows a student to learn at her own pace to truly master a subject. Khan Academy is removing the 60-minute lecture and “humanizing the classroom”. Students can now view short video lectures when needed, and the teacher can focus their time on facilitating small group instruction, one-on-one sessions, peer-to-peer tutoring, and project-based learning. The Academy has amassed more than 3,600 video tutorials, exercises, performance dashboards, and incentive badges. Its multi-partner distribution strategy includes: direct to learners via the Internet, school partnerships, teacher toolkits, and internationalization efforts. In 2012, they grew from 1 million users per month to 6 million+ users per month. Khan Academy’s videos have been viewed more than 200 million times, and 700+ million exercises have been completed.

Kiva is a pioneer of Internet microfinance. Kiva has roughly 700,000 registered users who have lent around $120 million in four years, spreading the cause of microfinance and empowerment to the mass market.

Manchester Bidwell Corporation (MBC) is a vocational training program with art and recording studios, computer classrooms, a music hall and an industrial kitchen. MBC’s youth programs connect arts knowledge and skills with academic standards, citizenship and life disciplines. It also has career education.

New Teacher Center has refined a model to pair veteran teachers with talented and inexperienced new teachers, launching New Teacher Center in 1998. In 2010, the center reached more than 26,000 teachers to affect 1.84 million students. To bolster its impact, the Center plays an active role in the National Education Policy debate, advocating for state and federal policies.

Nidan champions informal workers in India’s north and east, who proudly call it their own organization. The country’s informal sector makes up  93 percent of the workforce, creating 64 percent of GDP. Nidan organizes these workers, incubates sector-based collectives and partners with government to demonstrate that models of rights-based, inclusive growth can work. It advocates, too, from local governance to state and national level governance structures and policy institutions. Nidan means “solutions” in Hindi.

Population and Community Development Association helped stop rapid population growth in Thailand, and teaches HIV/AIDS. It also gives micro-credit loans. PDA’s approach to reproductive health over 35 years resulted in Thailand’s population growth rate declining from 3.2 percent in 1974 to 0.5 percent in 2005, and, according to a World Bank study, an estimated 7.7 million lives were saved as a result of PDA’s HIV prevention campaigns.

Pratham provides quality education for underprivileged elementary school age children in India. Its programs focus on urban areas to increase the enrollment and learning levels of children living in urban slums.

Room to Read is a global organization focusing on literacy and gender equality in education in the developing world. Room to Read helps develop literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary school children and ensures girls have the skills and support needed to complete their secondary education. Since 2000, Room to Read has impacted the lives of more than four million children in Asia and Africa and aims to reach 10 million children by 2015.

Sonidos de la TierraSounds of the Land” inspires kids through music and engages entire communities to support performances, reaching more than 12,000 children from Central and South America.

Teach For All aims to eliminate educational inequality by leveraging promising future leaders to teach in public school classrooms, providing children with committed, energetic teachers and creating lifelong advocates among alumni for high-quality public education. Teach For America attracted more than 35,000 talented graduates for 4,100 teaching slots.

Tostan has helped abandon the practice of female genital cutting (FGC) and child marriages in five African countries. It has taught human rights to more than 200,000 villagers. Tostan’s approach has been integrated into international strategies, including 10 U.N. agencies and 5 governments. In Senegal, the government has adopted a National Action Plan that calls for using the human rights approach pioneered by Tostan to end FGC by 2015.

Visayan Forum Foundation empowers trafficked women and girls in the Philippines and works for decent domestic work. Its integrated approach to intercepting the women, then supporting them, includes partnerships with law enforcement, source communities, transit authorities and transportation companies. Its Step Up program teaches life skills, entrepreneurship and IT skills to victims of trafficking. About a third of its graduates now have good jobs and a third are furthering their education.

YouthBuild USA teaches at-risk young people to construct homes and offers at-risk youth leadership training, education and skills that lead to good jobs. It’s helped change national policy: its principle that low-income youth should be included as service givers in American national service programs is now standard. It’s affected the international landscape, with more than 10 countries now hosting YouthBuild.


Skoll Entrepreneurs Fighting for Change:


© 2015 Skoll Foundation.