Skoll Foundation


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:



Week of the Hero Rats: Media Focuses on APOPO For World Tuberculosis Day

March 25, 2015 by

We have seen dozens of articles on APOPO‘s HeroRats, giant African pouched rats which can sniff out tuberculosis quickly and cheaply, thus saving countless lives.

Some tidbits from recent top stories:

Agence France-Presse: “Giant rats may strike fear and disgust into the hearts of homeowners worldwide, but researchers in impoverished Mozambique are improbably turning some of them into heroes. Placed inside a glass cage, a rat darts from sample to sample, then stops or rubs its legs, indicating that a sample is infected with a TB causing bacteria. Once the task is complete, it is given a treat through a syringe for a job well done.”

GOOD: “Rats are rewarded for every diagnosis made, which sounds like a pretty sweet gig considering their entire job consists of smelling things. Sign me up! APOPO, the non-profit organization supervizing the research, also has a separate program to train rats to detect mines.”

And in Fast Company Co.Exist, the journalist focused on the rats’ other main task: Sniffing out land mines.

Danielle Lee has a message for the world: rats are smarter than you think. One day, they may even save you from being blown up. Lee, a biologist and postdoc at Cornell, studies the natural history and behavior of African giant pouched rats, a type of large rodent native to sub-Saharan Africa that can sniff out bombs. Lee is currently working with APOPO, a nonprofit in Tanzania that trains the African giant pouched rat to sniff out landmines. Since its launch in 2000, APOPO has used the rats to find 2,400 landmines in neighboring Mozambique.”

Learn more:



Why Health Leads is Ahead of the Times

March 23, 2015 by

A New York Times article about the growing trend of health care systems cutting costs by aiding the poor illustrates why Health Leads, which was founded in 1996, was on the cutting edge of solving an important problem.

An excerpt:

They raise a new question for the health care system: What is its role in tackling problems of poverty? And will addressing those problems save money?

…In Portland, Ore., health outreach workers help patients get driver’s licenses and give them essentials, such as bus tickets, blankets, calendars and adult diapers. In New York, medical teams are trained to handle eviction notices like medical emergenciesIn Philadelphia, community health workers shop for groceries with diabetic patients.

….“We often hear comments that amount to ‘Are you asking me to fight the war on poverty?’ ” said Kelly W. Hall, a senior vice president at Health Leads, a nonprofit organization that helps medical teams connect patients to social services. “But doing nothing is ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ when it comes to the realities of patients’ lives. People aren’t comfortable with that either.”

Read the rest:


WITNESS’ Human Rights Channel Named Finalist In 2015 Shorty Awards

March 18, 2015 by

Good news from the WITNESS blog:

We’re excited to announce that today our Human Rights Channel was named one of only two finalists in the 7th Annual Shorty Awards for the ‘Best in News’ category.

WITNESS launched the Human Rights Channel in 2012 in partnership with Google and Storyful. The HRC works to verify citizen video so that viewers can trust what they are seeing is real; analyzes the challenges thatshorty_logo_150x150 citizens face when trying to use their videos to catalyze real change; and supports citizen witnesses to use video more safely and effectively when filming for human rights.

Winners will be announced starting Monday, March 23rd via SnapChat.

Check out the full list of finalists and read more about Shorty Awards here. And follow us @witnessorg for updates!


Root Capital Proves “Rural Collectives Make Safe and Profitable Borrowers”

March 13, 2015 by

The Economist just did a great feature on Root Capital and its model (with a fun quote from founder Willy Foote!) An excerpt:

“Root’s business is lending to the owners of small farms in poor countries. An estimated 450m of these smallholdings exist worldwide, typically providing a subsistence-at-best income for more than 2 billion of the poorest people on the planet. Mainstream finance has largely ignored them. They face multiple hardships, including land of poor quality, a lack of infrastructure to get their output to market and the constant threat of being wiped out by extreme weather. The lack of access to credit for working capital and investment makes a bad situation worse.

Microcredit outfits dealing in tiny loans of tens or hundreds of dollars have proved that the poorest of the poor can be perfectly responsible borrowers. Root and a few other specialist lenders are showing the same is true of bigger loans to groups of subsistence farmers.”

Read the rest:


Food and Furniture: How Health Leads Helped One Woman with Basic Needs (an NPR Story)

March 12, 2015 by

A diabetic grandmother raising three asthmatic children with her daughter in Washington, D.C. needed some help. Today’s NPR story, called “When Life Overwhelms, This Group Lends a Healthy Hand,” shows how a volunteer for Health Leads helped get her free groceries and furniture, and is working on getting the mold removed from her home.

Health Leads bridges the gap between medicine and social work, equipping clinics with volunteers and family help desks, so that primary care doctors can prescribe not only medicines, but also services such as food, fuel, and housing assistance, and patients can get help to support their healing and long term health.

Removing the mold will help improve the children’s asthma. An excerpt:

Health Leads operates in seven cities across the U.S. and has more than a thousand volunteer advocates, the vast majority of whom are college students. It was founded byRebecca Onie. Now the organization’s CEO (and recipientof a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 2009) Onie came up with the idea as a college sophomore in the 1990s. While volunteering at a hospital in Boston, she often asked doctors this question: If you had unlimited resources, what’s the one thing you would give your patients? The answer that came back over and over again, she says, was food, transportation, or a better place to live, because those were the real problems — and the underlying cause of many patients’ health problems. This led Onie to imagine an entirely different kind of health care system — ‘one in which a physician or nurse could prescribe basic resources that a patient needs to be healthy, like heat in the winter or access to healthy food,’ she says. And that’s exactly what Health Leads does it. It trains doctors to ask patients about their social needs, and then connects patients with organizations that can meet those needs.”

Listen for more:


“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.


Belgian Parliament Adopts Resolution Urging Government to Prioritize Child Marriage

March 6, 2015 by

Exciting news from Girls Not Brides,  following Girls Not Brides member Plan Belgium’s advocacy efforts and campaign to end child marriage which launched in October 2014:

“The Belgian Parliament unanimously adopted a resolution calling for more efforts to help end child, early, and forced marriage.
The resolution calls on the Belgian government to address child marriage as part of its development and cooperation policy. With 7* out of 18 official partner countries with prevalence rates higher than 30%, Belgium needed a strong commitment to address child, early and forced marriage. Belgium is about to renew its cooperation agreement with Niger, the country with the highest percentage of child marriages.” * These countries are: Niger, Mali, Mozambique, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Benin.

Read more:


Jeff Skoll to Receive Arbuckle Award at Stanford Tonight

March 5, 2015 by

Congratulations to our founder and chairman, Jeff Skoll, who will be presented with the Ernest C. Arbuckle Award at Stanford University tonight.

Sponsored annually by the Stanford GSB Alumni Association, the Ernest C. Arbuckle Award recognizes excellence in the field of management leadership. The award was created in 1968 in honor of the late Business School dean whose name it bears. Recipients demonstrate a commitment to both managerial excellence and to addressing the changing needs of society.

Learn more: and watch past videos:


“I Teach Rats to Locate Landmines:” Bart Weetjens in the Financial Times

March 3, 2015 by

Bart Weetjens of APOPO was just featured in the Financial Times. An excerpt:

“When I first approached people with the idea of using rats to find landmines they laughed at me. I spoke to the military in Belgium, where I’m from, and several other organisations but they said I was crazy.

It’s now been 11 years since we trained our first rat and we’ve used them to help clear more than eight million square metres of land, uncovering about 3,000 mines and more than 1,000 unexploded bombs. There are now more than 300 rats working in places like Gaza, Mozambique, Thailand and Angola. Their sense of smell is much more advanced than a dog’s, and they are much lighter and less likely to trigger a mine. We’ve never lost a rat in action — we call them Hero Rats.

Read the rest:


Spreading the Social Progress Index Across the World

February 25, 2015 by

I just wrapped up a 1.5 day training seminar at MIT in Boston with individuals from around the world who are adopting, adapting and running social progress networks in their cities, countries and municipalities.

This was the Social Progress Index (SPI) team’s first formal training session for members of the growing SPI network.  The training was a “how to” for catalyzing a local SPI network, developing a subnational index and building agendas and action plans within local contexts.

Teams from Spain, several countries in Latin America and the U.S. attended, including academics, government staff, technical experts, non-profit leaders and foundation staff.  It was a roll-up-your-sleeves event with exercises, sharing best practices and a deep dive into the rigorous, thoughtful and inspiring methodology.  Scott Stern, the MIT economist behind SPI, engaged with attendees. read more


Experiencing the Global Innovation Summit—with “Scorecards”

February 24, 2015 by

The Global Innovation Summit – one of a seemingly endless number of meetings in the Bay Area with the name “innovation” in the title —  might well serve its namesake.  As part of my job as director of the Skoll World Forum, I am required to seek out the best ways to bring people together, either in serendipitous or engineered ways, that create significant value for those attending.

And so, I and 1,000 others from over 50 countries attended this event February 17-19 in San Jose. Speakers included Skoll Awardee Sakena Yacoobi of Afghan Institute of Learning, Founder of Aramex Fadi Ghandour, Director of Case University’s Innovation Investing Cathy Clark, and many others.

The Summit’s focus on bringing to the proverbial table a challenge, an opportunity, or both, led people to be very clear about what they are looking for in the hopes to find innovative solutions. Most discussions were in the round without a formal stage.

In my first Design Lab, we were assigned to small teams in a massive real-time, hands-on “laboratory.” Every participant contributed their Rainforest Scorecard data to build the first-ever mapping of global innovation ecosystems onto Rainforest Radar charts. Judging by my table, people couldn’t help one another fast enough.  It struck me that this small bit of pre-work unlocked clarity and focus for those attending…thus allowing for relationships and productive conversation to happen rapidly and with purpose. read more


Skoll World Forum Plenary Tickets Available Today

February 23, 2015 by

JOIN US for the Skoll World Forum Plenary Sessions on April 15, 16 and 17. Tickets are now on sale for $25 per event, and all are held at New Theatre in Oxford, England.  Share, learn, and be inspired by the best and brightest thinkers and practitioners from academia, media, corporate, government, philanthropy and funding communities.

Featured 2015 speakers include Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Mrs. Graça Machel, Zak Ebrahim, Ophelia Dahl, Ken Brecher, Darren Walker, and many more luminaries advancing game-changing solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. read more


Safeway and Fair Trade USA Launch the World’s First Fair Trade Certified™ Seafood

February 20, 2015 by

National Geographic just wrote about this big news from Fair Trade USA. Check out the piece, “Fair Trade Writes New Story in Chapter of Tuna,” and see the press release:

Today Safeway and nonprofit organization Fair Trade USA announce a new partnership to launch Fair Trade Certified™ seafood into the North American market. Beginning with wild-capture tuna from small-scale fishermen in Indonesia, this program is the first of its kind to address both social and environmental responsibility in fishing communities across the globe.  The world’s first Fair Trade fish will debut in Safeway stores in their Northern California, Portland and Seattle Division in March. As additional supply becomes available, the tuna will be introduced in other operating areas.

After four years of research and consultation with leading industry experts and nonprofits around the world, Fair Trade USA has expanded the number of Fair Trade Certified products available by launching the Fair Trade Fisheries program.  Its goal is to build resilient livelihoods in impoverished coastal communities, improve working and living conditions, increase supply and demand for responsibly-sourced seafood, and enhance environmental stewardship.

“Fair Trade’s holistic approach has an important role to play in sustaining healthy fishing communities and oceans for generations to come.” said Maya Spaull, Director of New Category Innovation at Fair Trade USA, “and we’re thrilled that Safeway shoppers will be the first to help create lasting change through their everyday seafood purchases.”

Similar to other well-known Fair Trade Certified products, such as coffee, tea, cocoa, flowers, produce and apparel, the Fisheries program requires fishermen to source and trade according to rigorous, independently audited standards. These standards help to protect fundamental human rights, prevent forced and child labor, establish safe working conditions, regulate work hours and benefits, and enable responsible resource management. This is especially important in an industry with a long history of labor abuse.

Read the rest:


Award for Digital Divide Data– Plus, a Skoll World Forum Story!

February 19, 2015 by

We always love hearing that a great connection happened at the Skoll World Forum, and of course we are thrilled when Skoll Awardees are honored by others. So we share today two pieces of good news from Digital Divide Data (DDD):

  • DDD’s work to train and employ low-income youth for business process outsourcing jobs earned them The 2015 Global Outsourcing 100® by the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals® (IAOP®) . This honor made DDD the first and only exclusive Impact Sourcing on the list. Now in its tenth year, The Global Outsourcing 100® ranked DDD alongside major BPO players such as Accenture, IBM, and Infosys. Judging was based on size and growth, delivery excellence, programs for innovation, and corporate social responsibility. “Being named to The Global Outsourcing 100 list is no easy task,” said Michael Corbett, IAOP Chairman. “IAOP is pleased to recognize DDD for their excellence and achievement,” Corbett added. This significant recognition puts DDD prominently on the map of the global outsourcing industry.
  • After meeting at the Skoll World Forum, the Fossil Foundation partnered with DDD in late 2014 to support university scholarships and improve their educational model. Here’s more, from DDD: “When DDD’s Jeremy Hockenstein and Michael Chertok met two senior executives of the Fossil Group at the Skoll World Forum in Oxford, England in April 2013, they realized that they had quite a few things in common. One of them was a joint belief in the transformative power of education. DDD’s social mission is built on a work-study model that has graduated over 800 talented youth from low-income communities and significantly improved their lives and the lives of their communities.
    The Fossil Foundation’s Fossil Unbound program supports disruptive, high-impact programs in innovative learning and career readiness which enable young people to unleash potential and chart their own paths. Convinced by DDD’s ability to give today’s youth the confidence and means to determine their own futures, the Fossil Foundation partnered with DDD in late 2014 to support university scholarships and improve our educational model. But the DDD-Fossil partnership had actually started long before that.
    A few months after they first met at Oxford, the two Fossil executives visited our office in Kenya and witnessed firsthand our innovative model of providing employment and access to higher education to youth in some of the world’s poorest countries. That’s when they recognized just how well DDD’s work-study program aligned with Fossil Unbound, and after one year of strengthening our relationship, the Fossil Foundation made the grant. At DDD, we are excited to further develop our educational model and take this next step in our relationship with Fossil. The support from the Foundation will help us explore e-learning, build more partnerships with local universities, establish a vocational track for youth, and set up our education model for Liberty Source, our newest operation center located in Virginia, USA.”

Slum Dwellers International Featured on PBS NewsHour

February 12, 2015 by

On Tuesday evening, PBS NewsHour aired a profile of Skoll Awardee Jockin Arputham who leads Slum Dwellers International.

In the piece, reporter Fred de Sam Lazaro accompanies Jockin on a walk through impoverished neighborhoods in Mumbai, India, where up to 9 million people live in slums or on the streets.

Jockin was awarded the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship in 2014 for helping to improve living conditions and give a voice to people living in slums around the world.

You can also watch the feature here on the PBS NewsHour website.



What 30 Foundations Have Learned from Media Projects They Support

February 5, 2015 by

How does a foundation decide if a documentary is successful? What about digital outreach campaigns—how do you know if they have worked? A new report from Media Impact Funders (MIF) features 30 staff members at foundations, including our very own Sandy Herz.

“Funders such as Sandy Herz, Director of Global Partnerships at the Skoll Foundation, are eager to compare notes with other funders who share their transformative vision for media impact. The foundation has developed a model shaped like a funnel moving target audiences from awareness (of social entrepreneurs and their solutions to the significant world problems) to engagement (with individual social entrepreneurs addressing specific issues) to impact (on those issues).


‘At the wide end of the funnel we target awareness, and there are standard measures you can apply across a number of partners: How many stories were created? How many people did it reach? How much did you pay for it? But then from those broad audiences, you can move down the funnel and engage specific subsets around targeted media initiatives. When it works, those efforts spawn very specific opportunities to drive impact, sometimes with a target audience of just a few people at the narrow end of the funnel. But that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day,’ said Herz.”

The clear takeaway? Funders are eager to learn from, and build tools with, one another. We’ve included some of the report’s info graphics for a sneak peek inside.





“Map Your World” for Climate, Typhoon Haiyan and Affordable Internet

February 5, 2015 by

You may remember us writing about “Map Your World,” which emerged as a project of our Stories of Change film “Revolutionary Optimists.” We love what they’ve been able to accomplish using this web-based platform to empower young people. Some recent projects:

  • In 2014 Map Your World helped record the stories and data of over 1 milllion youth in the Philippines helping to restore their country in the aftermath of Typhoon Haian in partnership with Gawad Kalinga.
  • Sixth graders in a D.C. neighborhood leveraged data and story to stand up for their right to affordable internet access – and won! This was part of a partnership with the UC Berkeley Center for Cities + Schools Y-Plan Project. 
  • And in a year marked by devastating climate news, youth in Nashville mapped urban heat islands and ran a campaign to get their communities to change their energy consumption.

Learn more:


USAID and Skoll Foundation Announce Joint Investment in Evidence Action for Clean Water in Uganda

February 4, 2015 by
Photo Credit: Evidence Action


Low-cost chlorine dispensers to provide safe water to 3.2 million people in rural Uganda

Washington, D.C. – February 4, 2015. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Skoll Foundation announced a joint investment of $2 million in Evidence Action to scale up its Dispensers for Safe Water program, a proven and highly cost effective approach for providing clean water to rural communities.

The investment is the third of its kind by the Innovation Investment Alliance, a Global Development Alliance between the Skoll Foundation and USAID that is supported by the global humanitarian agency Mercy Corps, which is focused on scaling the impact of proven social entrepreneurs.

Dispensers for Safe Water installs innovative low-cost chlorine dispensers directly at the water source in rural communities in Uganda, Kenya and Malawi.

The $2 million investment by the Innovation Investment Alliance will fund the installation of 10,100 chlorine dispensers in Uganda, and provide 3.2 million more Ugandans with access to sustainable, safe water services by the end of 2015.

In Uganda, just 10 percent of the population has access to piped water and approximately 23,000 people die of diarrheal diseases annually. Children under five are especially vulnerable. Across Africa, diarrheal diseases are one of the leading causes of childhood mortality.

Dispensers for Safe Water combines rigorously-tested design with an innovative carbon credit financing model. Dispensers are placed at local water sources for people to easily add a precise dose of chlorine to their water. Dispensers cost approximately 50 cents per user per year at scale. Evidence Action finances ongoing operations through carbon credits generated because people do not need to boil water with fossil fuel to make it safe to drink.

Evidence Action joins a select group of social enterprises funded by the USAID-Skoll Innovation Investment Alliance. Previous recipients include Imazon that uses satellite imagery to help track and reduce deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, and VisionSpring, a social enterprise using an innovative business model to provide affordable and appropriate eyeglasses and vision care to people living at the base of the economic pyramid.

The USAID-Skoll Innovation Investment Alliance pairs USAID’s expertise in scaling development solutions with Skoll’s experience investing in, connecting, and celebrating social entrepreneurs and the innovators who help them drive solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. Mercy Corps joined the Alliance in September 2012 to help USAID identify and evaluate organizations for funding and assess their impact in solving pressing global challenges.

Contact Information:

USAID: Kathy Hunt, Senior Partnership Advisor, USAID,, +1 202 712 0076

Skoll Foundation: Suzana Grego, Director of Communications,, +1 650 331 1021

Mercy Corps: Carol Skowron, Senior Program Officer,, +1 503 896 5861

Evidence Action: Katrin Verclas, Director of Communications and Advocacy,, +1 202 780 5688


© 2015 Skoll Foundation.