Skoll Foundation places $1.25m bets on social entrepreneurs
Seven organisations operating at the root cause of social problems – and at the centre of movements which are gradually unravelling across the globe – were presented with their $1.25m awards last night at the annual Skoll World Forum awards ceremony.
“These are not lifetime achievement awards,” said Sally Osberg, President and CEO of the Skoll Foundation.“These are bets on the people who will create better futures for millions.”
Each awardee receives a $1.25 million, three-year core support investment to scale their work and increase their impact. They also gain leverage through their long-term participation in the Skoll World Forum’s global community of visionary leaders and innovators dedicated to solving the world’s most pressing problems.
Malala Yousafzai, founder of the Malala Fund, was also presented with the Skoll 'Global Treasures Award', which has only been awarded twice before – to Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nobel Laureate Mohammad Yunus. Malala survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban in Pakistan in 2012 for speaking out for her right to an education. The award marked the recent announcement that Jeff Skoll’s media company, Participant Media, is to produce a documentary film about Malala, and use it to lead a social action campaign on behalf of children’s education.
Lasting change can only happen at a local level, when communities decide child marriage will stop...But we need the support of a global movement, that shares knowledge and financial support.
Introducing the awards ceremony on the second night of the three-day world forum, a group of musicians from five different continents brought diverse cultures and sounds to the stage, as they played together in the Playing For Change Band. And their message was perfectly in tune with the award winners' calls for inclusive, collective and global efforts to create change.
Jockin Arputham, president of Slum Dwellers International and the first Skoll awardee, began his speech with an attack against the harmful stereotypes depriving slum dwellers of a right to necessities such as clean water and light. “We need to create slum friendly cities,” he said.
When Arputham left his rural home for Mumbai where he lived in an informal settlement, he met head on with prejudice. “People in cities think slum dwellers are lazy,” he said, adding that this denied them a right to be considered as human beings, to live in a decent home, to get their waste collected, or go to school.
What better way to stand up to prejudice than mobilise fellow slum dwellers to contradict an urban myth. Arputham has triggered a movement of slum dwellers who are self-organising to improve their living conditions, and gain recognition as equal partners with governments and organisations in the creation of inclusive cities.
Highlighting the reality that one girl is married as a child every two seconds, another of the evening's awardees, Mabel Van Oranje, founder of Girls not Brides, asked: “What do you remember about your wedding day? Happiness, meeting your soul mate? Or the day you had to leave school to marry a man twice your age. The day you got pregnant?”
She told the gathering: “Lasting change can only happen at a local level, when communities decide child marriage will stop...But we need the support of a global movement, that shares knowledge and financial support."
Throughout the awards evening, the emphasis was not just on ambition – the key theme of the forum – nor simply the dogged pursuit of change, but on the way that social entrepreneurs work with the communities they serve.
“We must never decide in the name of the poor,” said Yves Moury, founder of Fundacion Capital, another award winner, which helps the poor save, invest and grow their assets. “We must not tell them what they need. It is our duty to facilitate them access to what that they need – financial services, information and communication services…” he said.
Peace, education and women’s empowerment is not only my dream but the dream of all of us today. We can succeed and we can do it but only by working together.
Against this backdrop of deeply complex social issues, and relentless efforts to crack them, Malala – still just 16 – was the final awardee to share her own experience and words of unbreakable optimism: “I have witnessed extreme poverty, brutal extremism, discrimination, men who don’t not want women to be free, nor girls to go to school, I have seen the brutalities of war, natural disasters and other climatic changes," she said.
“We raised our voices for our rights. We spoke out. Ultimately we won, truth won justice won, humanity won – we won.”
"My goal is to struggle hard for women’s rights and for poverty. Peace, education and women’s empowerment is not only my dream but the dream of all of us today. We can succeed and we can do it but only by working together.”
The full list of the 2014 Skoll Award winners includes B Lab, Slum Dwellers International, Fundacion Capital, Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor, Medic Mobile, Global Witness, Girls not Brides, and The Malala Fund, which won the Skoll Global Treasures Award.
Photo credit: Paolo Camera, Flickr