News and analysis
April 13, 2015

4 Nonprofits Receive $1.25 Million Skoll Awards

Skoll Foundation

Blue Ventures works with fishermen to protect ocean life in a way that still supports people’s livelihoods.

Most people are taught at an early age that it’s wrong to cause a disruption. But the Skoll Foundation celebrates that kind of behavior.

The four recipients of its 2015 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, announced today at the foundation’s annual world forum in Oxford, England, have one habit in common: They all disrupt the status quo.

"They work at a systemic level to advance change that lasts," said Sally Osberg, foundation president.

Created by Jeff Skoll, first president of eBay, in 1999, the foundation works to foster peace and prosperity. The awards, which come with $1.25 million grants for each winner’s organization, honor work in areas that advance that mission, including conserving the environment, promoting human rights and health, and empowering women and girls.

Blue Ventures was a winner for recognizing the roles that economic opportunity, family planning, and health care play in people’s attitudes toward natural resources. The organization works with fishermen to create sustainable fisheries that protect ocean life while still supporting people’s livelihoods.

"We really have to radically overhaul how we engage people in conservation," says Blue Ventures executive director Alasdair Harris said. "If we can engage them, then we have the most powerful constituency on earth for sustain what we as scientists are failing to achieve."

Other award winners: Ma Jun, director at the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, which creates tools that allow individuals and companies to monitor the effects of Chinese factories on the environment; Safeena Husain, founder and chief executive of Educate Girls, which creates programs and builds community partnerships to help keep girls in school in rural India; and Jagdeesh Rao Puppala, chief executive at the Foundation for Ecological Security, which helps rural communities in India protect common land.

The Skoll Foundation’s search committee, which includes Mr. Skoll and members of his family, chooses the winners from hundreds of nominees each year, looking for innovative groups that can show evidence of success.

In making its selections, the foundation "bets on people and organizations at an inflection point," Ms. Osberg said. "They’ve proven their ability to bring about transformative change, and they are poised to accelerate that change."

In addition to the grant, the Skoll Foundation provides opportunities for award recipients to create media partnerships with book publishers and Sundance film directors, and it produces short films about the winners’ work.

"We’re telling the stories, sharing the evidence about what’s working in the world, so people can channel resources," Ms. Osberg said.

Mr. Harris believes the attention and monetary support from the Skoll Foundation will help Blue Ventures achieve its goal of replicating its programs in other areas to reach 3 million people by 2020.

"We have a lot of success stories we’ll now be able to share," he said. "This enables us to advocate for, champion, and help drive adoption of models we’ve developed."

Send an e-mail to Rebecca Koenig.