Guest Post: Aric Noboa’s Impressions from the 2015 Skoll World Forum

Today we’re featuring a guest post from Aric Noboa, President of Discovery Learning Alliance. Last week, he attended Skoll World Forum, an annual gathering that brings together delegates from a variety of sectors to participate in a series of debates and working discussions geared towards overcoming social challenges around the world.

Impressions from the 2015 Skoll World Forum By Aric Noboa

As the 2015 Skoll World Forum came to a close, I was struck by two themes that emerged in almost every session I attended.

First, there is a desperate need to work across sectors, break down the silos and see the interconnectedness between the social, the economic and the environmental. Human life doesn’t operate in neat categories. If the nearby river water makes my daughter sick, I have to stay home from work. So is this the purview of the environmental, health or economic NGO? I would submit that the community itself actually needs to be empowered to identify and solve it’s own problems. Therein lies the opportunity and the challenge for social entrepreneurs and NGOs alike. Thankfully, Skoll is one of the few places where “investment” is spoken of alongside “aid.” Coming to Skoll from Washington, D.C., this is particularly refreshing.

As it did in every session I attended, this thread of interconnectedness emerged when Charmian Gooch from Global Witness discussed the connections between social, environmental and economic justice.

Second, as Jeff Skoll himself put it, “if there was ever a silver bullet in development, girls’ education is it.” His presence later at the girls’ education session was a testament to his commitment in this area. I look forward to talking with his team about a new narrative film Discovery Learning Alliance is developing to change traditions and break down some of the barriers to girls’ getting into school, and staying and learning while they are there.

Speaking to interconnectedness in girls’ education, Graça Machel reinforced the need to change harmful traditions through family, school, community, and the faith community. She recognized the realities of the current aid structure and the way “we adopt agendas” into categories. Aid should be about the whole person through their whole life: kids who are ready for school will learn, supported girls will stay in school and can transition into productive women ready (alongside their male counterparts) for employability and leadership.

ICAI commissioner Diana Good sent a poignant message in her session on government innovation: if we can’t get more than 20 percent female representation in the boardrooms of the United Kingdom and North America, what standing do we have to teach others about gender equity? The systematic disempowerment of women is happening globally; this cannot be ignored if the human race is to move forward.

So what about the man? Not “The Man,” but men and boys. Discovery Learning Alliance works with local educators and governments to raise the level of teacher professional development, trains teachers in gender responsive pedagogy and motivates community action to address barriers to girls’ education…while at the same time encouraging peer and mentor support among boys. Men and boys must be brought into the conversation in order to create lasting change.

Discovery Communications is partnering with the UK Department for International Development in a project implemented by Discovery Learning Alliance to get more girls in school and learning in Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria. It’s an innovative and unique public-private partnership that is working closely with local educators and governments to build capacity around media as a catalyst for quality education for girls (and boys) and we hope will serve as a model for others.

Philo T. Farnsworth, one of the inventors of television, thought his work would bring about world peace…I can think of no better time in history to fulfill the ultimate promise of media to help shape a more just, more robust and more sustainable world.

The challenges are great – some are political, some are systemic and some are related to traditional practices. Collaboration, gender equity and the ability to change hearts and minds around the world will all be key elements to broader social change. The relational mash-ups coming out of Skoll will play a significant role in tearing down the silos and building lasting solutions. 


Carne Ross, Pamela Yates, Jess Search, Dawn Porter and Charmian Gooch speaking about the power of storytelling in a session at the 2015 Skoll World Forum.


Zak Ebrahim, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond M. Tutu, and Reverend Mpho A. Tutu at the Opening Plenary of the 2015 Skoll World Forum in Oxford.