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Luminos Fund Selected as a 2017 WISE Awards Finalist

Luminos Fund Selected as a 2017 WISE Awards Finalist


OPENPediactrics, PhET Interactive Simulations and the Speed School Project are among 15 finalists chosen by the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) for their innovative and impactful approaches to today’s most urgent education challenges

June 27, 2017 – PhET Interactive Simulations by the University of Colorado Boulder, the Speed School Project by the Luminos Fund and OPENPediatrics in partnership with Boston Children’s Hospitalhave been selected as three of the 15 finalist projects for the 2017 WISE Awards.

Each year, the WISE Awards recognize and promote innovative projects from around the world that are addressing global educational challenges.

OPENPediactrics uses medical simulation technology to help people learn how to safely provide life support to critically ill children. Run in partnership with Boston Children’s Hospital, the platform receives over 70,000 visitors per month and has been accessed from every country and territory worldwide.

PhET Interactive Simulations works to advance science and math literacy worldwide through innovative interactive simulations that support more effective and engaging education for free. The initiative was started in 2002 by Nobel Laureate Carl Wieman and is based within University of Colorado Boulder. PhET simulations are used over 80 million times per year.

The Luminos Fund’s Speed School enables out-of-school children to catch up to their grade level in government schools through an intensive, child-centered pedagogy for teaching basic literacy and numeracy. Since the mid-2000s, the model has been implemented in four African countries. It benefits 100,000 out-of-school children aged 9-14 years.

Dr. Jeffrey Burns, Program Co-Director, OPENPediatrics, said: “We are humbled and honored to be named a WISE Award finalist. OPENPediatrics is the world’s first, and only, knowledge exchange platform connecting doctors and nurses to bring the best care possible to critically ill children no matter where they live. This is one valuable idea worth sharing in our complicated world, and as a WISE Award finalist, OPENPediatrics has taken a big leap in further reaching out to help children in need.”

Caitlin Baron, CEO, the Luminos Fund, said: “The Luminos Fund and our partner Geneva Global are delighted that the Speed School program has been selected as a finalist for the WISE Awards. It is our core belief that the combination of patient philanthropy, committed parents and communities, dedicated learning facilitators, creative pedagogy, and the power of play, can help unlock the light in every child.”

Dr. Kathy Perkins, Director, PhET Interactive Simulations, University of Colorado Boulder, said: “”The PhET Interactive Simulations team at University of Colorado Boulder is honored to be selected as a Finalist for the WISE Awards for our work to advance science and math education. In our vision, advancing STEM learning and literacy is key to addressing many of today’s global challenges. We are proud to see our simulations benefiting so many teachers and learners today. And we are excited for the opportunity that this recognition by WISE affords to amplify awareness of our resources and bring them to more communities worldwide.”

Stavros N. Yiannouka, CEO of WISE, said: “We congratulate the Speed School Project, OPENPediactrics and PhET Interactive Simulations for making it to the finalist stage. The 2017 WISE Awards finalist projects have built effective, tested solutions to global educational challenges. Whether ensuring access to fundamental primary education or preparing young people for the 21st century workplace, each project is already transforming lives, and provides an inspirational model for other communities to adopt. This is vital to our mission at WISE, dedicated to empowerment and collaboration.”

The 15 projects come from nine countries. They were evaluated by a pre-Jury of international experts and the due diligence was conducted by independent education consultants from Parthenon-EY.

The finalists were evaluated according to strict criteria. They must be successful, innovative education projects that have already demonstrated a transformative impact on individuals, communities, and society. They must be financially stable, have a clear development plan and be scalable and replicable.

The six WISE Awards winning projects will be announced in September 2017 and celebrated at the eighth World Innovation Summit for Education, November 14-16, 2017, in Doha, Qatar. In addition to publicity and networking opportunities, each project receives $20,000 (US).

For further information, visit

About the WISE Awards:
Each year, the WISE Awards recognize and promote six successful innovative projects that are addressing global educational challenges. Since 2009, WISE has received more than over 3,000 applications from over 150 countries. To date, 48 projects from a wide variety of sectors and locations have won the WISE Awards, for their innovation, positive contribution and their potential for scalability and adaptability. These projects represent a growing resource of expertise and sound education practice. Year by year, WISE is building a community of education innovators which offers a fertile environment for ground-breaking collaboration. Today the WISE Awards network comprises pioneering projects that are helping bring real change to societies and communities.

The six winning projects will be announced in September 2017. The winners will attend the eighth World Innovation Summit for Education, November 14-16, 2017, in Doha, Qatar.

Discover the 2017 WISE Awards

About Parthenon EY:
Parthenon-EY is a strategy consultancy, committed to bringing unconventional yet pragmatic thinking together with our clients’ smarts to deliver actionable strategies for real impact in today’s complex business landscape. The Parthenon-EY Education practice has an explicit mission and vision to be the leading strategy advisor to the global education industry. To achieve this, the company invests significantly in dedicated management and team resources so that its global experience extends across public sector and not-for-profit education providers, foundations, for-profit companies and service providers, and investors. Parthenon-EY has delivered more than 1,000 education sector engagements across over 95 countries in the last 10 years. Parthenon-EY is a member of the global network of EY Firms.

The World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE)
The World Innovation Summit for Education was established by Qatar Foundation in 2009 under the leadership of its Chairperson, Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser. WISE is an international, multi-sectoral platform for creative, evidence-based thinking, debate, and purposeful action in education.  Through the biennial summit, collaborative research and a range of on-going programs, WISE is a global reference in new approaches to education.  WISE 2017 will take place in Doha on November 14-16, 2017 under the theme: “Co-Exist, Co-Create: Learning to Live and Work Together”.

For further information about WISE, visit

On Becoming the Luminos Fund: A Letter From the CEO

On Becoming the Luminos Fund: A Letter From the CEO

Dear Friends and Supporters,

2016 was an exciting year for us and our work to bring quality education to the world’s most disadvantaged children. In our first year as a standalone organization, we further scaled the Speed School program to bring 20,000 more children who were denied an education back to school. Additionally, we started running programs in Liberia and Lebanon with the support of three new, major funders.

Our success in scaling our work over the last year helped clarify and energize our broader vision for the Fund. What we have done with the Speed School program, we believe we can do across a range of similarly impactful methods for bringing quality education to the world’s furthest corners.

Over the course of the last year, each of you has touched us and our work in some meaningful way, supporting our successes, challenging us to think expansively about our future potential, and inspiring us with your own efforts. Your counsel, together with our experience, gave us the courage to transition now to a broader name, which better encapsulates our full spirit and vision. Reflecting on our mission to create education to unlock the light in every child, we have officially renamed ourselves the Luminos Fund. This is our new website, found here at Please take a look and let us know what you think. We will be following up with more stories of our work in the coming months.

We’re particularly excited about this name change because we believe it will help us bridge an unhelpful divide in the global education space. It so often seems that education reformers and philanthropists working around the world are having two separate conversations –

  • One is the talk of the ‘school of the future’, the Silicon Valley conversation, with a focus on how the latest innovations can help children achieve breakthrough levels of learning.
  • And the other, the developing world discussion, focuses on achieving basic literacy and numeracy for the hundreds of millions of children who are still left behind.

Both of these dialogues are vital to our collective future, but we believe it is a mistake to keep them separate. Our role as the Luminos Fund is to make these two conversations one. There’s no reason unprecedented innovation can’t occur at the very frontiers of the global education system. Indeed, with the right frame of mind, it is more likely that something transformative and different will come from these spaces at the margins of the system than from the heart of entrenched bureaucracies.

As the Luminos Fund, we will work to drive innovation at the margins of the global education system, enabling us to work with children in the greatest need and in the areas where the possibility for breakthrough change is greatest. Over the course of the next year, we will share new proposals for driving systems change and piloting best-in-class education innovations across the developing world. We hope we can look to you for further bright ideas and honest feedback as we architect our future work.

My first chance to share our new name came when I was in Liberia, on site for our first week of Speed School classes with 2,000 deserving children whose lives we’re changing through education. It seemed just perfect to be in one of education’s toughest corner—where less than half of all children get the chance to go to primary school—to restate a mission as bold as ours. The same old solutions won’t be enough to transform Liberia’s education system, but the good news is that they don’t have to be. Our work there is just one small example of the kind of transformative change we hope to catalyze. We couldn’t be more excited about the future!

With deepest gratitude for your ongoing support,



Luminos in Liberia

Luminos in Liberia

In Liberia, the ratio of students to textbooks is 28:1.

Beautiful beaches, thanks to a 360 mile-long Atlantic coastline, moderate tropical weather, and a lush green cover to boast about. But unfortunately these are not the reasons Liberia is known for in the world. Liberia is famous for having one of the poorest capital cities of Monrovia, of ranking 177th out of 188 countries in the global HDI index, and for having one of the highest rates of out-of-school children in the world.

It takes a lot of work to get to Liberia – four separate flights, depending on where you’re traveling from in the US. But as you circle over Roberts International Airport, named after the first president of Liberia, you are greeted with a green cover extending for miles, not something many countries can boast about anymore. Once in the city, you can’t help but notice the many, once-grand structures now lying in ruins, all signs of the brutal 14 years of civil war the country endured. This, combined with the signs warning about Ebola, makes you realize exactly how star crossed a country can be. With many families having lost loved ones in the war or to Ebola, the resilience and strength of the people in Liberia to be able to rise-up and start building their lives again is nothing less than extraordinary.

The former President of Liberia’s house, now in ruins following 14 years of civil war.

Under the leadership of President Sirleaf, the first woman president on the continent, the country is finally seeing some stability for the first time in years. The education sector, like everything else in Liberia, is being re-imagined. The current Minister of Education, George Werner, has been in the international spotlight for the Partnership Schools Liberia (PSL) initiative – a pilot allowing private players to manage a small number of public schools with the aim to scale to dramatically improve learning outcomes for children.

Liberia has one of the highest rates of out-of-school children in the world. While the Partnership Schools initiative works to improve learning levels of children in school, the Luminos Fund, through its Speed School program, is looking to provide out-of-school children and over-age children in public schools a chance to get back to school together with children their own age.

The Ebola outbreak caused government schools to shut down from June 2014-February 2015, exacerbating the country’s out-of-school problem.

The Luminos Fund is humbled to be starting operations in Liberia with the support of the UBS Optimus Foundation and Dubai Cares. We aim to bring 40,000 children back to school over the course of 7 years and, in the process, we hope to develop an accelerated learning model for the country which can be adopted by the government or any other organization wishing to work in this space. On February 20th, we open classrooms in Bomi and Montserrado county with the help of 4 local implementing partners. In 2017, we will enable 2,000 children to become functionally literate and numerate and help their transition into their local government schools.

On my last trip to Liberia, I visited a school with no furniture where children carried their chairs to and from home each day in order to have a place to sit and work. That kind of hunger for learning has to be honored. It’s a true privilege to have the chance to contribute to the rebuilding of this spirited country by helping its youngest citizens attain the knowledge for a brighter future.

Businesses commit $50 Million to get Syrian Children Back into School

Businesses commit $50 Million to get Syrian Children Back into School

Photo by Tyler Zang

We are delighted to share that the Luminos Fund (formally known as the Speed School Fund) has been featured in the recent GBC-Education press release, which was presented ahead of their appearance at Davos 2016, covering the subject of emergency education for out-of-school Syrian refugee children.

GBC-Education has enlisted more than 50 companies to support the education of Syrian refugee children. Together, these Coalition members and partners are committing more than $50 million through financing and in-kind support, the first set of commitments from the private sector in the lead up to the Syria Donors Conference.

These corporate commitments are critical to the global education development effort, particularly as the private sector continues to evaluate how they can support humanitarian efforts in hopes of inspiring donor governments to take further and appropriate action. Historically, companies have been bound by their corporate social responsibility pledges which limit their contributions to social efforts, or have been otherwise excluded from such conversations. Now, by directly addressing the Syrian refugee crisis, the private sector is simultaneously showcasing their unique position of delivering strategic, innovative solutions to further humanitarian efforts, while reinforcing the business case for investing in education. With the resolute stance to support out-of-school Syrian refugee children, these businesses are setting a precedent for prioritizing and rethinking approaches to protecting education in emergency.

Other contributions span across a range of institutions and include scholarship financing and mentoring for children pursuing higher education from NGO Jusoor; the curation of free digital learning content into effective curriculum through a rapidly growing online community of thousands of volunteer educators from NGO Rumie; technology supporting digital learning from The Breteau Foundation; and the expertise of institutions like New York University through its Global TIES Programme. Foundations such as Ikea Foundation, Makhzoumi Foundation and Mikati Foundation also pledged support.

GBC-Education Executive Chair Sarah Brown announced these commitments — which include not only financing, but also crucial thought leadership and in-kind support — at a press conference on Thursday during the World Economic Forum taking place in Davos, Switzerland. Norway Minister of Foreign Affairs Borge Brende, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, and UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown joined her in the effort to support the 24 million out-of-school children currently living in conflict zones.

“Our coalition members are not only supporting with money, but bringing their vast expertise, ideas, creativity, and connections to tackle this enormous challenge,” said Sarah Brown. “This is not only about getting children back into the classroom but also making sure that they are safe getting to school and that teachers have access to the right resources to ensure that they are delivering a quality of education. A challenge like this creates a space for business to really show how they can play a huge role, and make a fundamental difference to the lives of some of the most vulnerable children in the world.”

Read the press release here.

Welcome to Caitlin Baron

Welcome to Caitlin Baron

We are delighted to welcome Caitlin Baron, the inaugural Chief Executive Officer for the Luminos Fund.

Caitlin has spent ten years with the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation in senior leadership roles which have prepared her well for the challenge of launching the Speed School Fund. We are tremendously excited to have her on board and we’re confident that under her leadership the Fund will mobilize at least $250m to help millions of out-of-school children get back to school and back to a life of opportunity.

Learn more about Caitlin here.