Unlock Aid Receives Major Boost From Outside Funders

Upstart Coalition Raises Resources to Reimagine the Future of Global Development

WASHINGTON — Unlock Aid received a major boost today, announcing funding from two of the world’s leading high-impact philanthropies: Mulago Foundation and Skoll Foundation. Unlock Aid also announced Walter Kerr as its new executive director.

Unlock Aid is a new coalition of prominent, pace-setting innovators driving reforms to make global development dollars deliver greater impact. Its founders include a mix of veterans from USAID, the State Department, and the White House, as well as top global development-sector nonprofit and for-profit organizations.

“We’ve seen what public institutions can do when they have a singular focus on driving innovation and delivering results,” said Kerr. “This kind of thinking gave us three vaccines in a year and put a man on the moon.”

“Now we need our public institutions again to meet 21st century challenges like climate change and pandemic response, but too many of them are handcuffed by rules, strategies, and business practices created many decades ago,” he added. “With Mulago and Skoll’s support, Unlock Aid is positioned to drive reforms to help public institutions around the world meet this moment. We invite anyone who shares our vision for change to get involved.”

Unlock Aid’s global strategy starts with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), where Administrator Samantha Power has outlined an ambitious reform agenda. This includes working more closely with innovators based in the Global South to confront climate change, mass migration, pandemics, and rising authoritarianism, among other challenges.

Mulago and Skoll will support Unlock Aid’s charitable activities, including to provide funding for research and staff.

“Unlock Aid is poised to upend the status quo in development funding,” said Mulago Foundation CEO Kevin Starr. “This is a prime moment with big promises coming out of USAID. Unlock Aid can seize the current momentum in Congress and the Administration to advance its policy platform to help the agency deliver greater impact.”

“There are so many organizations and private philanthropies doing great work around the world, but Skoll and Mulago understand that to deliver impact at scale there’s no way around it: we need our public institutions in the mix,” said former White House official and Unlock Aid advisory board member Sonal Shah. “That’s why their support for Unlock Aid is so critical.”

The Mulago Foundation’s mission is to meet the basic needs of the very poor. The way they do that is to find and fund organizations with 1) high-impact, scalable solutions, and 2) the commitment and capacity to drive those solutions toward their full potential. Mulago does not fund projects – they fund organizations that are developing, proving, and moving important solutions to scale. Their funding is unrestricted and continues as long as they believe that the organization is still on the path to impact at scale.

The Skoll Foundation seeks to catalyze transformational social change by investing in, connecting, and championing social entrepreneurs and other social innovators who together advance bold and equitable solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. Jeff Skoll, the first employee and first president of eBay, created the Skoll Foundation in 1999 to pursue his vision of a sustainable world of peace and prosperity for all.

Led by CEO Don Gips, the Skoll Foundation is at an exciting inflection point in its two-decade-long history. With equity at the center of its evolving strategy, the Foundation seeks to fundamentally shift the trajectory of urgent global challenges including health and pandemics, inclusive economies, climate action, effective governance, and racial justice. In this evolving strategy, the Foundation is widening its aperture to include support of social innovators beyond social entrepreneurs alone, such as system orchestrators and movement builders who work together and across sectors to drive change.

Walter Kerr is the executive director and a co-founder of Unlock Aid. He is a former US diplomat and technology executive.

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