Three things the world of celebrity has taught me about NGOs and education

1. Anyone can set up an NGO, in fact most celebrities seem to have one. It has almost become the 'in' thing to do. The INSERT CELEBRITY NAME Foundation seems popular... However, it takes much more than that for an NGO to be successful. And, it seems the type of celebrity you are is likely to determine its success given that the NGO the celebrity sets up is often linked to what they are famous for. So surely a 'Kim Kardashian Foundation' is likely to pale in comparison to the 'Nelson Mandela Foundation'. Well, you'd hope so. 

2. That leads to the second thing I've learned: Education is not really up there on the list of celebrity foundation mandates. Why? Because very few celebrities - well, at least that I know of - are famous for being educators or similar.

The final point then:

3. In a world where 'celebrity rules', education - in not being linked to the world of celebrity - doesn't seem to get much publicity on the grand scale. The likes of Angelina Jolie are long-time ambassadors for refugees for example, or David Beckham for children's issues (because of his work with UNICEF), however I can't seem to think of someone who advocates for education in and of itself. Time we changed that? And if yes, who do you think would work well as the 'face' of education reform either internationally or in your country?


  1. Farheen on LinkedIn12 August 2012 at 17:00

    Greetings from Singapore! There is a lady I listened to recently (May 2012) who has started up Riverside School in Ahmedabad, India. She was just sooo inspiring and although not a celebrity (yet methinks!) to answer your question, who do we think work well of the face of education reform, I would nominate her. Her school believes in teaching empowerment to every child so they can effect social change in their respective communities. Especially kids from marginalised backgrounds.

    Her name is Kiran Bir Sethi. She is the founder of the world renowned Riverside School in Ahmedabad, a TED India Fellow and an Ashoka Fellow, teaches her kids the valuable lesson of “I Can”. She is also the pioneer of aProCh –which stands for “A Protagonist in every Child”.

    Kiran has been recognised internationally as an award winning social entrepreneur, education reformer, and has recently been chosen as one of 12 Thought Leaders of the World – an Innovation Knight for the i4P (Innovation for Peace) Society, New York.

  2. I also really worry about the whole celebrity thing. They can generate publicity but they rarely want to discuss the 'hard truths'.

  3. Riki on LinkedIn27 August 2012 at 11:12

    There are certainly celebrities that supports edducation, but often do so out of their own pocket and not simply for the publicity. One such example is Oprah Winfrey. She also combines education with achieving gender equality. Quite a few members of the music world supported the Nelson Mandela music festival without charge. Few of you will remember Paul McCartney's Concert for Bangladesh. A large portion of the latter's proceeds went to education. A celebrity lives a fast life and, understandably does not have a lot of time on hands, but NGO's should approach celebrities to come on board with existing and established organisations and not leave it to the celebrities to start their own. It is simply a fact of life that a pop star's name and face attracts attention and funds for an NGO. So go out their and find an idol to under write your NGO.