This is an excerpt of an article written by Eric Knee based on an interview with Jeff Skoll. It appeared in the Stanford Social Innovation Review's Spring 2012 issue.
One of Jeff Skoll’s passions is storytelling. It stems from his youth, when he hoped to be a writer and inspire people to help solve the world’s biggest problems. Skoll took a detour on that path—moving from Toronto to Silicon Valley, where he met Pierre Omidyar and became eBay’s first employee and president. That detour, however, was fortunate, because it has enabled him to tackle his early passions on a scale that he could only have dreamed.
Skoll left eBay several billion dollars richer, and he has been giving away a good share of it ever since. By Forbes’s estimate, Skoll has donated about $1.2 billion, putting him in an elite club of the 20 living people in the world who have donated the most money (think Bill Gates, Li Ka-shing, and Carlos Slim Helú).
Skoll’s first philanthropic venture was the Skoll Foundation. Since its founding in 1999, the foundation has been instrumental in supporting and popularizing social entrepreneurship. The foundation has done that the traditional way, by providing financial and logistical support to hundreds of social entrepreneurs. But it’s also gone about it in a unique manner, through storytelling—a sophisticated program to popularize social entrepreneurship that includes underwriting documentaries on PBS NewsHour, broadcasts on National Public Radio, feature-length movies with the Sundance Institute, the Social Edge blog, and the Skoll World Forum.
In 2009, Skoll created the Skoll Global Threats Fund, focused on responding quickly to events that threaten the world’s health and stability. The foundation, headed by former Google.org Executive Director Larry Brilliant, uses a variety of tools to tackle problems like climate change and conflict in the Middle East.
In this interview with Stanford Social Innovation Review Managing Editor Eric Nee, Jeff Skoll discusses how the Skoll Foundation’s work has evolved over the years, what makes Participant Media such a successful movie studio, and why he created the Global Threats Fund.
To read the full article and interview, please click here.