13 episodes

The Impact Room is a new space to connect people and ideas that make a real difference to our world. Step inside to hear stories of success and failure from a host of global guests, all working to solve some of the world’s most intractable development challenges. From youth unemployment and internet freedom, to modern slavery, neglected tropical diseases, and much more, we will be talking to and about the people and ideas that make a real difference to our world. The Impact Room is brought to you by Philanthropy Age and hosted by Maysa Jalbout.

The Impact Room Philanthropy Age

    • Business
    • 5.0 • 8 Ratings

The Impact Room is a new space to connect people and ideas that make a real difference to our world. Step inside to hear stories of success and failure from a host of global guests, all working to solve some of the world’s most intractable development challenges. From youth unemployment and internet freedom, to modern slavery, neglected tropical diseases, and much more, we will be talking to and about the people and ideas that make a real difference to our world. The Impact Room is brought to you by Philanthropy Age and hosted by Maysa Jalbout.

    Shifting the power: why development dynamics need to change

    Shifting the power: why development dynamics need to change

    In this final episode of the current series of The Impact Room, Asif Saleh, executive director of BRAC, the world’s largest NGO, joins Maysa Jalbout to discuss community-led solution systems, microfinance, and climate accountability.
    BRAC began in 1972 as a relief organisation to support displaced people in the newly-independent Bangladesh, but in the five decades since, it has grown to become the largest – and arguably – most enterprising NGO in the world.
    Its programmes span poverty reduction, gender equality, community empowerment, health care, and pro-poor urban development. A pioneer in microfinance and the graduation approach, BRAC also runs 10 social enterprises and has its own insurance company. 
    The first so-called Global South organisation to launch international operations, BRAC is a major provider of humanitarian support for the millions of Rohingya refugees who have fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar.
    Despite BRAC being the world’s largest NGO, Asif is passionate about the need for more action on global commitments to listen to and build the capacity of smaller and local organisations. 
    “There’s a lot of talk around that we need to do this, but the how part of how we are going to do this is completely missing,” he tells host, Maysa Jalbout. “What you hear is when you talk to the donors is that it's too risky to support some of the local organisations because they didn't have enough capacity and systems in place. 
    “But then how are these local organisations going to build their capacity if they are squeezed for every single penny? It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation,” he adds.
    As we recorded this episode of The Impact Room, Bangladesh was grappling with some of its worst flooding on record. Asif urges the world to “wake up” to the realities of climate change which he says is threatening to reverse decades of development gains.
    Asif began his career in the private sector, holding senior positions with global corporates such as Goldman Sachs, Glaxo Wellcome, and IBM. He joined BRAC in 2011, first as director of communication and social innovation, then rising through the ranks to become executive director in 2019.
    Listen to this wide-ranging interview with Asif to also hear his thoughts on the Rohingya refugee response, why BRAC’s approach to microfinance is different, and why he left his corporate career behind to join the development sector.
    About the host
    Maysa Jalbout is a leader in international development and philanthropy. Her previous roles include founding CEO of the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education, a $1bn philanthropic initiative based in Dubai, and founding CEO of the Queen Rania Foundation. Maysa is a visiting scholar at MIT and ASU, and a non-resident Fellow at the Brookings Institution. Find her on Twitter @MaysaJalbout.

    The Impact Room is produced by Philanthropy Age. Follow us on social media @PhilanthropyAge. This episode was edited by Louise Redvers.

    This is the last in the current series of The Impact Room. We'll be back with more episodes very soon. 

    • 35 min
    Tipping point: why we need new solutions for refugees

    Tipping point: why we need new solutions for refugees

    As the number of forcibly displaced people around the world surpasses 100 million, Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, joins Maysa Jalbout in The Impact Room to discuss new pathways to respond to the global displacement crisis.

    Ukraine alone has generated more than six million refugee movements since the Russian invasion in February, and the knock-on effect that this has had on grain exports has triggered global food shortages, which in turn threaten to lead to widespread unrest, and likely more displacement.
    The humanitarian system is at breaking point and with global displacement forecast to hit one billion by 2050, there is an urgent need for new and innovative solutions.
    Have we reached a tipping point? Do we as a world need to rethink our collective conscience regarding freedom of movement and what it means to be a refugee? Is the current system fit-for-purpose or does it need an overhaul?
    In a special edition of The Impact Room recorded in the run-up to World Refugee Day, host Maysa Jalbout puts these questions and more to the UNHCR chief. 

    Also interviewed in this episode of The Impact Room is Sasha Chanoff, the founder and CEO of Refuge Point, a non-profit running refugee resettlement programmes and advocating for policy changes for the rights of refugees globally with a focus on long-term solutions.
    One organisation that is trying to help find long-term answers to displacement is Talent Beyond Boundaries (TBB), a nonprofit that helps to match skilled refugees to job opportunities in new countries to support labour mobility and plug global talent gaps.
    CEO Steph Cousins, explains to Maysa how TBB has found durable work solutions for hundreds of refugees in private and public sector companies in Australia, Canada, and the UK, and that it has plans to expand into Portugal, Ireland, Belgium, the US, and New Zealand.
    Also appearing on this episode to give their views on a global system that is supposed to help - but which often makes lives harder - are two young refugees: Amna Abo Zuhair, a Palestinian  living in Jordan, and Jean Marie Ishimwe, a Rwandan in Kenya. 
    Amna, 29, is a monitoring and evaluation project manager at Sitti, a social enterprise employing Palestinian refugee women from Jerash camp in Jordan. She is also the in-country director of Hopes for Women in Education, a language exchange, education, and women’s empowerment organisation, as well as a steering committee member of the Refugee Self-Reliance Initiative (RSRI), a global multi-stakeholder collaboration promoting opportunities for refugees to become self-reliant and achieve a better quality of life.
    Jean Marie Ishimwe, meanwhile, is the chairperson and lead of a refugee led organisation known as Youth Voices Community (YVC), which focuses on giving a voice to refugee and vulnerable local youths in Nairobi, Kenya. The 25-year-old is also the founder of a refugee-led Social Enterprise called Nawezaa, which uses media, mentorship, and technology to create impact in refugee communities.
    The Impact Room is brought to you by Philanthropy Age and Maysa Jalbout. This episode was produced and edited by Louise Redvers.
     Maysa Jalbout is a leader in international development and philanthropy. She is a visiting scholar at MIT and ASU, and a non-resident Fellow at the Brookings Institution. Find her on Twitter @MaysaJalbout.

    • 53 min
    The TV show helping kids affected by war and displacement

    The TV show helping kids affected by war and displacement

    Sesame Street has been entertaining children around the world for generations. First launched in 1969, the show was an experiment to see if television – then just an emerging technology – could be used to educate young children. 
    Today, this unique style of education and social messaging continues to be delivered by a diverse cast of muppets – and humans – to children and caregivers across seven continents in more than a dozen different languages.
    In this episode of The Impact Room, we take a detailed look at Ahlan Simsim, a new Arabic language version of the show, which has been designed specifically to target Middle Eastern children affected by war and displacement, and its sister programme supporting Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. 
    Ahlan Simim uses music and humour to tackle emotional issues and provide youngsters (and their caregivers) tools for dealing with feelings of fear and anxiety. It mixes media outputs, training sessions, and school materials to also deliver basic literacy and numeracy learning for children who may be locked out of formal education.
    Sesame Workshop received more than $100m of grant funding from the MacArthur Foundation for the project it is doing in partnership with International Rescue Committee (IRC). A year later, The Lego Foundation gave Sesame Workshop another $100m to support its work with BRAC and their programming for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. 

    Together, these two grants are the largest ever philanthropic intervention into early years education in a humanitarian setting.

    To discuss Ahlan Simsim, our host Maysa Jalbout, is joined by Shari Rosenfeld, senior vice president of International Social Impact at Sesame Workshop, and Marianne Stone, Ahlan Simim regional project director for IRC.
    She also speaks to Professor Hiro Yoshikawa, a community and development psychologist specialising in early childhood and the co-founder of Global TIES, a research centre at New York University, which is carrying out an Impact evaluation of Ahlan Simsim.
    “The vision here is to really to develop a new set of models in this somewhat brand-new field of early childhood development in the humanitarian sector, which has been largely overlooked for a very long time," he explains.
    Many of the topics explored as well as materials used in Ahlan Simsim are applicable to other conflict and displacement settings. Indeed, some of the content is already being adapted for other countries.
    In Iraq, for example, the US government’s overseas development agency, USAID, has provided additional funding to create some Iraq-specific Ahlan Simsim materials. 
    And, just as we were putting this podcast episode together, Sesame workshop confirmed that work was also underway to create a new suite of resources in Dari, Pashto, Spanish, Ukrainian, and English - with additional languages to follow - to support young children and caregivers affected by crisis.
    For more about Ahlan Simsim and the work of Sesame Workshop in the Middle East visit their website or the IRC website.
    The Impact Room is brought to you by Philanthropy Age and Maysa Jalbout. This episode was produced and edited by Louise Redvers.

    • 25 min
    The superyacht millionaires who launched a migrant rescue mission

    The superyacht millionaires who launched a migrant rescue mission

    Every year, tens of thousands of migrants risk their lives attempting to cross the Mediterranean. Fleeing failed or fragile states and packed into overfilled boats, they seek a better life in Europe.


    Many don’t make it, either drowning en-route or being turned back by coast guards under strict orders not to assist them. In 2021 alone, more than 3,000 people  drowned or were lost at sea, compared to 1,776 the previous year, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).


    Malta-based entrepreneurs Christopher and Regina Catrambone were so moved by the scale of the tragedy at sea - and the lack of help provided by the authorities - that they mounted their own response, investing $8 million to buy a ship, the Phoenix, outfit it and transport across the Atlantic to Europe.


    The Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) launched in 2013, becoming the first non-governmental search and rescue operation in the central Mediterranean.


    It completed its first mission in 2014, rescuing more than three thousand migrants over a period of just 90 days. Over the next three years, MOAS would rescue over 35,000 more, working in partnership with a number of other aid organisations, including Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).


    MOAS suspended its search and rescue operations in 2017 and shifted its operational focus to Bangladesh to support the influx of Rohingya refugees fleeing violence in Myanmar, while also delivering aid to people caught up in the crises in Yemen and Syria.


    In early 2022, the charity launched a new initiative delivering medical relief and first response services to civilians affected by the escalating violence in Ukraine.


    As well as these aid mission, in parallel, MOAS has become an active voice in global advocacy for migrants through its Safe and Legal Routes campaign, and in partnership with UNHCR, it has helped to evacuate vulnerable migrants stranded in Libya.


    In this episode of The Impact Room, Christopher and Regina take us back to the beginning of MOAS, what triggered them to take such bold action, and what they’ve learned along the way about the both the migrant crisis and the global humanitarian system.

    The Impact Room is brought to you by Philanthropy Age and Maysa Jalbout. Find us on social media at @PhilanthropyAge.

    About the host


    Maysa Jalbout is a leader in international development and philanthropy. Her previous roles include founding CEO of the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education, a $1bn philanthropic initiative based in Dubai, and founding CEO of the Queen Rania Foundation. Maysa is a visiting scholar at MIT and ASU, and a non-resident Fellow at the Brookings Institution. Find her on Twitter @MaysaJalbout.

    • 51 min
    The Indian NGO rewriting the global education playbook

    The Indian NGO rewriting the global education playbook

    Rukmini Banerji is CEO of India’s Pratham Education Foundation.
    Founded 25 years ago to teach out-of-school youngsters in the slums of Mumbai, Pratham  has grown to become one of the country's largest NGOs, delivering high quality but low-cost interventions to millions of Indian children.
    It works directly with children and youth as well as through large-scale collaborations with government systems using mapping and data to help inform teaching approaches.
    Pratham's Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) has become a key benchmarking tool for the Indian education system, while its Teaching at the Right Level (TARL), programme, “has led to some of the largest learning gains among rigorously evaluated education programmes”, according to the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL).
    In 2021, in recognition of her contribution to the sector, Rukmini was awarded the prestigious Yidan Prize for education.
    In this episode of The Impact Room, Rukmini talks about balancing inputs with outcomes, parental engagement, and the importance of partnerships in delivering systemic change.
    “Big change doesn't happen because you drop training modules onto a context, or you create an app or you create some kind of an assessment,” she says. “It happens when energised and motivated individuals put all these things together.  That's how real change happens.”
    For more on Pratham, visit their website or follow them on social media at @Pratham_India. You may also be interested in this guide from the Brookings Institution about family-school engagement.
    The Impact Room is brought to you by Philanthropy Age and Maysa Jalbout. 

    • 39 min
    Unpacking the myth of the ‘good refugee’

    Unpacking the myth of the ‘good refugee’

    In the politics of migration, refugees are either demonised as intruders or celebrated for their success. But how does this distinction of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ refugees shape public policies and perceptions? And what is the effect on those who are defined by it?
    In the media narratives of the west, refugees are most commonly painted as economic interlopers, with calls for ever-harsher immigration policies to keep them out. Yet, more rarely, we also see the glorifying of refugees deemed to have made good.
    In this dichotomy, ‘good’ refugees are those that have beaten the odds, excelling in their host nations by becoming surgeons, academics, or even Olympians. Models of integration, they are feted for their success and held up for praise. Pitted against them are the ‘bad’ immigrants, the unworthy and undeserving, who are castigated for taking up jobs and benefits, and for failing to assimilate.
    This polarised narrative affects both policies and public opinion towards refugees, impacting directly on the lives and safety of those seeking asylum.
    To discuss this, and to share their first-hand experiences, host Maysa Jalbout, herself a former refugee, is joined in The Impact Room by writers and advocates Abdullahi Alim and Zarlasht Halaimzai.
    Abdullahi left war-torn Somalia as a child, and after a short spell living undocumented in a neighbouring African country, was granted asylum and later citizenship in Australia. A former young Australian of the Year finalist and recipient of the Queen Elizabeth Young Leaders Award, Abdullahi is today based in Geneva, where he works for the World Economic Forum, overseeing The Davos Lab and the Africa and Middle East Global Shapers community. Zarlasht was born in Soviet-occupied Kabul in 1982, a country she left when she was 11 years old. After four years travelling overland, her family settled in the UK, where she is now a citizen. In 2016, Zarlasht co-founded Refugee Trauma Initiative to provide psychosocial support to asylum seekers and refugees arriving in Greece. In 2018, she was selected as an Obama Foundation fellow.
    Sharing their personal experiences of displacement, and the struggle to navigate a new identity, Abdullahi and Zarlasht offer a raw glimpse of a journey taken by millions but understood by few. They discuss the toxicity associated with the ‘good refugee’ label and give practical suggestions for how policymakers and individuals can help influence change.
    The Impact Room is brought to you by Philanthropy Age and Maysa Jalbout.  Find us on social media at @PhilanthropyAge.

    • 48 min

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