About us

Theirworld is a global children’s charity committed to ending the global education crisis and unleashing the potential of the next generation.


Read on to learn more about our mission and how we deliver real impact or jump to one of the quick links below.

Our mission

Our mission is to ensure that every child has the best start in life, a safe place to learn, and skills for the future.

We achieve our mission by combining the power of campaigning, policy, and innovative projects, to unlock change. We anticipate, target, and solve the complex barriers keeping children and youth from education and opportunity.

Informed by breakthrough research and activated by our influential network of next generation partners, we work with youth, governments, businesses, NGOs and campaigners to develop and deploy solutions to unleash the potential of the next generation.

Learn more about what we do.

Unlock big change

We set agendas through our reports and calls to action, forge powerful partnerships with foundations, business, young people, campaigners and civil society organizations.

We campaign to unlock financing and political will at the highest level while simultaneously innovating to deliver and scale up inclusive solutions focused on the most marginalised. Our model has led to a strong track record of delivering impact.

This is how we Unlock Big Change for the next generation.

Our impact

Over the past 10 years, our projects have directly supported about 100,000 children and youth and improved the lives of more than half a million children, teachers, and families. Our campaigns have engaged more than 11 million supporters, leading to initiatives that have helped more than 4.5 million children go to school. We:

  • Set agendas. Our policy and research bring forward the most relevant evidence to expose gaps in delivering opportunity and set the bar higher for governments and the international community to deliver results for the next generation. All our work starts from a strong evidence base
  • Forge powerful partnerships. The global education crisis is so big that everyone has something to contribute. We combine the power and know-how of young people, the business community, civil society, philanthropists, campaigners and academia, working together in new ways
  • Campaign and innovate. We mobilise our networks to take on the next barrier standing in the way of opportunity for young people. We also deliver on-the-ground projects to solve challenges facing the most marginalised young people – including newborns, refugees, children with disabilities and girls – and collaborate with partners to expand what works
  • Deliver impact. We deliver transformative results that transcend the work of any single organisation to unleash sustainable and scalable change. We reach for high-hanging fruit and never let go, to ensure political will, financing, inclusion and innovation meet the needs of the next generation

Our history

2002-2011

PiggyBankKids launched

PiggyBankKids was founded in 2002 with the initial aim of supporting scientific and community research to help the most vulnerable children get the best start in life

Jennifer Brown Research Fund created

Theirworld created the Jennifer Brown Research Fund to invest in the best medical research for safe pregnancy and premature birth. The fund, and the laboratory it would support, was named by Theirworld Chair Sarah Brown and her husband Gordon in memory of their first child Jennifer.

Jennifer Brown Research Laboratory established

The Jennifer Brown Research Laboratory was established at the University of Edinburgh in 2004. It launched with a small team of scientists and clinical experts from the New Royal Infirmary Edinburgh and four Research Fellows – all women – to lead the way in bringing obstetric and neonatal work together in one lab.

Read more about the Jennifer Brown Research Laboratory

Small Grants Programme launched

Theirworld’s Small Grants Programme was created in 2004, focusing on unlocking community action breakthroughs in health and education. Early successes included Granny School (a refresher course for first-time grandparents), Learning Care Pathways for Disabled and Vulnerable Mums and Playaway Bus (a mobile centre for health visitors to talk to mums while children played onboard). 

Read more about Theirworld's Small Grants Programme

Fundraising to support our mission

As a charity that takes no government funding, fundraising has always been central to supporting Theirworld initiatives like the Jennifer Brown Research Laboratory and Small Grants Programme.

In our first decade, we began building a strong network of fundraisers, many of whom continue to support us today. Volunteers started to take part in fun runs and marathons, and we linked up with prominent partners to host events like football tournaments at Glasgow’s Hampden Park and Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge.

To this day volunteers push themselves to the limit to support our work to end the global education crisis. Each year Theirworld supporters can be seen taking part in events including the Edinburgh and London Marathons, the Great North Run and the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 cycling event.

Learn more about becoming a Theirworld supporter.

2012

10-year anniversary and Global Business Coalition for Education founded

We celebrated our 10th anniversary with a rooftop festival in London hosted by Sarah Brown, Jim O’Neill, Nick Jones and Kim Cattrall.

The Global Business Coalition for Education was founded as an initiative of Theirworld to boost the campaign for global education by collaborating with the global business community. It would go on to build a membership of more than 100 influential private sector companies, all of whom recognise the importance of supporting quality education and learning for children and young adults.

Read more about Global Business Coalition for Education

2013

A World At School

A global movement was born when Theirworld started A World At School with the aim of galvanising support for education financing and especially for children caught up in emergencies. This led to the first-ever Youth Takeover of the United Nations where Malala Yousafzai made the famous speech in which she stated: “One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world.” This was also the creation of our Global Youth Ambassador programme which provides the skills, knowledge and a community to young people who are passionate about ending the education crisis at a local and global level.

Read more about Theirworld's Global Youth Ambassadors

Education without borders

Later that year the idea of double-shift schools for Syrian refugees in Lebanon was born when A World at School published the influential report, ‘Education Without Borders’. The report’s recommendations, which were backed by UN agencies and taken forward by the Lebanese Ministry of Education, led to more than 300,000 displaced children receiving an education in Lebanon.

Read more about Double-Shift schools

2014

Safe Schools Initiative Nigeria

In the wake of the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls and other attacks on education, Theirworld launched the first Safe Schools Initiative reaching more than 500 schools in northern Nigeria. Theirworld later launched other Safe Schools Initiatives for Syrian refugees, children affected by the Ebola crisis, students in Latin America and in Pakistan.

Read Theirworld’s report ‘Safe Schools: The Hidden Crisis’

#UpForSchool campaign launched

2014 also saw the launch of  #UpForSchool, a global movement demanding world leaders keep to their promise of a primary school education for every child by the end of 2015. Powered by the passion of Theirworld’s Global Youth Ambassadors, #UpForSchool youth rallies were held in Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Norway, India and the United Kingdom. A petition was launched with the aim of gathering the signatures of millions of people around the world who backed the campaign to deliver education for all

2015

#UpForSchool campaign success

In 2015 the #UpForSchool campaign created the biggest education petition in history: by September of that year, more than 10 million signatures had been gathered from over 200 countries. More than 1,000 young people, campaigners, celebrities and leaders gathered in New York to deliver the petition, and musician Shakira handed it to the United Nations with a plea for education to be placed at the top of the global agenda.

Read more about the #UpForSchool impact

Safe Schools initiative

In 2015 Theirworld also launched the Pakistan Safe Schools initiative and a collection of reports on the state of the education crisis for refugee children in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon warning about the risks from lack of donor funding.

Edinburgh Birth Cohort launched

We rounded out the year with the launch of the Edinburgh Birth Cohort in conjunction with the University of Edinburgh. In this groundbreaking study, researchers from the Jennifer Brown Research Laboratory follow 400 newborns from birth to adulthood, with the aim of finding new ways to prevent and treat brain injuries in newborns, and deepen understanding of how being born too soon affects health in later life.

Read more about the Edinburgh Birth Cohort

2016

Education Cannot Wait Fund

Theirworld’s campaigning led to the creation of the Education Cannot Wait Fund at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul. The first fund aimed at transforming how education is delivered in humanitarian crises, it aims to help 75 million children by 2030.

Read more about education in emergencies

#5for5 campaign

We also released our first major campaign on early childhood education and development: #5for5 creatively made the case for early years investment through a range of videos made with well-known comedians from the UK, US and Africa.

Read more about the funding shortfall for early years

Partner projects

Following on from our work in Lebanon, 2016 saw Theirworld start working with several partners on projects aimed at helping Syrian refugee children in Turkey. And in Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria we supported new Code Clubs which helped girls develop their digital literacy.

2017

Strengthening partnerships

At the start of the year, we hosted our first International Women’s Day breakfast, at which we honoured the heroic Syrian women of the White Helmets. 

As part of the United Nations Common Ground initiative’s commitment to tackling the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the Omnicom communications group selected Theirworld for dedicated pro-bono support.  The partnership saw Omnicom join together with Theirworld to focus on Sustainable Development Goal 4: inclusive and equitable quality education for all.

2018

Funding unlocked

As part of the #YouPromised campaign, which called for world leaders to meet their promise of an education for every Syrian refugee child,  Theirworld worked with magician Dynamo. He joined us in visiting a refugee camp in Lebanon and then in addressing European Commissioners in Brussels. An EU aid package including 100m euros for access to schooling was announced three months later. 

Read more about education in emergencies

Launch of the new International Financing Facility for Education (IFFEd)

Our campaigning for funding that year also saw us playing a central role in the launch of the new International Financing Facility for Education (IFFEd). The programme aims to address the persistent education funding gap by enabling partnerships between developing countries, international financial institutions and private donors. 

Theirworld’s Global Youth Ambassadors spearheaded an advocacy campaign to back IFFEd, which resulted in 1.5 million people signing a petition which they then took to the halls of the United Nations.  Countries subsequently committed to set up the Facility, which aims to raise $10 billion by 2030.

Read more about Theirworld’s work to increase funding for early years

2019

New leadership and partnerships strengthen our work

In 2019 Justin van Fleet took up the role of President of Theirworld and founder Sarah Brown became the Chair of Trustees. Major partnerships were announced with Reed Smith law firm as well as Omnicom. National Postcode Loterij announced grants totalling nearly 8.5 million euros to support our continuing work on education in emergencies including support for refugee children’s education in the Greek Islands.

With the support of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and Open Society Foundations we published our hard-hitting early years report, ‘Leaving the Youngest Behind‘, in conjunction with Cambridge University expert Dr Pauline Rose.

Read Theirworld's report 'Leaving the Youngest Behind: Declining aid to early childhood education (April 2019)'

2020

The Key launched in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic

Theirworld launched ‘The Key‘, an information toolkit designed to help campaigners make a clear and robust case for education funding in the aftermath of the pandemic. 

The resource contains messages, statistics, talking points and infographics about dozens of subjects where education plays a key role, allowing users to ‘Copy, Paste and Advocate’.

Visit The Key

2021

Making up lost ground due to the pandemic

Theirworld launched The Education Finance Playbook, mapping out the plan to dramatically expand funding education for every child by 2030 and make up ground lost due to the pandemic,

Read The Education Finance Playbook

Greek government adopts Theirworld blueprint for providing refugee education

Theirworld succeeded in our mission of unlocking big change when the Greek government committed to partnering with the United Nations to provide all 26,000 school-age refugee children in the country with an education. This was in direct response to a blueprint for reform set out by Theirworld in our report ‘Finding Solutions to Greece’s Refugee Education Crisis’.

Read Theirworld's report 'Finding solutions to Greece’s refugee education crisis'

Groundbreaking research released

A new report by experts Maysa Jalbout and Katy Bullard put forward big ideas to transform the landscape of early childhood education in refugee settings. We also released another landmark report on the chronic underfunding of pre-primary education.

Read 'A better start? A progress check on donor funding for pre-primary education and early childhood development'

2022

Theirworld celebrates 20 years of unlocking big change!

This year we will celebrate two decades of working to end the global education crisis. There will be new reports, events and campaigns launched. If you’d like to join us in our mission to ensure equitable education, find out ways to get involved.

Get Involved