Founded in 2002 by the campaigner and author Sarah Brown, Theirworld has grown into an organisation that works passionately to ensure children are given the best opportunities in life - through campaigning, research, advocacy, projects, movements and coalitions, and holding political leaders and donors to account.

From launching a research laboratory to pioneering double-shift schooling for Syrian refugees, here is a look at some of the key moments in our history.

Sarah Brown at the Jennifer Brown Research Laboratory

Photo credit: Theirworld

The first 10 years

Theirworld began as PiggyBankKids, a charity aimed at supporting scientific and community research projects on pregnancy and childbirth complications. Now Theirworld is an innovative and global children’s charity that helps young people of all ages across the world to fulfil their potential.

  1. Piggy Bank Kids

    PiggyBankKids was founded with the initial aim of supporting scientific and community research to help the most vulnerable children have the best start in life and the greatest opportunity to realise their potential.

  2. Jennifer Brown Fund

    Theirworld created the Jennifer Brown Research Fund to invest in the best medical research for safe pregnancy and premature birth, and to explore how community projects could also help support vulnerable pregnant mothers and their babies and children.

    In 2004, the Jennifer Brown Research Laboratory was established at the University of Edinburgh. It started with a small team of brilliant young scientists, overseen by a dedicated team of clinical experts from the New Royal Infirmary Edinburgh. It was launched with four Research Fellows - all women - and led the way in bringing obstetric and neonatal work together in one lab.

    The team’s pioneering research work found early success with academic publications and awards to recognise their work. The knowledge gained from this research was transferred to clinical work - allowing doctors, midwives and nurses to better care for the most vulnerable premature babies.

    The laboratory is still home to a team of world-class scientists and clinicians, working with a unified focus and commitment to solving unanswered questions in perinatal medicine.

  3. Small Grants

    Theirworld had success with its Small Grants programme ranging from Granny School (a refresher course for first-time grandparents) to Learning Care Pathways for Disabled and Vulnerable Mums to Playaway Bus (a mobile centre for health visitors to talk to mums while children play on board).

  4. Fundraisers

    Theirworld was supported by a network of fundraising individuals across Britain, often moved by their own personal experience. Our volunteers have taken part in fun runs and more arduous challenges and each year we participate in the Edinburgh Marathon, the Great North Run and now the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 cycling event.

    We hosted memorable fundraising events including football tournaments at Hampden Park in Glasgow and Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge, and a dinner at Chequers hosted by Elle Macpherson.

  5. 10th Anniversary

    We celebrated our 10th anniversary with a rooftop festival in London hosted by Sarah Brown and Kim Cattrall.

Hellen Griberg, an A World at School Global Youth Ambassador, meets UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the Oslo Education summit in 2015, watched by Theirworld's Campaigns Director Ben Hewitt

Since 2012

  1. October 2012

    The Global Business Coalition for Education was founded. An initiative of Theirworld, it brings together the expertise and resources of the business community with the campaign for global education. Theirworld President Sarah Brown is also Executive Chair of GBC-Education.

  2. February 2013

    A global movement was born when Theirworld started A World at School, which has grown into an extensive community of millions of people campaigning for every child’s right to education.

  3. July 2013

    The first ever Youth Takeover of the United Nations was held, organised by the President of the UN General Assembly, UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown and A World at School, working with more than 100 organisations. Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban for wanting to go to school, made her famous speech that included the line "One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world." The following year A World at School and partners organised a similar Youth Takeover of the African Union.

  4. September 2013

    The idea of double-shift schools for Syrian refugees was born when A World At School published an influential report by Kevin Watkins - then Executive Director of the Overseas Development Institute - on Syrian children out of school in Lebanon. The report promoted the idea of “double-shift” schooling, where Lebanese children attend in the morning and Syrian children in the afternoon, in the same school buildings. This approach was taken up by the Lebanese government and has also been adopted in other host countries.

  5. March 2013

    The Safe Schools Initiative Nigeria was launched in the wake of the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls and other attacks on education.  This reached more than 500 schools in the northern states through funding initially by a coalition of Nigerian business leaders, working with Gordon Brown, A World at School and the Global Business Coalition for Education.

  6. September 2014

    The #UpForSchool campaign was launched at a youth rally in New York. Its aim was to create a global movement demanding that world leaders kept to their promise to get every child into primary school by the end of 2015. #UpForSchool youth rallies were then held in Kenya, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Norway and the United Kingdom.

  7. December 2014

    The Global Business Coalition for Education, in association with A World at School, published a report on restoring education after the Ebola crisis (LINK TO REPORT) had put millions of children out of school for months in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

  8. February 2015

    In the wake of the Peshawar school massacre and terrorist attacks on thousands of schools, A World at School launched a 15-point plan for a Pakistan Safe Schools Initiative. It was backed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

  9. September 2015

    Theirworld, with A World at School and the Global Business Coalition for Education, launched a collection of reports on the state of the educational crisis for Syrian refugee children in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. The reports warned a lack of donor funding was leaving one million children out of school and at risk of child labour, early marriage, exploitation and extremism.

    The #UpForSchool petition became the biggest education petition in history - with more than 10 million signatures. More than 1000 young people, campaigners, celebrities and leaders gathered in New York to mark the momentous hand-in of the petition to the United Nations.

  10. October 2015

    Theirworld supported efforts to get Syrian refugee children into school in Lebanon through the double-shift system first proposed in 2013. We developed projects to help children back into education, including providing milk and nutritious snacks, and introducing better technology to classrooms.

    The Edinburgh Birth Cohort was launched by Theirworld at the University of Edinburgh. Researchers will follow 400 newborns from birth to adulthood in a groundbreaking attempt to find new ways of preventing and treating brain injuries in newborns. The team will track their lifelong health and development and hope this will lead to an understanding of how being born too soon affects health in later life.

  11. February 2016

    Theirworld began working with partners in Turkey to address the barriers preventing Syrian refugee children from getting an education. This includes setting up Turkish language training programmes to ensure a smooth transition to the public school system.

  12. March 2016

    Theirworld launched Code Clubs for girls. They are safe spaces where girls can learn about technology and develop their skills, confidence and creativity. In partnership with Kano, Codeacademy and Africa Gathering, Theirworld established the first clubs in Kenya and Uganda. In October 2016, Code Club Nigeria was launched in collaboration with the Oando Foundation.

  13. May 2016

    Theirworld and A World at School had campaigned for a platform to be set up to meet the needs of education in humanitarian emergencies. At the World Humanitarian Summit, leaders announced the launch of the Education Cannot Wait Fund, which aims to help more than 13 million children in its first five years and 75 million by 2030.

  14. October 2016

    Theirworld launched its first campaign on early childhood development, backed by extensive research and reports. The aim is to put pressure on world leaders to take urgent action to make sure all children, especially the poorest and most marginalised, have access to the full range of nurturing care.

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