History

Founded in 2002 by Sarah Brown, Theirworld has grown into a successful non-profit organisation that works passionately to ensure all children have the best start in life, a safe place to learn, and skills for the future. 

The first project, the Jennifer Brown Research Laboratory at the University of Edinburgh, continues today, doing live-saving work to discover the causes of babies being born early, finding better ways to care for them - and save lives. 

In 2012, Theirworld became international in its outlook and reach, seeking to reach the most marginalised children and youth with sustainable and scalable change.

Theirworld reviewed its strategic objectives and set new goals during in 2017/18 with support  of the global communications group Omnicom through the UN Common Ground Initiative. What we found is that our values hold true and our history is an important part of what drives us today to end the global education crisis and unleash the potential of the next generation.

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 first began as a charity called PiggyBankKids that supported scientific and community research projects on pregnancy, childbirth complications and the most vulnerable newborn babies and children in the UK. 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 focused on unlocking community action breakthroughs 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).  The Small Grants Programme continues today. 

  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.  Each year we participate in the Edinburgh Marathon, the Great North Run and now the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 cycling event. We are proud that many of our early donors remain supporters today.

    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, Jim O’Neill, Nick Jones and Kim Cattrall. We marked our success so far with a vibrant mix of entertainment ranging from Ballet Black to live karaoke, and a play written and performed for the charity by Caitlin Moran and Stephen Mangan.

Hellen Griberg, a Theirworld 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 as an initiative of Theirworld to bring together the expertise and resource of the business community with the campaign for global education. Theirworld Chair Sarah Brown serves as Executive Chair of the coalition.

  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. The movement had the specific aim mobilising and galvanising support for education financing, and especially for children caught up in emergencies for whom no large-scale support was available.

  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 young woman from Pakistan, 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 today, Theirworld continues to support key personnel to deliver the initiative with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education for more than 300,000 refugees.

  5. November 2013

    Theirworld is launched after a branding review and name change thanks to branding and design experts Jim Prior and Nick Eagleton. We were delighted with our new name and continued to grow our reputation and profile while continuing to proritise our global projects.

  6. March 2014

    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 the United Nations Special Envoy Gordon Brown, A World at School and the Global Business Coalition for Education.

  7. September 2014

    The #UpForSchool campaign was launched at a youth rally in New York. Its aim was to harness 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 and a petition was launched to gather millions of signatures.

  8. 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 had put millions of children out of school for months in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

  9. 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 the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

  10. 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.

  11. 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, and overcome barriers to keeping them there including providing milk and nutritious snacks, and introducing better technology to classrooms.

    Theirworld Edinburgh Birth Cohort was launched at the University of Edinburgh. Researchers will follow 400 new-borns from birth to adulthood in a ground-breaking attempt to find new ways of preventing and treating brain injuries in new-borns. 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.

  12. February 2016

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

  13. March 2016

    Theirworld launched Code Clubs for girls. The clubs 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.

  14. 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.

  15. October 2016

    Theirworld launched its first campaign on early childhood development - #5for5 - backed by extensive research and reports. It began with the aim 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. We started with our #5for5 campaign to creatively make the case for early years investment and produced a range of videos featuring well-known UK, US and African comedians.

  16. November 2016

    Better Angels with Sarah Brown, a new podcast for the activist spirit, is launched. 

  17. March 2017

    Theirworld hosts its own first annual International Women’s Day breakfast at the Institute of Directors in London honouring the women of the White Helmets, and Theirworld Ambassador Sandi Toksvig presents footballer and Afghan refugee Khaleda Popal with awards to standing ovations from a packed house. This starts the annual event that has grown from strength to strength. 

  18. June 2017

    The Omnicom group of communications companies select Theirworld for dedicated pro bono support for our campaigns work as part of the United Nation’s Common Ground initiative. Through the initiative, the world’s top communications groups commit to bring their professional expertise to support the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals. Omnicom chose Sustainable Development Goal 4 – inclusive and equitable quality education for all –and then chose Theirworld. Omnicom CEO launches the multi-year commitment at Cannes with Theirworld’s Christianne Cavaliere.

    Theirworld Director Gil Mcneil is awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honour List and Founding Trustee David Boutcher is made an MBE that same year.

  19. September 2017

    The Global Business Coalition launches the Youth Skills and Innovation Commission led by Forbes 30 under 30 honoree Jamira Burley with the support of Deloitte and the Intel Foundation and a strong Commission including World Bank Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva.

  20. April 2018

    Theirworld attended the 2018 Syria pledging conference with magician Dynamo who addressed the European Commissioners on education funding for Syrian refugees.

    Each year Theirworld has taken its #YouPromised campaign to hold politicians to account for the pledge made in February 2016 to get every Syrian refugee into school. 

  21. August 2018

    With the support of the People’s Postcode Lottery, Theirworld published its pilot project report on school snacks for refugee and vulnerable Lebanese children inspired by Annemiek Hoogenboom’s observations on a field trip to schools hosting Syrian refugees. 

  22. September 2018

    Theirworld campaigning culminates with Global Youth Ambassadors delivering a multi-million signature petition to the halls of the United Nations General Assembly and the new International Financing Facility for Education is launched with the support of governments, business, civil society and international agencies. This is another marker in the movement for global education in which Theirworld plays a central role.

    Theirworld launches its first taster for new campaign created by Omnicom agency BBDO with communications strategy led by Batten & Co. The first film unveiling the new #WritetheWrong theme is shown and Theirworld is committed toDe

  23. December 2018

    Theirworld publishes report on Safe Schools The Hidden Crisis to strong reaction from global leaders and widespread support from our Global Youth Ambassadors.

    Theirworld is awarded a grant from the Harry Hole Foundation to invest in its Global Youth Ambassadors program thanks to author Jo Nesbo’s selection of Gordon Brown as recipient of his Good Guy Award.

  24. January 2019

    Justin van Fleet takes up the role as President of Theirworld and Executive Director of the Global Business Coalition for Education. Sarah Brown becomes Chair of Theirworld and many new people join the team. 

    Major partnerships are announced with Reed Smith law firm and the next stages of the Omnicom.

  25. March 2019

    National Postcode Loterij announce new grants at their Amsterdam gala for Theirworld totalling Euros 8.5 million to support continuing work for education in emergencies, and project support for education for refugee children in the Greek Islands with Education Cannot Wait.  

  26. April 2019

    Theirworld publishes its hard-hitting early years report, showing investment in learning for under-fives has decreased thanks to support from Conrad N Hilton Foundation and the Open Society Foundation. ‘Leaving the Youngest Behind’ was published with leading Cambridge University expert Dr Pauline Rose and marks the start of a dedicated effort to reverse the funding trend for our youngest citizens.

    GBC-Education and Theirworld host early years sessions during the World Bank Spring meetings alongside its regular annual events on global education and financing. 

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