"Si, se puede", says Jeff Skoll, determined to grow his social mission film company

by Astrid Zweynert | azweynert | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 10 April 2014 15:22 GMT

Jeff Skoll, chairman of the Skoll Foundation, speaks at the opening ceremony of the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship in Oxford, England, April 9,2014./Credit: SKOLL WORLD FORUM

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"A story well told can make a difference," says Jeff Skoll, who wants to use his film company to spread the word about social problems and possible solutions around the world

Jeff Skoll doesn't do things by halves. He made his billionaire fortune with eBay, he is the executive producer of Oscar-winning movies, he hosts one of the world's largest gatherings of social entrepreneurs every year - to name just a few of his endeavours.

His latest plan: to make Participant Media, his film company with a social mission, the most important company in the world of its kind. 

“We have big ambitions for Participant…our goal: nothing less than to be the most important media company in the world,” to rival the likes of Warner Brothers and Walt Disney, Skoll told delegates at the opening plenary of the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship in Oxford, England, on Wednesday evening.

Participant Media plans to expand into local language services with television shows around the world and to grow online so that it can reach more people with its social message.

Making your dreams come true and building a successful company is all about having a "si, se puede" (yes, it can be done) attitude, Skoll explained, evoking the iconic slogan coined by United Farm Workers trade union leaders Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta in the United States.

“Cesar Chavez”, released last month, is the latest of 52 films made by Participant Media in its 10-year history.

Skoll announced that the next movie in Participant's pipeline is a documentary about Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who survived being shot in the head by the Taliban for campaigning for girls' education. 

"A story well told can make a difference," said Skoll, stressing the power of storytelling to highlight social problems and identify solutions.

Academy Award-winning "An Inconvenient Truth" about former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore's campaign to educate citizens about global warming, which Skoll co-produced, has been widely credited with bringing climate change issues to the attention of a broader audience.

Skoll cited "Open Heart", produced in partnership with NGO Partners in Health, as another example of how storytelling can have real impact. The film tells the story of how six Rwandan children who suffer from rheumatic heart disease go to Sudan for treatment at Africa's only hospital that performs free open heart surgery. 

The film prompted Rwanda's minister of health to make the eradication of rheumatic heart disease in children a priority in her country, Skoll said.

"Now Partners in Health, with help from the Skoll Foundation, (is) to support the rollout of the health ministry's plan - that's the power of storytelling," he said.

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