Social Entrepreneurship in Focus Through Documentary

2014 Convenings

2014 Convenings

January 20-24, 2014 - Sundance Film Festival
Park City, Utah

The seventh annual Stories of Change Convening took place in January at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The Convening is an intensive, story workshop that brings together documentary filmmakers and Skoll-supported social entrepreneurs.

Organization Participants


Organization Mission: BasicNeeds’ mission is to enable people with mental illness or epilepsy and their families to live and work successfully in their communities by combining health, socio-economic and community orientated solutions with changes in policy, practice and resource allocation.

Main Organizational Goals:  According to the World Health organization,  450 million people in the world suffer from mental illness. In developing countries roughly 90% of these people lack mental health care.  BasicNeeds works in a number of developing countries, including India, China, Ghana, Kenya, Laos, Nepal, Pakistan, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Uganda and Vietnam, in order to improve lives of people living with mental illness. The organization prides itself on working with its beneficiaries rather than simply for them.

BasicNeeds uses a model – termed MHD (Mental Health and Development) – which aims to address people’s mental illnesses as well as their socio-economic challenges. This model breaks  down into five independent elements:  Capacity Building: identifying, mobilizing, sensitizing and training mental health and development stakeholders. Community Mental Health: enabling effective and affordable community oriented mental health treatment services. Livelihoods: facilitating opportunities for affected individuals to gain or regain the ability to work, earn and contribute to family and community. Research: generating evidence from the practice of mental health and development. Collaboration: managing partnerships and relationships with stakeholders who are involved in implementing the BasicNeeds MHD Model on the ground and/or are responsible for policy and practice decisions.

BasicNeeds has helped more than half a million people so far and through collaborating with local, national and international partners, aims to reach at least one million more people over the next five years.

[headshot]CHRIS UNDERHILL (Founder) is a global expert in the delivery of health and rehabilitation systems to very poor people. He is a serial social entrepreneur and his latest organisation, BasicNeeds, concerns the delivery of a holistic Model to mentally ill people and people with epilepsy in some of the poorest countries of the world. Chris is a Senior Fellow with the Ashoka Fellowship and is a recipient of the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship. The BasicNeeds Model for Mental Health and Development is recognised as a significant innovation in community mental health care delivery combining medical, social, economic and personal aspects into one successful programme. Over 600,000 beneficiaries having been served in the BasicNeeds global programme. Previous organisations founded by Chris include Action on Disability and Development and Thrive, and in 2000 Chris was made an MBE by her Majesty the Queen for his services to disability and development.

[headshot]NATASHA ABRAHAM joined BasicNeeds in 2012 after completing her Masters degree in International Relations at the University of Warwick, UK. Prior to studying at Warwick, she graduated in Political Science from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai and then worked as a teacher with The Akanksha Foundation - a non-profit focusing on educating less privileged children in India. Natasha is currently BasicNeeds’ Communications Officer and supports the organisation to increase its profile and raise awareness of global mental health generally using a variety of appropriate communications channels.

Saúde Criança

Organization Mission: Associação Saúde Criança is a social organization that works to improve and maintain the wellbeing of children who live below the poverty line by fostering the economic and social self-sustainability of their families. Saúde Criança works in numerous cities across Brazil, including Rio De Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Pernambuco, Santa Catarina, Goias and Rio Grande de Sol.

Main Organizational Goals: The process begins when health professionals at partner hospitals identify children who come from families at social risk and send them to Saúde Criança. Upon joining the organization, the family works with a multidisciplinary team to create a Family Action Plan, which establishes the overarching goals to achieve self-sufficiency and the steps to reach them. The program covers five core areas:

HEALTH: Families receive free food, medicine, medical equipment, nutritional and physiological guidance and psychiatric support. They are also given courses on hygiene, family planning, substance abuse, violence, domestic abuse and child development. INCOME: The families, in particular the mothers, are given vocational training so that they can better sustain themselves over the long term. HOUSING: Saúde Criança provides building materials and labor to families who own homes in disrepair making them vulnerable to health risks. The goal is to create healthy living conditions by ensuring that houses meet the minimum standards of shelter, which includes having running water, sewage, tiled walls and floors, and a roof, among others. CITIZENSHIP: Saúde Criança’s legal department makes sure families are receiving every right they are entitled to. They give guidance on legal issues and on how to obtain official documents and government benefits. Our legal staff also make sure all the adults in the family have all the basic documents issued by the local authorities. EDUCATION: This program works to ensure that children of school age get an education. It requires participating families to prove that their children are enrolled in school. If they are unable to do so, Saúde Criança takes the necessary steps to get the children to school.

Research has shown that Saude Criança’s FAP model can reduce hospitalization rates by 60%, increase the income of assisted families by more than 35%, and lead to significant annual savings in public spending.

[headshot]Vera Cordiero, founder and CEO of the organization, is a social entrepreneur and physician. Associação Saúde Criança, founded in 1991 by Dr. Vera Cordeiro is a not for-profit, nongovernmental, non-religious organization that works together with public hospitals breaking the cycle of readmissions of critically ill children from low-income, high-risk environments. ASC’s work has been responsible for a 60% decrease in re-hospitalization days among assisted families, 38% increase in average family income and significant annual savings in public spending which helps keep more hospital beds open to those who truly need them. For its transparency, impact and wide applicability has been rewarded various prizes by institutions from around the world. Vera Cordeiro is globally recognized for her groundbreaking work in social inclusion. She is an Ashoka fellow, a Skoll Foundation and Schwab Foundation social entrepreneur, and an Avina leader. She is member of the World Council of Ashoka and from 2005 to 2011 a Board member of PATH: A Catalyst for Global Health.

[headshot]Cristiana Velloso is COO at Saúde Criança, where she is in charge of the communications, fundraising and products area. She is also a member of the executive committee that leads the association. She graduated from the University of Rio de Janeiro (UNIRIO) with a bachelor degree in nutrition in 199. She did in 1994 an extension course in Marketing (IAG MASTER, PUC-RJ) and in 2004 an extension course in Social Entrepreneurship and the Third Sector. After graduation in 1992 she worked in a public hospital in Rio (Hospital de Ipanema) and in 1994 at a school for the blind. She was co-owning and administrating a pastry shop in Rio. She came to Saúde Criança as a volunteer in 1999 and became an employee in 2006, first as a project’s coordinator and since 2008 as the COO.


Organization Mission: Just as the Hippocratic Oath promises to, “first, do no harm,” health care providers have a responsibility to eliminate practices that harm people and the environment. Healthcare Without Harm is an international coalition of 473 organizations in over 50 countries that share a vision of a health care sector that does no harm, and instead promotes the health of people and the environment. The overall mission of Health Care Without Harm is to transform the health care sector worldwide, without compromising patient safety or care, so that it is ecologically sustainable and no longer a source of harm to public health and the environment.

Main Organizational Goals: The organization’s 8 main goals are to create markets and policies for safer products, materials and chemicals in health care. Promote safer substitutes, including products that avoid mercury, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic and brominated flame retardants. Eliminate incineration of medical waste as well as minimize the amount of toxicity of all waste generated. Transform the design, construction and operations of health care facilities to minimize environmental impacts and foster healthy, healing environments. Encourage food purchasing systems that support sustainable food production and distribution, and provide healthy food on-site at health care facilities. Secure a safe and healthy workplace for all health care workers. Ensure patients, workers and communities have full access to information about chemicals used in health care and can participate in decisions about exposures to chemicals. Promote human rights and environmental justice for communities impacted by the health care sector, while assuring that problems are not displaced from one community or country to another. Address climate change by improving energy practices and reducing the overall climate footprint of the health care sector.

Gary Cohen has been a pioneer in the environmental health movement for thirty years. Cohen is Co-Founder and President of Health Care Without Harm and Practice Greenhealth.  He was also instrumental in bringing together the NGOs and hospital systems that formed the Healthier Hospitals Initiative.  All three were created to transform the health care sector to be environmentally sustainable and serve as anchor institutions to support environmental health in their communities.

Cohen is a member of the International Advisory Board of the Sambhavna Clinic in Bhopal, India.  He is also on the Boards of the American Sustainable Business Council, Health Leads and Coming Clean.

Cohen has received the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship and The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded Cohen an Environmental Merit Award.  In 2013, he was awarded the Champion of Change Award for Climate Change and Public Health by the White House.

[headshot]Michelle Gottlieb has been the co-coordinator of Health Care Without Harm’s National Healthy Food and Healthcare Program for the past 5 years, and co-coordinates the Food Matters Clinical Education and Advocacy Program. She has also worked with HCWH’s Safer Chemicals Program. Formerly she was the Co-Executive Director of Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility where she specialized in children's health, women's health and reproductive health. She worked with pediatric care providers from around the country to develop the Pediatric Environmental Health Toolkit, to assist pediatric caregivers in incorporating environmental health into their practice. Prior to moving to the Boston area she helped develop a new program on Health, Environment, and Development at the World Resources Institute in Washington, D.C. She holds a BA from Barnard College, Columbia University, and a Master’s degree from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies where she focused on environmental public health and policy.


Organization Mission: VisionSpring’s mission is to provide affordable eyewear to people living in developing countries. Since worker productivity is often hampered by loss of vision or poor eyesight, VisionSpring aims to increase worker productivity as well as the GDP in the areas they operate in.

Main Organizational Goals: According to research, uncorrected vision results in a loss of 202 billion dollars a year in the global economy. People who can’t see simply can’t work, or often at a low level of productivity. Furthermore, 90% of people with impaired vision live in developing countries. Unfortunately, glasses are not only expensive, but also simply unavailable in the parts of the world where they are needed most. In order to combat this problem, VisionSpring works to provide glasses and other vision products to low-income residents of these developing countries at an extremely reduced cost. VisionSpring trains vision entrepreneurs in local communities so that they can conduct vision tests and match clients with appropriate products. Individuals who need more specialized care are referred to a nearby optometrist. VisionSpring’s model has been lambasted by some critics who pose the question “why sell glasses when you can donate recycled pairs?” First of all, numerous jobs are created by allowing these vision entrepreneurs to sell the glasses. In addition, distributing recycled glasses is far more costly and the final product is far inferior. Finally, there is no “one size fits all” in vision correction so the recycled glasses are often given out to people who don’t need that particular kind of pair.

A study done in 2007 by the William Davidson institute at the University of Michigan found that VisionSpring glasses improved productivity of its recipients by roughly 35%. Furthermore research also suggested that the glasses could improve monthly income by up to 20%. Considering the $4 initial investment (cost of glasses to consumer) and a $2 average daily wage, this would result in a 108 dollar annual increase or a 2600% return on the patient’s investment.

[headshot]Kevin Hassey joined VisionSpring in 2011 as President of the organization, and was promoted to CEO in 2012. He is responsible for all the organization’s operations as well as its strategic direction to ensure allcan see well. He is a 20-year veteran of the optical business, and previously led retail and brand marketing for Luxottica Group’s Lenscrafters business unit and served as President of LCA Vision. During his tenure, Lenscrafters achieved over 30 consecutive quarters of same store sales growth, becoming the leader of optical retailing in America. Under Mr. Hassey’s leadership, LCA Vision became the largest American retailer of Lasik vision services by growing its market capitalization from $100 million to more than $1 billion. Mr. Hassey received an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University and holds a degree in marketing from Boston College.

[headshot]Peter Eliassen is the COO of VisionSpring where he manages global operations. Prior to joining VisionSpring, Peter held positions at Unilever, Capital One, the United Nations and served in the US Peace Corps in Benin, West Africa. Peter graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in Economics and received his MBA from Thunderbird School of Global Management. Peter has traveled to more than 65 countries, speaks French and Spanish fluently, and enjoys trail running and global adventuring with hiswife and daughter Finley.



Media Advisors

[headshot]Nicole Newnham is a returning Media Advisor with Skoll Stories of Change. She is a documentary filmmaker, writer, and a founder of Actual Films in San Francisco. Nicole is the co-producer and director of the feature documentary The Revolutionary Optimists and the companion interactive web platform MAP YOUR WORLD, funded by Tribeca FIlm Institute, Sundance, and the Gates Foundation. She co-produced They Drew Fire, a widely-acclaimed film for PBS about the combat artists of World War II, and co-wrote the companion book, which is distributed by Harper Collins. She was associate producer of Eye of the Storm (1997), a cinema verité profile of United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan that was distributed worldwide by the BBC. Ms. Newnham has been associate producer and line producer on several US/UK co-productions for Discovery/The Learning Channel, including a four-part series on the art of survival science; and the Emmy-nominated The Human Sexes with Desmond Morris (1996). In 1994, Nicole graduated from the Documentary Film Program at Stanford University.

[headshot]Pete Nicks  feature documentary, The Waiting Room,  which chronicles a day in the life of an Oakland, Calif., hospital waiting room, was released in 2012 to critical acclaim. It was named by the San Francisco Film Critics Circle as the best documentary of 2012 and shortlisted for an Academy Award. The Washington Post named  The Waiting Room  one of the "10 best films of 2012," and the film garnered numerous accolades, including the Stella Artois Truer Than Fiction filmmaking grant, Gotham IFP and Independent Spirit Award nominations for best documentary, and a Cinema Eye nomination for best debut feature. Pete was invited to speak at TEDxMaastrich in 2012 and at the Mayo Clinic's TRANSFORM conference in September 2013. Prior to his recent work in film, Nicks worked in television for several years and earned an Emmy for "Blame Somebody Else," which explored human trafficking during the Iraq War. Nicks is now developing the second of a trilogy of character-driven films exploring health care, crime and education in Oakland. Nicks received his B.A. in English from Howard University and his M.A. in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.

[headshot]Cori Stern is a veteran of Stories of Change, she  is a writer and producer, working in both documentary and narrative film. In addition to Academy Award-nominated short Open Heart, she is currently producing a feature documentary in collaboration with the Sundance Institute, Skoll Foundation and The Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund about the revolutionary health care organization Partners In Health, also directed by Kief Davidson. Her other film projects include the upcoming major feature film release Warm Bodies directed by Jonathan Levine for Summit Entertainment and Lionsgate, and The Arizona Project for Miramax. Beyond film, Cori is known for her work as a social change strategist and as a co-founder of STRONGHEART, an international residential community and accelerated learning lab for exceptional young people from extreme life circumstances across the globe including former child slaves, child soldiers, refugees, and other young survivors of conflict or poverty. The program – which has been called “R&D for brilliance in unlikely places” – combines groundbreaking neuroscience, social and personal change theory, and community psychology to affect significant change and create future influencers and advocates from exceptionally challenging backgrounds. Cori’s work has been covered by BBC, CNN, NPR, and National Geographic among others. She was named O Magazine’s “Good Guy of the Month” and ABC World News “Person of the Week.”

[headshot]Deborah Alden is a design researcher, strategist & educator, Deborah believes that engaging and understanding people and their communities is the key to creating lasting impact. For 15 years, she has worked closely with and within organizations to unearth opportunities that evolve their offerings. Clients have ranged from Fortune 100 companies to non-profits and start-ups across industries including healthcare, financial services, cultural, government, tech and education. A perennial nomad with a background in social entrepreneurship, communication design and architecture, she often works in cross-cultural and multi-disciplinary contexts, bringing structure and clarity to complex situations in the development of effective systems, services, stories and strategies.

Deborah is Co-Founder of The Comradery and has taught design and research in Singapore, México and currently at IIT's Institute of Design in Chicago. She also designed and led the pilot year of Firebelly U, an incubator for designers starting social enterprises and was a coach for Design for America.