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Paul Ronalds: Encouraging Private Sector Investment to Further the SDGs

Paul Ronalds: Encouraging Private Sector Investment to Further the SDGs

Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.

Spiffy here with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Paul Ronalds, the chief executive officer of Save the Children Global Ventures. Let’s learn what’s happening at Save the Children Global Ventures and how Paul is making a positive impact in the world.

Spiffy: Hi Paul, thanks a million for talking to me today. Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through Save the Children Global Ventures?

Paul: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! Philanthropy and government grants are critical to achieving the SDGs, however, they will not, by themselves, provide enough funding. Traditional grant-based funding also rarely supports the flexibility and experimentation required to test new ways of having impact for children. Save the Children Global Ventures was created to complement traditional grants and philanthropy with an increased use of new ways to fund children's education, health, and protection. We also look across the world for the best new innovations that might help Save the Children to be even more impactful for children.

Spiffy: What motivates you to do it?

Paul: We started Save the Children Global Ventures because we could see the gap between the available funding and what is required to achieve the SDGs growing. The impact of COVID, conflicts, and climate change are making things worse! On the other hand, we could also see some great new technologies, like edtech and new health interventions, that could help us have amazing impact for children. If we could attract more private sector investment to help these technologies grow their impact, it would help us get closer to achieving the SDGs. This is the job of Save the Children Global Ventures.

Spiffy: What is the impact of your work?

Paul: Let me give an example. According to UNESCO, the world needs about another 70 million teachers to ensure all children get a quality basic education. This is going to be a tough challenge but if we can find and help grow new education technology inititives that save teachers time or help them be better teachers, or help parents become more involved in their children's education, then we can help make up for some of this shortfall. Save the Children Global Ventures has invested in a number of education technology initiatives that address these outcomes.

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organization milestone or initiative. What impact does it make on your audience/community?

Paul: We have invested in ThinkMD. ThinkMD is a company established by children's doctors who wanted to help front line health workers, especially in low-income countries, be much better at diagnosing child and maternal health issues. Evaluations of ThinkMD's software has shown that they can help make front line health workers between 90% and 95% as good as US doctors in diagnosing health issues. We are currently rolling ThinkMD's technology out across 50 Save the Children offices and thousands of front line health workers! This initiative should help us dramatically improve the health of children and their mothers in hundreds of villages and towns.

Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Paul: The funding gap to achieve the SGDs can appear insurmountable. However, globally, there are more than $400 trillion of private sector assets. If just a few percent of these assets can be directed towards outcomes more aligned with the SDGs, we can help close the funding gap and make it much more likely we will achieve the SDG goals. That is the mission of Save the Children Global Ventures; to encourage more private sector investment into great initiatives like ThinkMD that help us achieve the SGD goals.

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Paul—it’s been an honor!

Paul leads Save the Children Global Ventures. He started his career as a corporate lawyer with international law firm Herbert Smith Freehills. He co-founded wishlist.com.au, one of Australia’s first e-commerce companies, and has helped establish, fund and lead a number of international and Australian start-ups across multiple sectors. Paul also served as a senior advisor to two Australian Prime Ministers and for the last nine years, served as CEO of Save the Children Australia. (First published on the Ladderworks website on August 24, 2023.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Shikha Tandon. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.