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Liesel Pritzker Simmons, Co-Founder, and Corina Gardner, CEO of the IDP Foundation

Liesel Pritzker Simmons, Co-Founder, and Corina Gardner, CEO of the IDP Foundation, on building a sustainable education ecosystem.

Liesel Pritzker Simmons brings us into the origins of the IDP Foundation, which she co-founded with her mother, Irene Pritzker.

The foundation’s mission: To participate in building a sustainable education ecosystem that embraces a mixed economy of provision, and caters for all children through access to finance for low-fee private schools, quality interventions and advocacy in Africa and beyond.

Corina Gardner joined the IDP Foundation as its CEO in 2020 and she starts by providing a broader context on the state of global education (SDG4) and how they’re driving systemic change.

The IDP Foundation is an active funder and champion for the complementary role that the non-state education sector plays in supporting national education systems.

Governments are responsible for providing quality free education for all children, however in many developing countries this is not happening, despite often meeting, or exceeding, recommended UNESCO benchmarks on budget allocation.

As a funding partner and champion of the affordable non-state education sector (ANS), the IDP Foundation believes that low-fee private schools play a crucial role in increasing access to education and improving learning outcomes in low and lower-middle income countries.

They call for the global recognition, integration and support of this sector as part of a centrally-governed mixed economy of provision that embraces all hands on deck to build resilience into national education systems.

This episode will inform and inspire you, from education and policy to philanthropy and innovative finance, there is something for everyone.

About Liesel Pritzker Simmons

Liesel co-founded the IDP Foundation with her mother, Irene Pritzker in 2009. She actively worked on the initial set up of the foundation, establishing the original partnerships, and helped to shape the education financing model in the early years of the foundation.

She currently serves as Vice-Chair of the IDPF board where she shares responsibility for overseeing the foundation’s strategic direction, finance, and leadership. She is also the Chair of the Investment Committee which oversees all the advisors and fund managers and serves as the guidance body for the endowment’s investment strategy.

Liesel is also co-founder of Blue Haven Initiative with her husband, Ian Simmons. Their investment portfolios, restructured to be impact-driven, became the foundation of Blue Haven, one of the first family offices created with impact investing as its focus.

As well as working closely with entrepreneurs, nonprofits and co-investors on companies and initiatives that create social, environmental and financial value, Liesel develops strategic partnerships with organizations that support and advance more informed investing.

About Corina Gardner

Corina Gardner joined IDPF in 2020, and as CEO, she’s responsible for expanding the Foundation’s work funding partner organizations, who strengthen and advocate for the affordable non-state education sector.

Before IDPF, her career focused on international development, specializing in global health, technology, and gender across Africa, India and the Caucasus. She served as Director of Global Strategy for the Nike Foundation’s Girl Effect, which built youth brands and mobile research tools to empower girls. Here, she guided offices in Ethiopia, Malawi, Nigeria, and Rwanda, and facilitated strategic partnerships with multinationals and non-profits like Unilever and UNICEF.

Corina brings a wealth of experience from her work on global health within numerous government agencies, including USAID and the U.S. Department of State, where she acted as liaison to the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

She’s been a guest lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, Royal Holloway University of London, London School of Economics, and University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School.

With an undergraduate degree from the University of California Berkeley, Corina received her MBA from the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School (class of 2009). She’s based in London, UK.



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