Award recognizes SNHU’s bold solutions, leadership in transforming lives of displaced learners.

(Manchester, NH) May 4, 2021 – Today, Lever for Change and ICONIQ Impact announced that Southern New Hampshire University’s (SNHU) Global Education Movement (GEM) would receive a grant as a finalist for the Larsen Lam ICONIQ Impact Award. SNHU GEM was recognized alongside five other finalists all working toward bold solutions that achieve significant social change for displaced people and refugees.

“Southern New Hampshire University’s Global Education Movement is transforming the lives of refugees and host communities,” said Cecilia Conrad, CEO of Lever for Change. “In this moment of global reckoning and social upheaval, it is critical for solutions to be bold and daring in their impact. The Global Education Movement is helping improve future outcomes for generations to come.”

SNHU GEM was awarded the grant as the first large-scale online learning initiative for refugees, serving nearly 1,700 learners and graduates across five countries and 10 sites directly in the camps and urban areas where they live. Through GEM, SNHU partners with in-country organizations to deliver high-quality, low-cost education that is tailored to meet the needs of displaced learners.

“We are grateful for this generous funding and proud to be recognized alongside an incredible group of organizations,” said Chrystina Russell, SNHU Senior Vice President and Executive Director of the Global Education Movement. “We appreciated the opportunity to share the inspiring stories of our students and will use this funding to continue to improve our current model. That means growing the pipeline of refugee learners, further deepening our practice of integrating learner feedback, providing pathways for dignified employment for graduates, and, as always, elevating the voices of learners and graduates to demonstrate what’s possible when organizations partner with refugees.”

As a finalist for the Larsen Lam ICONIQ Impact Award, SNHU GEM hosted virtual visits to GEM’s sites in Lebanon, Kenya, and South Africa where GEM student Mohamed Mohamud and GEM graduate Nour Maaz, now a founding employee at digital quality assurance agency Siriforce, reflected on their experiences as displaced learners and how SNHU GEM degrees have opened doors of opportunity for employment, economic growth, and social and political autonomy.

All finalists will also receive customized operational support from Rippleworks, a non-profit foundation that Award sponsor Chris Larsen co-founded with Rippleworks CEO Doug Galen. Rippleworks supports more than 150 global and fast-growth social ventures running short-term, high-impact projects where ventures partner with leading industry executives to tackle top operational priorities. 

“Big problems like our global refugee crisis require big solutions led by bold, inspiring teams, and we are so grateful that so many exist,” Galen said. “We know the path to realizing their ambitious visions brings no shortage of operational and technology challenges, and we are beyond inspired to partner with these incredible teams through their continued growth.”  

The Larsen Lam ICONIQ Impact Award was launched in January 2020 to identify actionable ideas that will transform the lives of refugees and displaced people. The Award was managed by Lever for Change, a nonprofit affiliate of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation that helps donors find and fund solutions to the world’s greatest challenges, including racial and gender equity, economic development and climate change.  

The Larsen Lam ICONIQ Impact Award was facilitated by Lever for Change’s partnership with ICONIQ Impact, ICONIQ Capital’s platform for collaborative philanthropy. The $12 million Award was sponsored by philanthropists Chris Larsen and Lyna Lam, and the Sea Grape Foundation. Through peer-to-peer fundraising efforts over the past three months, ICONIQ Impact and the Award’s sponsors have mobilized an additional $12.25 million in funding from several generous donors in the ICONIQ network, including David Karp, founder and former CEO of Tumblr, and Samantha McManus, bringing the total funds raised to $24.25 million—more than double the initial award of $12 million. These funds will be distributed across the Award’s five finalist teams.

ICONIQ Impact and Lever for Change are calling on additional philanthropists to join their efforts to fully fund all five of the finalists that were identified during this competition. Interested donors may contact Dana Rice, Vice President of Philanthropy at Lever for Change. 

Learn more about the Larsen Lam ICONIQ Impact Award and the recipients:

Global Education Movement

The Global Education Movement (GEM) is a major Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) initiative offering university degrees to refugees around the world. Created in 2017, GEM is the first large-scale online learning initiative for refugees, partnering with in-country organizations to deliver high-quality, low-cost education tailored to meet the needs of displaced learners.


More Information

ICONIQ Capital | Sea Grape Foundation | Lever for Change | 100&Change | Bold Solutions Network


Media Contacts:

Lauren Keane

Assistant Vice President of Communications

Southern New Hampshire University

[email protected]


Marc Moorghen

Communications Director

Lever for Change

[email protected]