Since 2006, the Henry R. Kravis Prize has recognized and celebrated visionary leadership in the nonprofit sector. Over the years, the Prize has provided funding for the extraordinary efforts of the Rural Development Institute, the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, the Forum For African Women Educationalists (FAWE), the Afghan Institute of Learning and Pratham.  However, the Kravis Prize is more than just a financial grant. We work with Prize recipients to share best practices with the nonprofit community and inspire students to become the next generation of nonprofit leaders.

This year, we are delighted to award the sixth annual Kravis Prize to Vicky Colbert, the founder of the Escuela Nueva Foundation in Colombia. In this inaugural, three-part blog series, we’ll ask Vicky a few questions about her experiences as a leader in the nonprofit sector and how her organization strives to achieve its goals in educating children in developing countries around the world.

Kravis Prize: Welcome and congratulations, Vicky! How does it feel to win the 2011 Kravis Prize in Leadership? 

Vicky Colbert: Thank you! It is truly an honor to be here with you and to be recognized for my work in education. I feel privileged to have been selected by the Kravis Prize and to join the company of the past winners. I look to people like Sakena Yacoobi at the Afghan Institute of Learning and Fazle Abed of BRAC for inspiration in my own work, and it is a wonderful feeling to be recognized for doing what I love.

Kravis Prize: Tell us about the day you found out you had been awarded the Prize.

Vicky Colbert: It was a total surprise! I didn’t even know that I had been nominated! I received the phone call from Mr. and Mrs. Kravis on Christmas Eve. They were so sincere in their interest in Escuela Nueva and the impact that we’ve had on hundreds of thousands of students.

We had a very nice discussion that felt like a whirlwind, there were so many emotions going through me. I remember feeling excited and looking forward to making the trip to the U.S. for the award ceremony. The prize was the best Christmas gift I had received in a long time and it gave me a feeling of assurance that Escuela Nueva Foundation is moving in the right direction.

Kravis Prize: You were awarded the Kravis Prize for your work with Escuela Nueva Foundation. What’s special about this organization?

Vicky Colbert: The Escuela Nueva model is a transformative innovation in education. It was first developed in Colombia in the mid-1970’s and aims to transform the conventional school from a rigid, frontal, memorization-based, “teacher-centered” approach into a collaborative, active, participatory, “child-centered” approach.

The conventional way of teaching – where the teacher acts as a transmitter of facts and information – is just not as effective. In the Escuela Nueva educational model, the teacher becomes a facilitator and manager of the learning process, allowing students to develop real-world skills like leadership, teamwork and decision-making.

The Escuela Nueva model is systemic. It integrates curricular and classroom strategies with teacher training, community activities and administrative components. Indeed, we have found that only when all of the pieces work together does our educational system become truly effective.

Kravis Prize: How many schools now use the Escuela Nueva model?

Vicky Colbert: Well, in Colombia, Escuela Nueva grew from a local program into a national policy by the end of the 1980’s. It has been implemented in more than 20,000 of Colombia’s 30,000 rural schools. Inspired by this success nationally, the Escuela Nueva model has been applied throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. To date, Escuela Nueva has been adapted to 16 countries across the globe, reaching over five million children.


Escuela Nueva originated in Colombia and has been effective in addressing educational issues in other developing countries around the world. We have found that neglected schools worldwide tend to be plagued by poor educational infrastructure, inadequate resources, low teacher morale, isolation from community life, high teacher turnover, high repetition and dropout rates and low academic achievement. The Escuela Nueva model has successfully addressed each of these issues and has provided a valuable foundation for redefining basic education in Latin America and the Caribbean.

To learn more about Vicky Colbert and her visionary efforts in the field of education, please check out her profile.