A Q&A with Legatum Partner, Philip Vassiliou

Legatum is delighted to announce that Philip Vassiliou, Legatum's Chief Investment Officer and Partner, has been appointed as Luminos Fund's new Board of Directors Chair. Philip has been a dedicated member of the Luminos Board for more than four years, bringing with him a strategic perspective and an unwavering commitment to the Fund's mission: ensuring all children have equal access to joyful, foundational learning, especially those shut out of education by crisis, poverty, or discrimination.

011 Legatum Partners Philip

In this Q&A, Philip discusses his vision for Luminos and his new role as Board Chair.

Why is education important to you?

I’m deeply passionate about the role that education can play in unleashing a child’s potential. At an early age, my father frequently spoke with me about the importance of education, and indeed what a gift it is to receive. Having grown up in a very poor community in Greece, he was the beneficiary of a scholarship that allowed him to pursue higher education. This ultimately ended up changing the trajectory of his life, and indeed that of our family. Fast forward several decades, now as the father of three children, I’m acutely aware of the impact that a great education can have on a child’s development. So, at its core, the meaning of Luminos is deeply personal for me: to try and bring joy, hope, and life-change to children in some of the most challenging environments of the world.

What excites you about the Luminos Fund’s mission to ensure all children have equal access to joyful, foundational learning?

Giving children a second chance and access to high-quality, joyful learning has the potential to unlock the tremendous potential that lies within every child. This life-change doesn’t just take place within the child, but also impacts their families and communities. The compounding effect of this life-change over generations has the ability to lift millions of people out of poverty and create long-term prosperity in some of the poorest and most challenging areas of the world.

At Legatum, to borrow from the famous business author Jim Collins, we often talk about the “Good” and the “Great.” The “Good” comes from the joy of engaging with each child that Luminos has the privilege of serving. Their smile and love for learning are a wonderful reminder of what is possible, even in the most difficult of circumstances. The “Great” comes from the longer-term potential of lifting entire communities out of poverty working alongside local governments and our partners to help them truly own the solutions and outcomes.

How were you first connected to the Luminos Fund?

My partners at Legatum and I have long cared about education, and seen its importance in children’s lives in terms of both individual and societal prosperity. Back in 2007, we invested in an innovative model for out-of-school children built around a ten-month accelerated learning program in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger. Having seen the success of the program, in 2011 we decided to move the project to Ethiopia, with the University of Sussex as a long-term evaluation partner, to test if the model was both transportable and scalable – i.e., was it “just” good, or could it actually be great!

With the answer to that question being a resounding “yes,” we decided to create the Luminos Fund in 2016. At Legatum, we believe in the power of collaborative philanthropy working in concert with community-based organizations, and we had seen the impact of this through our founding of the END Fund and the Freedom Fund. It therefore was a natural step to build on the lessons of our past experiences and set up a fund vehicle to partner with other investors to scale a program that we had empirical proof helped to significantly accelerate the learning of children in some of the most marginalized populations in Africa and the Middle East. My fellow partner, Alan McCormick, served as the original chair of Luminos and identified Caitlin Baron to serve as its inaugural CEO.

On a personal level, although my professional background is in investing, I’ve had a long-standing passion for being involved in nonprofit organizations involved in education. I previously served on the Board of The Ubuntu Pathways, a nonprofit organization that provides an integrated support system of health, education, and social support in the townships of Gqeberha, South Africa, previously known as Port Elizabeth.

Luminos has had the privilege of hosting you to see its programs. Can you share more about that experience? What was most memorable for you?

I have had the privilege of being out in the field and seeing the Luminos programs in both Lebanon and Ethiopia. Both visits were amazing and a powerful reminder of the joy that exists in the classrooms where Luminos serves. The Lebanon visit was particularly memorable as I got the chance to visit with my wife who is Lebanese, along with our eldest son.

Can you describe your first memory from your education?

My first memory really comes from my nursery education. I remember a fun, colorful, safe, and stimulating classroom environment where I discovered the joy of learning, making friends, and helped open my mind to the outside world. At its core, Luminos seeks to offer the same experience to children everywhere, no matter how challenging the circumstances or the environment.

What is your vision for the Luminos Board moving forward?

The Board of Luminos has the responsibility to support Caitlin as the CEO, set the long-term vision, mission, and culture of the organization, ensure good governance, wise stewardship over the organization’s resources, and continue to scale the Luminos progams to serve more children and communities.

To learn more about the Luminos boards and read member biographies, click here.

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