Board of Directors Spotlight: A Q&A With Chair Philip Vassiliou

Board of Directors Spotlight: A Q&A With Chair Philip Vassiliou

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

Continue reading to learn more about Philip, 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.

Philip Vassiliou, Chief Investment Officer and Partner of Legatum

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 our 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.

Luminos Welcomes New Members to Board of Directors and Advisory Board

Luminos Welcomes New Members to Board of Directors and Advisory Board


January 17, 2023 

Boston, Massachusetts – The Luminos Fund, an international nonprofit bringing education opportunities to the world’s most vulnerable children, is delighted to welcome two new board members who will help shape and scale the organization’s mission to ensure all children have equal access to joyful, foundational learning. Dr. Kwame Akyeampong has been appointed to the Luminos Board of Directors, and Dr. Aleesha Taylor is joining the Advisory Board. 

“We are thrilled to expand our boards with two new members who will bring valuable expertise and insights to our work,” said Caitlin Baron, CEO of the Luminos Fund. “Kwame and Aleesha have an enormous amount of experience that will help our programs have an even deeper and more meaningful impact on the lives of the most vulnerable out-of-school children, and I truly look forward to their partnership as our journey continues.” 

Kwame is Professor of International Education and Development at the Open University. He has over 25 years’ experience in education program evaluation, teacher education policy, education access, and equity with a focus on disadvantaged and marginalized groups in Sub-Saharan Africa. Kwame played a leading role in a longitudinal study of the Luminos flagship program in Ethiopia, and served on the Luminos Advisory Board from 2021-2022. 

“According to Sustainable Development Goal 4, we have just about seven years to ensure that all children have access to quality education and prevent the current learning crisis from deepening. However, this goal will not be achieved without paying more attention to the educational needs of out-of-school children. This is why I am particularly excited to be joining the Board at a time when Luminos is expanding its efforts to tackle this challenge,” said Kwame.   

He added, “I look forward to working with my fellow Board members to support Luminos as it continues to extend a second chance for out-of-school children to achieve their educational ambitions. Together we can make this happen.”

Dr. Kwame Akyeampong

Dr. Aleesha Taylor

Aleesha is the Principal of Herald Advisors, a consulting firm she founded to support leaders and organizations to thrive in the intersections of philanthropy, education, and international development. Aleesha previously served as the Deputy Director of the Open Society Foundations’ education program, where she managed a team across five countries to implement a global grant making portfolio that sought to strengthen education systems and civil society. 

Aleesha said, “Joining the Luminos Advisory Board is an exciting way to begin 2023!  Supporting an organization that effectively partners with governments to deliver and scale life-changing learning opportunities for vulnerable children is an opportunity that I do not take lightly. Luminos has created a model that enables education systems to fulfill national and global commitments. I’m grateful for the opportunity to support its continued growth.” 

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

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The Luminos Fund is a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt charitable organization registered in the United States (EIN 36-4817073).

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