Chair & Co-Founder
Irene Pritzker co-founded the IDP Foundation, Inc. with her daughter, Liesel Pritzker in 2008. Motivated by visiting Ghana and seeing how local schools were often just a small group of children gathered around a tree with a blackboard attached to it, Irene wondered if it would be possible to successfully provide a business loan to schools that were serving the poorest families in Ghana. It seemed as if no one else was taking on the risk of lending to low-fee private schools.
After a lot of hard work, IDPF became one of the few willing to do so. And the multi-faceted IDP Rising Schools Program is proving to be a viable and sustainable model that can be replicated around the world.
After a successful pilot in Ghana with 105 schools with an initial enrolment of 27,000 children, the program continues to grow and the model replicated, expanding with new partners into new countries, reaching over 1,000 schools, serving over 200,000 children.
In addition to program development, Liesel and Irene actively work to mission-align the foundation endowment’s investment strategy – particularly incorporating alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals.
As an advocate for sustainable and market-driven solutions, Irene is frequently invited to share the work of the IDP Rising Schools Program at the United Nations and other international forums focused on education. And she’s also often requested to share her investment strategy with the rapidly increasing global interest in impact investing.
In 2010, the Foreign Policy Association awarded Irene the Global Philanthropy Award, and in 2012 the IDP Foundation, Inc. was granted special consultative status to the United Nations.