Audacious Philanthropy

The story of Sesame Workshop and Ahlan Simsim

Embracing innovation and partnership–and reshaping how we think about risk–enabled new, unconventional solutions to meet the needs of children and families in nearly impossible contexts. Ahlan Simsim’s funders were careful to ensure that the size and prominence of the grants did not restrict creativity or experimentation. Instead, they encouraged it, at the same time that the Covid-19 pandemic and other emerging crises demanded it.

The resulting initiative, Ahlan Simsim - or "Welcome Sesame" in Arabic - is now the single largest early childhood intervention in the history of humanitarian response. Integrating educational media with direct services for families, Ahlan Simsim provides transformational early childhood development and playful learning that is now part of daily life for millions of children in the Middle East.

Join this Alliance-hosted conversation to learn from Ahlan Simsim's programme leads at Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) - along with the MacArthur Foundation - about how experimentation yielded huge breakthroughs, and how future funders and humanitarian organisations can centre innovation and learning for good. 

Questions will include:

  • What adaptable, long-term funding can make happen - how the funds over six years enabled innovation and drove scale for long-term impact
  • How the IRC and Sesame Workshop integrated educational media and content with direct services to drive impact and learning 
  • How funders can supportand encourage innovation and collaboration 
  • How to build and scale partnershipsfor long-term, lasting impact 
  • How the way you give is as powerful as how much you give - in a sector where the average crisis lasts years and the average grant lasts 12-15 months, how approaches like long-term funding, adaptable approaches and true partnership can leverage more money and drive bigger change 


  • Joe Elias
    Senior director for international programme management, Sesame Workshop
  • Kristen Molyneaux
    Vice president of programme strategy and learning Lever for Change [A nonprofit affiliate of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation]
  • Marianne Stone
    Regional project director, Ahlan Simsim International Rescue Committee (IRC)


This event is being hosted online by Alliance. It takes place at 2pm GMT. Register here.