Betting early — and for life — on extraordinary people who could change the world

Eric Braverman, CEO of Schmidt Futures, and Elizabeth Kiss, CEO and Warden of the Rhodes Trust

Schmidt Futures
5 min readNov 30, 2020

It’s been an exciting month for us at Schmidt Futures and the Rhodes Trust. Together, we launched Rise — a flagship effort to find the world’s most extraordinary young people while still in secondary school, connect them in a global community, and provide them with lifelong resources to use their talents for good together with others who can help. Rise is our second effort together, building on our Schmidt Science Fellows program, and has begun worldwide in collaboration with dozens of partners on six continents.

Since we launched Rise on November 16, thousands of young people from more than 120 countries have started their applications. We would like to see thousands more apply.

The year 2020 has brought terrible tragedy to many people — lost lives, lost livelihoods. New vaccines and new therapeutics bring new hope at the end of a long year. But hope is not only to be found in drugs. Hope must be found in people. If we are going to solve the world’s biggest challenges — whether to mitigate the effects of climate change, or overcome future pandemics, or advance economic prosperity for more people around the world — we have to bet on the next generation of people no matter who they are or where they come from worldwide.

When Eric and Wendy Schmidt announced their $1 billion philanthropic commitment to global talent last year, we simultaneously announced Rise as the anchor program of that commitment. “What if you could find the next Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, or Nelson Mandela?” Wendy Schmidt has asked. “What if there are dozens of these people in the world who have lacked access to opportunity and support?” That is Rise’s call.

Over the last twelve months, we have met with researchers, teachers, government leaders, business leaders, and young people themselves all around the world — from South Africa to Vietnam to Colombia — to ground our learning in their insights, and see how we could knit different efforts together into a global community. When the coronavirus pandemic arrived, much of the world paused — but we knew Rise couldn’t. The need to find and develop future leaders has never been more urgent.

As Eric Schmidt often says, we are in a leadership crisis. The world’s problems are growing in scale and complexity, demanding more of our leaders. In communities around the globe, we’re seeing young people answer that call. In the last several years, millions of young people have marched and rallied to build a better future. In 2018, #RiseForClimate demonstrations took place across all seven continents, and in 2019, on a single day, an estimated 1.6 million kids in 125 countries took to the streets calling for action on climate change. This year, in the United States, we saw young people turn out in incredible numbers to volunteer at the polls — even if they weren’t yet old enough to vote themselves. That may be because 79% of young people believe the pandemic has helped them realize that the decisions of political leaders impact their everyday lives.

The years of 15 to 17 present a critical inflection point in a young person’s life — when they often have bold ideas and creative solutions. At a time when access to technology has never been greater, they also have new tools to turn their ideas into reality. Rise will not only empower these young people to take action now — but will give them the resources and network to commit their lives to the service of others.

Here’s how the program works.

Everyone who applies to Rise will gain access to a network of peers, free online courses, and competitive opportunities throughout their lives. In addition, every year we will select 100 Global Winners, ages 15 to 17, and support them for life — through scholarships, mentorship, career services, and the ability to compete for funding to scale up their social impact or start a social enterprise — when they work to serve others.

We’re looking for talent that may go undiscovered or unsupported otherwise. That’s why we partnered with Hello World, a nonprofit chaired by Sal Khan of Khan Academy, to develop a mobile app that identifies potential even beyond grades or test scores. We search for traits like brilliance, perseverance, integrity, and empathy to understand an applicant’s motivation and passions. For applicants without access to the app, we also developed alternative pathways, including WhatsApp and a paper application administered by select partners, to evaluate these qualities.

The application for the first-ever Rise cohort is open until January 29, 2021.

If you are 15–17 years old and passionate about changing the world, we encourage you to apply and join the Rise community.

If you are a parent or educator, we hope you’ll help us find the brilliant young people in your communities and nominate them for Rise.

There’s no time like the present. We believe Rise can serve as a bright spot for the world in challenging times, and hopefully as the beginning of something that could help people for a long time.

Read more about Rise, and start your application today.

Follow Rise on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Visit our website at

Learn more about Schmidt Futures and the Rhodes Trust at and