Daniela Papi Thornton

Daniela’s own volunteer experiences abroad have led her to flip the conversation from “service learning” to “learning service”

Speaking Options


Learning Service (a new look at volunteer travel) and Social Entrepreneurship

So you and your students want to change the world? So does Melibee Global’s Oxford (England) based speaker Daniela Papi Thornton. Her six years living in Cambodia and founding PEPY (a youth leadership and education organization) and PEPY Tours (an education travel company) taught her many lessons in the pitfalls and opportunities in international development work and social entrepreneurship. She advocates for a learning-focused approach to international travel which she calls “Learning Service” and has worked to create videos, guidelines, and resources available on the Learning Service website. She now works at the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford’s Saïd Business School. Daniela is a dynamic presenter and is able to connect with students and teachers in presentations where she shares the story of PEPY and her take on how we can steer away from harmful patterns that increase the need in the local communities that we aim to support. Her example of shifting from a model of “service learning” to one of “learning service” will provide inspiration for how to think about your role in the world as a member of a global community. You will walk away from this presentation with a much more clear idea of how you can take the next steps on your path to social entrepreneurship, educational international travel, and development work.  Her story will encourage you to embrace sustainability and human dignity, and provide insight into the attitudes that are needed to foster global citizenship.

Selected Media

TedX Oxford


Media Links

Click to view the presentation aired by BBC Radio.
Article about social entrepreneurship at Unreasonable.is.
Huffington Post article on voluntourism.


“Daniela was a very empowering speaker to the students! She not only engaged students throughout her lecture, but pushed them to think critically about how to carefully select an experience volunteering abroad based upon her own experiences in Cambodia. She is a fantastic speaker who ended with students asking lots of questions!” – Lock Haven University, Pennyslvania

“Daniela explores the dark side of volunteering overseas, and asks how local people and wealthy ‘voluntourists’ alike can ensure a positive experience.” -Giles Edwards, BBC Radio 4

About Daniela

Daniela is the Deputy Director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship. She has spearheaded student programming initiatives at Saïd Business School including the Leading for Impact programme and has taught an MBA elective course on high-impact entrepreneurship. Daniela is a graduate of Saïd Business School’s MBA programme and was a Skoll Scholarship recipient. Prior to coming to Oxford (England), Daniela spent six years in Cambodia where she grew a youth leadership organization, PEPY, an educational travel company, PEPY Tours, and an advocacy organisation, Learning Service. Daniela is co-authoring a book advocating for a “Learning Service” approach to philanthropic and volunteer travel and has worked as a consultant to other social impact organizations, typically supporting their strategy redesign by incorporating her experience in social marketing and user centered programme design. She has written for the BBC, Forbes.com, and many others, as well as an ongoing blog on the Huffington Post and her blog, “Lessons I Learned”. She is currently co-authoring a book on Learning Service (along with Melibee speaker Zahara Heckscher) and helping to create a series of related videos and resources for travelers. Daniela is a graduate of Oxford’s Said Business School (England). 

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