The RISE Podcast: Denis Mizne on Transforming Brazil’s Education System to Deliver Learning

In the latest issue of the RISE Podcast, Denis Mizne discusses the importance of foundational skills and Brazil's education system.


Image of Denis Mizne

Denis Mizne

Lemann Foundation

Image of Jason Silberstein

Jason Silberstein

RISE Directorate

Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford

The first RISE Podcast episode of 2022 features Denis Mizne, who is CEO of the Lemann Foundation1 and leads its efforts to transform Brazil’s education system so that schools deliver learning for all children. In conversation with RISE Research Fellow Jason Silberstein, he explains why foundational skills are a political winner; the Lemann Foundation’s work on Brazil’s Learning Standards; how to balance accountability with support for teachers; what we can learn from Sobral, Brazil’s famous success story; “status quoism”; Lord Voldemort; and much more.


Guest biography

Denis Mizne is the CEO of the Lemann Foundation. 

A graduate of University of São Paulo Law School, Mizne was a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University Center for the Study of Human Rights, a Yale World Fellow at Yale University and completed the Owner/President Management Progam at Harvard Business School. 

While at Law School, Mizne led the first disarmament campaign in Brazil. The Sou da Paz - I am for Peace - movement was instrumental in approving the Disarmament Statute, one of the most modern pieces of legislation controlling civilian gun possession. The law directly contributed to the reduction in homicides in the country. 

In 1999, Mizne joined Brazil’s Ministry of Justice as special advisor to the Minister and later Chief of Staff. After one year in Government, he came back to São Paulo to create the Sou da Paz Institute, where he stayed as executive director until 2010. 

In 2011, Denis Mizne became CEO of the Lemann Foundation. In the ten years he has been in this position, the Foundation grew to become one of Brazil’s leading philanthropies, focusing on improving public education and fostering a generation of talented leaders who will contribute to solving the country’s most pressing social issues. Among its achievements, the Lemann Foundation lead the civil society process to have National Learning Standards - approved in 2017, built a large scale intervention to support student learning reaching 2.5 million students and built a network of 653 diverse, committed leaders working in public service, politics, academia, the NGO sector and as social entrepreneurs. 

Mizne sits on the Boards of Instituto Sou da Paz, Nova Escola, Instituto Natura, Fundacao Roberto Marinho, and PraValer, and is a member of Yale University President‘s Council on International Affairs. He is also a Visiting Fellow at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford.


RISE is funded by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office; Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The Programme is implemented through a partnership between Oxford Policy Management and the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford. The Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford supports the production of the RISE Podcast.

Producers: Joseph Bullough and Katie Cooper

Audio Engineer: James Morris


  • 1The Lemann Foundation is a member of the RISE Community of Practice (https://riseprogramme.org/rise-community-of-practice), a group of implementers working to share lessons and experiences about how to address the learning crisis.

RISE blog posts and podcasts reflect the views of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the organisation or our funders.