Turning great ideas into healthier communities

Denise Raquel Dunning, PhD, MPA

Executive Director, Rise Up

Dr. Denise Raquel Dunning is a powerful advocate for girls and women. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Rise Up, which advances health, education, and equity globally. Since the organization’s founding in 2009, Rise Up’s global network of 500+ leaders has improved health, education, and rights for 7 million girls, youth, and women, and advocated for over 100 laws and policies impacting 115 million people. Rise Up’s work in 15 countries integrates advocacy, innovative programming, and strategic partnerships with the United Nations and the White House.

Dr. Dunning teaches in the University of California San Francisco’s Masters of Global Health program, and is a Board Member of the Public Health Institute and EngenderHealth. She previously worked for the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, and served as a Fulbright Scholar with the Inter-American Development Bank in Honduras. Dr. Dunning’s recent awards include selection by the Gates Institute’s 120 Under Forty Global Leaders and winner of the Powerful Women of the Bay Area Award.

Dr. Dunning is a renowned thought leader and speaker whose work has been featured by The New York Times, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, Ms. Magazine, and The Christian Science Monitor, and she is now writing a book about women’s and girls’ leadership globally. Dr. Dunning has a PhD in Sociology from the University of California Berkeley, a Master’s in Public Affairs from Princeton University, and graduated Summa Cum Laude from Duke University. She has lived in Guatemala, Honduras, India, and South Africa, and speaks four languages.

2016 – 2018 ENGAGE (Enabling Girls to Advance Gender Equality)

Rise Up received $2.5 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to create ENGAGE (Enabling Girls to Advance Gender Equality), an innovative approach to ending early marriage and enabling Malawian girls to finish school. We are honored that First Lady Michelle Obama selected ENGAGE to be part of the White House Let Girls Learn initiative.

2017 Rise Up Youth Champions Awarded Grant Funding to Advance Health & Rights

Rise Up is thrilled to award grant funding to visionary Youth Champions from Ethiopia, India, Pakistan, and the United States. These young leaders graduated from Rise Up’s Youth Champions Incubator in Silicon Valley, where they learned about leadership, technology, innovation and health. Rise Up’s grant funding will enable these inspiring young leaders to create game-changing initiatives to improve the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people in their countries. 

Champions for Change

Champions for Change saves the lives of women and children in Nigeria by empowering local leaders and organizations to improve reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health through advocacy, education, storytelling, and strategic partnerships. Champions for Change leverages a program model developed by its sister initiative, Let Girls Lead, which has contributed to improved health, education, and livelihoods for more than 3 million girls globally since 2009. This powerful model drives change through the passage of national laws, implementation of programs, and distribution of funds to ensure access to quality healthcare, education, and economic opportunity.

As of 2017, this program lives on under the work of Rise Up. 

Let Girls Lead

Let Girls Lead is building a global movement of Champions who empower girls to attend school, stay healthy, escape poverty, and overcome violence. Let Girls Lead invests in girls and their allies to lead social change through advocacy, education, storytelling, economic empowerment, and strategic partnerships. Since 2009, Let Girls Lead's proven model has contributed to improved health, education, livelihoods, and rights for more than 3 million girls through the passage of national laws, implementation of programs, and distribution of funds to ensure access to quality healthcare, education, and economic opportunity. 

As of 2017, this work lives on through PHI's Rise Up.

Youth Champions Initiative

PHI has partnered with the Packard Foundation to launch the Youth Champions Initiative (YCI) to advance innovation and quality in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) globally. YCI will invest in visionary young champions who will lead the SRHR movement for the next generation.

Youth Champions Initiative is a program of Rise Up, dedicated to investing in young people who are leading the sexual and reproductive health and rights movement for the next generation in South East Asia, Africa and the United States.

Financial Literacy Summit Panel Discussion: Bridging the Gender Gap (2017)

How does equal access to financial education tools and resources change by region? Which demographic is most at risk for not having equal access to...

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Guide to Girl-Centered Advocacy (2014)

We are proud to share the Guide to Girl-Centered Advocacy, from PHI's Let Girls Lead—a full capacity-building curriculum that engage...

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PHI50 Videos (2014)

In honor of our 50th anniversary in 2014, PHI created a series of videos that looked back at what public health has accomplished in the last half c...

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Economic Empowerment Strategies for Adolescent Girls (2013)

This report by PHI's Let Girls Lead provides a needed policy analysis of economic empowerment programs for adolescent girls in the Gl...

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Let Girls Lead 2013 Annual Report (2013)

The 2013 annual report highlights the ways in which the advocacy work done through Let Girls Lead is transforming the lives of adolescent girls in ...

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Let Girls Lead External Evaluation (2013)

Commissioned by the United Nations Foundation, this independent evaluation demonstrates that Let Girls Lead’s AGALI program has contributed t...

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Capacity Building & Training

With diverse public health programs spanning the globe, PHI understands how strong leadership and organizational management can enhance the success...

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Coalition & Network Building

Building strong coalitions and networks is essential to solving today’s pressing public health issues. The Public Health Institute (PHI) can ...

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Health Equity & Social Justice

Our health and wellbeing are directly impacted by our community environments. Unfortunately, not all environments are designed to promote and suppo...

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Leadership Development

Today's public health challenges are complex, rapidly evolving, and call for a new approach to leadership development—one that advances h...

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Outreach & Dissemination

The Public Health Institute is dedicated to lifting up public health best practices, while actively cultivating an engaged community of public heal...

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