aka Breakthrough   |   New York, NY   |  www.letsbreakthrough.org


Breakthrough is a global human rights organization that uses a potent mix of media, arts, and technology to dismantle cultural norms that lead to violence and discrimination. We create innovative, relevant multimedia campaigns, tools, and programs as well as conduct transformative leadership training and community engagement. These products and activities reach people and institutions where they are, inspiring and equipping them to build a world where everyone enjoys dignity, equality, and respect.

Ruling year info


President and CEO

Nakisha M. Lewis

Main address

4 West 43rd Street Suite 715

New York, NY 10036 USA

Show more contact info



NTEE code info

International Human Rights (Q70)

Women's Rights (R24)

Other Art, Culture, Humanities Organizations/Services N.E.C. (A99)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Sign in or create an account to view Form(s) 990 for 2018, 2017 and 2016.
Register now


Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Human rights are part of our everyday lives. They are intrinsic to how we treat each other in our homes, families, workplaces, communities, and social spaces. They are about recognizing and taking responsibility for the power and privilege we carry with us. Our vision of a world is one in which norms and values derived from power and dominance over others are transformed into a global culture based on dignity, equality, and respect. We reject cultural norms, practices, and products that perpetuate violence and discrimination. And in their place, we produce and uplift media, arts, and technology that promote the core human rights values. Our work intentionally weaves together the multitude of compounding social factors and forces that shape our lived experiences and often lead to violence and discrimination.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Breakthrough's program in India

Breakthrough seeks to make discrimination and violence against women and girls unacceptable everywhere and in all its forms, including domestic violence, sexual harassment in public spaces, early marriage, and gender-biased sex selection. We address these issues through the lens of gender, sexuality and human rights.

Our programs combine the power, reach, and scale of mass and multimedia with deeply transformative mobilizations, interventions, and leadership trainings that engage all the key stakeholders in a given community: men, leaders, teachers, parents, and of course girls and women themselves. The actions they take to challenge deeply entrenched beliefs and practices driven by gender-based discrimination and violence serve to shift norms and establish new ones based on equality for women and human rights for all.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth

For twenty years, Breakthrough has harnessed media and popular culture to spark conversations and cultural transformation at the intersection of gender, sexuality, racial justice, and immigrant rights. Through nuanced, authentic storytelling, we uplift the voices and experiences of marginalized people, to challenge systemic barriers and build their cultural power. In 2020-2021, Breakthrough will focus its dynamic, multimedia platforms and campaigns on Gen Z youth from Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities. These changemakers are reshaping the cultural landscape with their creativity and commitment to building a more equitable, sustainable world -- even amid personal experiences of discrimination, violence, and the crisis of COVID-19.

Our short-form documentary film series, Our Stories: In Vivid Color, weaves a tapestry of girls and gender non-conforming youth of color, exploring their lived experiences, creative and activist projects, and radical dreams. Through By & For, our creative incubator, we are building the skills of young writers, podcasters, and other mediamakers, offering curated storytelling and branding support and access to a network of like-minded peers. We will further uplift their voices in We Count!, our campaign to galvanize the youth vote, especially among queer, trans and immigrant youth of color. Our Spotlight video and podcast series offers a space for healing and transformation, through intimate conversations with artists and activists across generations. Together with 70+ partners -- from grassroots activists to youth educators to filmmakers and other cultural influencers -- we will activate media consumers as agents of social change, and introduce new narratives that affirm the dignity and equality of all people.

Population(s) Served
Ethnic and racial groups

Where we work

Affiliations & memberships

Skoll Foundation Award 2016

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Based in the U.S. and India, Breakthrough is a global human rights organization driving the culture change we need to build a world in which all people live with dignity, equality, and respect. We do this using a potent mix of media, arts, and technology with an intersectional feminist approach to dismantle cultural norms that lead to violence and discrimination. We work to inspire and equip people everywhere to lead change, by taking actions both individual and collective. Our work, and the work of our nexus of changemakers, challenges the status quo through bold, creative action.

Our local, national, and global work emerges out of our two centers in the world’s two largest democracies: New York and New Delhi. We have a deeply-rooted shared mission, vision, and culture change approach, and each office determines culturally and politically relevant priorities and campaigns. In the U.S., Breakthrough plays a significant part in the broader movement for social justice in the United States. We are a hub for creatives, cultural workers, artists, and media makers who use their talents to spark social transformation. In India, we inspire people to fight for the rights of women and girls by catalyzing leadership in communities to change deep-rooted cultural norms. We work extensively with young people to help them develop a stronger identity and the confidence to make their own life decisions.

Partner influencers look to Breakthrough as a leader in leveraging media, the arts, pop culture, videos, and storytelling for social change/justice. In all our programming, we aim for maximum reach and replication so there is not only an impact on individuals or local communities, but a national, transnational, and global reach. Our digital tools, videos, and toolkits are accessible online for anyone to access, and allow people all over the world to replicate actions in their own communities.

Our cutting-edge multimedia campaigns, community mobilization, agenda-setting, and leadership training equip men and women worldwide to challenge the status quo and take bold action for the dignity, equality, and justice of all.

To effect norm change and build the Breakthrough Generation, Breakthrough harnesses the power of arts, pop culture, media, and technology, along with on-ground and online constituency-building, to reach people where they are and make human rights real, relevant, and requiring of urgent action. We forge game-changing partnerships beyond traditional NGOs and set agendas that seed and steer public dialogue around gender-based violence and the norms and culture that fuel it.

Through compelling videos; emerging, established, and social media; street theater; video vans; flash campaigns; workshops, fellowships, and trainings, we equip individuals, communities, and institutions to challenge the status quo in their own spheres and beyond. We use these tools as well as global forums to set public agendas that transform narratives and make human rights everyone's business. Our partners include artists, celebrities, influencers, bloggers, and media companies as well as traditional NGOs.

Breakthrough represents a unique North-South bridge and has a global reach. 2019-2020 marks Breakthrough’s 20th anniversary. The journey started with the goal of changing the culture around violence against women and girls and other human rights abuses across India and the U.S. Mallika Dutt, an Indian-American human rights activist, and a leading innovator in storytelling and culture change, founded the organization as a way to ‘reach people where they are’ and to inspire them to stand for human rights to create a world where everyone lives a life with dignity, equality and justice. Two decades later, Breakthrough’s innovative strategy combining media, arts, and technology with community engagement and game-changing partnerships continues to drive demonstrable change around the world.

Breakthrough has won numerous awards and accolades for its videos and media work. In 2016, Breakthrough was one of six recipients of the prestigious Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship. Some other awards include:
Silver Lion, Cannes Film Festival
Avon Global Award for Excellence in Communications
Games for Change Transmedia Award (Nomination)
Gold Spike, Spike Asia
South Asian Media & Marketing Association Trailblazer Award
Best Indipop Music Video Screen Awards

We believe that our work has helped to support long term shifts to transform culture and norms that support values of human rights and dignity. Since 1999, some highlights of our highly visible and participatory multimedia campaigns and deeply transformative on-ground interventions include:

• reached millions worldwide through a multitude of effective campaigns. One example is as our world-renowned “Bell Bajao" (“Ring the Bell") campaign, which went global in 2013.The campaign called on men to challenge domestic violence and reached more than 130 million in India in 2009, and many more internationally through adaptations. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the campaign as a “powerful way for men and boys to make a difference.” The follow up, “Ring the Bell: One Million Men. One Million Promises,” rallied men and allies worldwide to challenge violence against women, with participation from high profile people, such as Sir Patrick Stewart.
• catalyzed communities in India to mobilize around early marriage, with Breakthrough’s community-based adolescent empowerment program reaching over 420,000 (with a goal of reaching 1 million by 2022), which has effectively decreased incidents of child marriage and sexual harassment in local communities.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization collecting feedback from the people you serve?

  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve,

  • With whom is the organization sharing feedback?

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?



Unlock financial insights by subscribing to our monthly plan.


Unlock nonprofit financial insights that will help you make more informed decisions. Try our monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights?
Learn more about GuideStar Pro.


The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


Connect with nonprofit leaders


Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.


Connect with nonprofit leaders


Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.


Board of directors
as of 10/6/2021
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Sunil Savkar

Joanne Sandler

UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)

Mallika Dutt

Michael Hirschhorn

Bishakha Datta

Point of View

Benu Kumar

Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla

Neelam Deo

Priya Paul

Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels

Sanjeev Duggal

Centum Learning Limited

Santosh Desai

Futurebrands India

Suneeta Kar Dhar


Mona Sinha

Sunil Savkar

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP

Maggie Bangser

Darnell Moore


Sashwati Banerjee

Alpana Kirloskar

Marilia Bezerra

L. Camille Massey

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? No
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 10/06/2021

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Black/African American/African
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or other sexual orientations in the LGBTQIA+ community

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity


Sexual orientation


No data

Equity strategies

Last updated: 01/28/2021

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We analyze disaggregated data and root causes of race disparities that impact the organization's programs, portfolios, and the populations served.
  • We disaggregate data to adjust programming goals to keep pace with changing needs of the communities we support.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We have a promotion process that anticipates and mitigates implicit and explicit biases about people of color serving in leadership positions.
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.