Our Story


Gwen Loeb first began dreaming of World Builders over a decade ago. As a leader of environmental and social justice nonprofits, she experienced the endless struggle to move informed solutions beyond the perception of “lunatic fringe” and into mainstream implementation. Simultaneously, as an actress and avid lover of narrative, Gwen knows the profound impact that stories have on audiences.


As much as she dreamed of bringing her two worlds together for a symbiotic solution, it wasn’t until she worked at another organization with her cousin, Julia Shirley-Quirk, that the final piece fell into place. The cousins discovered their skill sets, experience, and passions were perfectly aligned. Together, they were able to move mountains! On January 17, 2023, they launched the start-up phase of World Builders Institute and began building this path to a better world!

Welcome to Beta and Beyond!

WBI was founded on January 17, 2023. In the 4-month Start-Up Phase, WBI’s mighty team built the entire organizational infrastructure, and —thanks to over 100-hours of generous, one-on-one, expert advice from our founding coalition members—designed the programs and plans for the first 5 years!


On May 18, 2023, World Builders Institute moved into its Beta Phase, going public with a full website, introductory video, and social media launch

During its Beta Phase, WBI will:

Expand the World Building Council with outreach to Thought Leaders, Luminaries, Community Members, Creatives, and industry Decision Makers

Work with Thought Leaders to build the Wheel of Possibilities — an interactive, dramaturgical tool that details attainable and aspirational solutions for global issues

Finalize WBI’s branding and grow it’s marketing reach

Work with the World Building Council to choose the inaugural story creation Teams

Fully fund our next year of programs

Prepare for the Public & Press Launch, which will include an unveiling of the Wheel of Possibilities and announcement of the inaugural Teams!

During our Beta Phase, we’re seeking collaborators who believe in this vision and can assist with advice, funds, network expansion, and/or program participation.

Please help launch this change-making movement by sharing your spotlight, your expertise, or your passion for change. Just adding your name can make a world of difference.

Meet the TEAM!

Gwen Loeb (she/her)

C.E.O. and Co-Founder


Gwen has over 35 years of leadership experience developing the revenue and program impacts of nonprofit organizations, and as a collaborator on new scripts development. World Builders Institute is the culmination of Gwen’s dream to use the power of stories to speed the pace of social and environmental progress.

Prior to WBI, Ms. Loeb was the Executive Director of Arts for Oakland Kids (AOK), a community-funded arts equity foundation. During her tenure, she transformed AOK by gathering first-of-its-kind data identifying the Oakland Unified School District students who lacked arts education, creating and launching three targeted grant funds, and increasing AOK’s grantmaking by 450%.


Gwen excels at bringing together complex programs and partnerships. During her time with the Ecology Center, she led the 42 organizations and 250 implementation sites of the California Market Match Coalition to the successful receipt of their first $3.7million USDA grant and $3.7million in matching funds. As a result, E.B.T. shoppers at all CA Farmers’ Markets receive $2 for every $1 of benefit that they spend. 


For 17 years, Ms. Loeb ran her own organizational development company providing long term assistance to arts, environmental, and social justice nonprofits with budgets ranging from $5k to $26M. Gwen had the honor to work with many stellar organizations, including: Greenlining Institute, Seva Foundation, Lesher Center for the Arts, Ecology Center, David Brower Center, Transition US, Quixotic Productions, California League of Conservation Voters, and many more.


In addition to her work as a nonprofit executive, Ms. Loeb is an award-winning Equity actress. She has performed with major companies throughout the Bay Area, including American Conservatory Theater, Theatre Works, Aurora Theater Company, Marin Theater Company, SPARC Theater, Shotgun Players, and San Francisco Shakespeare Festival. Gwen has been a core company member with PlayGround, a new play development organization, for nearly 25 years, and is a frequent actor/collaborator with the nationally celebrated Bay Area Playwrights Festival. She has initiated roles for many renowned writers, including Lisa Krohn (FunHome), Marcus Gardley (The Chi, The Color Purple), and Larissa Fasthorse (Thanksgiving Play).

Julia Headshot in WBI Blob Shape v2

Julia Shirley-Quirk (they/she)

C.O.O. and Co-Founder


Julia is proudly autistic, queer, disabled, and non-binary. As a Visual and Organizational Designer, they specialize in crafting and streamlining organizational systems and amplifying the marketing and branding for new and growing organizations. World Builders Institute is the third nonprofit Julia has founded and is the culmination of Julia’s passion for social and environmental justice and their experience as a visual storyteller.

In their previous role with Arts for Oakland Kids (AOK), an arts equity foundation, Julia served as the Administrative Director and Marketing Manager. Before joining AOK, Julia co-founded two nonprofits dedicated to underserved populations in Athens, Greece, and served as the Administrative Director and Marketing Manager for both. 


In 2015, Julia joined Skipchen, a nonprofit dedicated to highlighting food waste’s environmental and social impacts. Skipchen responded to the European refugee crisis by building and running a field kitchen in ‘The Jungle’ in Calais, France. It is there that Julia discovered Skipchen’s work while on assignment as a documentary photographer for Vice. Julia quickly joined Skipchen as their documentary photographer, but after recognizing that the stories they wanted to document were not theirs to tell, they used their organizational and design expertise to transition to a new role with Skipchen: providing administrative support for the building and running of a field kitchen and community space in the Moria refugee camp in Lesvos, Greece. During this time, Julia refocused their passion towards enabling others to help tell their own stories while continuing to use their photography to share the stories of the organization’s growth.


When the refugee camp in Lesvos was evicted, Skipchen moved to Athens, eventually expanding into the Khora Community Center, one of the two nonprofits Julia co-founded during their time in Greece. In response to the ever-evolving needs of Athens displaced communities, Julia went on to co-found Scrap Coop, a free, community-led makerspace and training center. 

Julia holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Landscape Architecture from the University of East London, a dual bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and Geography & Urban Studies from Temple University, and a strong love for the English Canals where they currently live on a narrowboat with their beloved dog and cat.

The World Building Council

The World Building Council is at the heart of WBI’s programs and is designed to provide the multi-sector expertise, support, and networks needed to ensure we can collaboratively launch engaging, representative, and widely-seen stories. 


During our Start-Up Phase, 30+ founding Council members generously provided over 100 hours of one-on-one, expert input for WBI’s program design. The founding members represent every medium and are leading writers, directors, dramaturgs, producers, publishers, designers, policymakers, activists, students, and academics. After the Beta Launch, the Council quickly doubled and continues to grow, adding expertise in every area.


Council members can be found here.

Our Purpose

World Builders Institute (WBI) develops entertainment that deepens public understanding of global solutions. Utilizing the power of stories, WBI works to increase the pace and depth of public support, engagement, and hope. 

Using our 6 Program Building Blocks we’re bringing social and environmental thought-leaders together with teams of creatives, producers, and publishers for a 2-year, Inspiration-to-Distribution arc, supporting projects in all genres and mediums: TV, film, theater, books, and video games.

Stories have The unique power to:

Open Imaginations

Lower Defenses

Build Hope


Inspire Action

Speed the Pace of Change

With the power of stories, we're building the peaceful, equitable, sustainable world that's within our reach

Would you like to learn more?

Get in Touch!