Karen Spencer

Karen Spencer







+ Virtual Keynote Speaker

A 30, 45, or 60 minute live keynote presentation delivered via zoom. 

+ In-person Keynote Speaker

A 30, 45, or 60 minute live keynote presentation delivered in person.

+ Hybrid Keynote Speaker

A 30, 45, or 60 minute live keynote presentation delivered in-person and livestreamed to virtual audiences. 


Embracing the F Word: Why Failure is Essential to Success

“Don’t be afraid to fail,” says Karen Spencer. “If you embrace the fact that it’s going to happen, with a willingness to learn from it, that’s how you can be successful.”

As the founder of Whole Child International, which works with orphanages in developing countries to improve cognitive and physical development of children worldwide, Karenand her organization have experienced a lot of bumps in the road. From massive, project-collapsing issues to minor day-to-day process missteps, every organization can relate to the occasional failure—but, as Karen says, it’s how you embrace failure that takes you from average to excellent. It’s how you take responsibility every time something goes wrong. It’s how you maintain confidence in your ideas, but hold them lightly. If your organization commits to learning from failures and mistakes, you’ll set yourself up for greatness.

In this passionate, practical talk, Karen weaves together stories from Whole Child with hands-on examples and strategies your organization can take home and implement today.

Better Together: The Fundamental Power of Human Relationships

As a young mother, Karen Spencer felt deeply connected to her children, and could see the positive impact this intimate relationship was having on their well-being. But deep down, she knew that not all children around the world were feeling the same kind of connection—especially children in institutions and orphanages.

Whole Child International was born with a very specific mission in mind: to improve the physical and emotional health of children using relationship-centred care. It is not unusual for children in institutions to have 70-80 caregivers, all of them emotionally disconnected, by their fifth birthday. Whole Child works with institutions to train caregivers, change government policy, and enact major change.

In this powerful talk, Karen presents the research that led her to understand and employ the power of relationships and connection. She tells the story of Whole Child, but also speaks broadly about relationships in society and how we all need to find more connection in our daily lives. If you care about living longer, she says, getting to know the checkout clerk at your grocery store is probably more important than going to the gym. This is an essential talk for any audience looking for inspiration, connection, and a positive outlook on the future of humanity.


Karen Spencer is one of the most widely respected social entrepreneurs on this planet. The founder of Whole Child International and one of People Magazine’s “25 Women Changing the World,” Karen and her organization are making a significant impact on the health and well-being of children around the world. How did she get here? And what can we learn from her success? In inspiring, authentic talks she shares the story of Whole Child International and reveals her hands-on strategies for making change happen.

Karen Spencer founded Whole Child International in 2004 when, as a single mother of two, she discovered an absence of services to address the social-emotional well-being of children living in orphanages. For the past 15 years, she has led an international team to improve systems of care, advocate and influence policy, and conduct related research. She has provided the vision and strategic direction for the organization’s growth, with a passion for systems change, sustainability, scalability, research, and third-party evaluation. The organization’s scope has expanded to reach an even broader group of vulnerable children, while retaining the original focus on emotional well-being.

Karen is co-author of articles published in the peer-reviewed Infant Mental Health Journal and Perspectives in Infant Mental Health. In 2010, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama came to Los Angeles, especially to lend his personal support to Whole Child. In 2015, Karen was elected an Ashoka Fellow for identifying and filling a gap in care for orphans and vulnerable children. In 2016, she was made a Fellow at the University of Northampton in the United Kingdom. In 2017, People Magazine named her one of “25 Women Changing the World.”

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Founder, Whole Child International