By Adam C. Bad Wound (learn more about Adam here: http://www.myphilanthropedia.org/team under the Alumni tab)
From coast to coast, Newark to Oakland, collaboration in education has been a hot topic in philanthropy – and for good reason. A recent report by the U.S. Census bureau announced that the official poverty rate in 2009 increased to 14.3 percent, from 13.2 percent in 2008. The number of people living in poverty increased by four million to 43.6 million or nearly one in seven U.S. residents.
In light of these figures, collaborative innovations in education have become an important issue across the nation, evident in a number of recent high-profile philanthropic events on the Oprah Winfrey Show. In its final season, a recent show confronted the education crisis, as Oprah brought together an innovative group of cross-sector leaders who are collaborating to reform education in America.
Angel Network Finale
On the show, Oprah Winfrey announced she will be shutting down her Angel Network charity, as her talk show comes to a close in its final season. As its last gift, Oprah’s Angel Network gave away $6 million to successful charter schools from across the country.
Each of the six schools selected by Oprah received $1 million, including Aspire Public Schools (Philanthropedia top nonprofit) in California, the Denver School of Science and Technology, LEARN Charter School Network in Chicago, Mastery Charter Schools in Philadelphia, the New Orleans Charter Science and Math Academy and YES Prep Public Schools in Houston.
Waiting for Superman
The show featured documentary filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, who recently released Waiting for “Superman”, an exhaustive review of public education that follows a group of students stuck in “drop-out factories” and “academic sinkholes,” methodically dissecting the system and its seemingly intractable problems. Guggenheim also offers hope by exploring innovative approaches taken by education reformers and charter schools that have—in reshaping the culture—refused to leave their students behind.
The documentary includes remarks by Bill Gates, co-chair and trustee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (Philanthropedia top nonprofit), and features a group of innovative education reformers, including Geoffrey Canada, president and CEO of Harlem Children’s Zone (Philanthropedia top nonprofit), and Michelle Rhee, chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools, among others.
In a highly-anticipated announcement on the same show, Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, pledged $100 million to help Newark Public Schools. The gift also establishes a new partnership between New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie, who will give some control to Newark’s Mayor, Cory Booker. The agreement allows the mayor a prominent voice in choosing a new school superintendent and redeveloping the school system.
To broaden his philanthropic strategy, Zuckerberg has launched a match-donation fundraising campaign to support the initiative’s new foundation: Startup: Education. The challenge is off to a great start, with William Ackman, investor and founder of the Pershing Square Foundation, pledging $25-million toward meeting the challenge grant.
Collaboration in Education
These high-profile donations have common goals and purposefully seek to achieve the highest amount of impact in education, in part by targeting the areas with greatest need. For example, according to the Wall Street Journal, “About half of Newark’s 40,000 students don’t graduate, and more than 85% of graduates who attend a local community college need remedial help in math and English. Only a fifth of Newark graduates enroll in four-year institutions.”
We also see that Mark Zuckerberg is making a donation not based on a personal connection to the school district, but because of his interest in a social cause: education. Moreover, he’s making a decision based on research about where and how he can make the biggest impact with his giving. And, he’s directing his philanthropic giving toward collaborative partners, people he trusts and supports. Taken together, this group of individuals has raised the issue, encouraged dialogue, and taken action.
Collaboration is an essential component in the Philanthropedia model. Our experts speak independently and collectively. Their combined expertise reminds us that when we come together, we can give better.
Philanthropedia’s been focused on education this year, as well. We recently announced a list of 13 top national education nonprofits, 15 top Bay Area middle-secondary education nonprofits, and 6 top Bay Area early childhood education nonprofits.
Among the great nonprofits listed in this post, the Philanthropedia list of top nonprofits includes Aspire Public Schools, the Gates Foundation, and Harlem Children’s Zone.