I wrote yesterday about Salman Khan and the enthusiasm he is generating for work in education by social entrepreneurs and new philanthropists. Sal Khan is an investment analyst by training with an entrepreneurial engineer’s sense of production and scale. When he waxes poetic about values, he’s talking about quadratic equations.
The Global Philanthropy Forum (GPF) also showcased Patrick Awuah, another social entrepreneur working in education, who is guided by a different compass, timeframe and sense of scale. When Awuah brings values up, he means the human, ethical kind.
Awuah, a former manager at Microsoft, founded Ashesi University in Ghana in 1999. Ashesi currently has 500 students, and is one of a handful of private institutions of higher education in Ghana. Like many of the other participants at GPF, I was taken with Awuah’s groundedness, his low-key but determined demeanour, and his long-term vision.
Ashesi is distinctive for its focus on leadership, character and creativity. Ashesi has attracted the attention and funding of a number of foundations, notably the MasterCard Foundation, which has included generous scholarship support to Ashesi.
Asked about the founding of Ashesi, Awuah explained that when his son was born, around the time of the Rwandan genocide, he had been living in the United States for a decade and was working at Microsoft. The genocide and other events made him feel that Africa was headed in the wrong direction. As he said, ‘People like me with opportunities – a scholarship, a job, an education – we needed to be part of the solution. If we could help Africa go in the right direction, this would change the world for people of African descent everywhere.’
His analysis was that the development of leadership is crucial. ‘Take a problem, ask why it exists, and you always come back to leadership. Especially leaders being ethical, and having a notion that they are responsible for solving problems. I thought education was the way to move this forward.’
‘I see lots of leaders who go through the motions,’ Awuah says, ‘but they don’t really have an expectation that this problem will be solved. We need problem-solvers who are unafraid of new challenges, who have confidence and the expectation that they will successfully overcome these challenges. For me, development is the democratization of problem-solving. The greatest scale we can achieve is when we make problem-solving universal.’
Fundamental to Ashesi’s work is a focus on developing not only a set of skills, but also character. For this reason, Ashesi has insisted on a student-enforced honour code, even when educational accreditation bodies in Ghana were initially skeptical that this would work. Awuah looks at the good functioning of the honour code as one of the strongest metrics associated with Ashesi.
He is also more sanguine than many about the possibility of making creativity much more central in Ghanaian higher education, rewarding curiosity and insight. Thinking back on his undergraduate years at college in the United States, he reflects, ‘When I was in engineering class, we’d been taught how to design circuits. I could have applied the theory learned in class, but I designed a shortcut that would operate faster and offer better results. If I’d done that in a public university in Ghana, I’d have gotten an F. At Swarthmore, I got an A+. The instructor thanked me for teaching something to him.’
Awuah sees scale as something it takes time to achieve. While he admits that values and creativity work needs to start earlier than at university, he feels that as an individual he could only have so much impact on Ghana’s large primary education system. ‘Given limited resources, higher education seemed a good place to start, with a small percentage of youth going to higher education – then 2%, now 5%. If university students are such a small fraction of the overall youth demographic, then it is likely that these students will be the future leaders of the country. If I could trigger a change in how they are educated, this in turn could create a 20 to 40-year change.’
His vision of success for Ashesi in 20 years? Graduates running companies, at the head of major corporations not only in Ghana but across Africa. He hopes that Ashesi will have matured to include a graduate program, and will graduate 500 students every year. This adds up to 25,000 students over 50 years. He believes that the Ashesi graduates will demonstrate the power of critical thinking, problem-solving and ethics.
He believes that technology, especially Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs), will broaden what Ashesi can offer. In the short term, as Ghana and Ashesi tackle the question of unreliable bandwidth, MOOCS will mostly be a supplement to textbooks. In the medium term, he sees Ashesi as being able to offer a blend of its own high-touch, values-based teaching, and world-class courses offered online from leading universities. In the long term, he sees Ashesi becoming an important content contributor with MOOCs of its own.
But he also issues a caveat: building character and ethics and ethos is hard to do online. Over the longer term there has to be thinking about what a residential college provides in the era of MOOCs.
He concludes: ‘We need a group of people really thinking through how to make this work. We need to bring disparate elements together: business models and social conscience and problem solving disciplines. This will move us forward.’
Peter Laugharn is executive director of the Firelight Foundation
Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden met with a delegation of the Arab League on April 29, 2013. The group discussed the conflict between Israel and Palestine and the Arab Peace Initiative.
This is the second of three blogs, all inspired by the recent Skoll Forum and Global Philanthropy Forum, which will focus on the growing importance of global education as a philanthropic issue. My first blog, provoked by a session criticizing the ineffectiveness of development aid, was an appeal for philanthropy to take a long-term, generative approach on the delivery global public goods. Today, I’d like to focus on those who are doing this in education, both foundations and social entrepreneurs.
I attended the annual Global Philanthropy Forum (GPF) conference in California last week. As previously, it provided a good mix of policy debate and exploration of innovation. The main themes included education and employment, human trafficking, health, agriculture, big data and digital opportunities. Of these themes, I want to focus on education, and what I consider its striking growth in philanthropy and social enterprise.
Five years ago, neither philanthropy nor social enterprise were extensively involved in global basic education. In the US and in Europe, foundations have long been actively involved in debates and funding for education within their own borders. But unlike other development actors (bilaterals and multilaterals, international and local NGOs, national governments, and indeed households), they were not very active in the two-decade-long global effort on Education for All – though exceptions certainly existed, such as the Bernard van Leer Foundation’s long-time work in early childhood and the Aga Khan Foundation’s funding at all levels of education.
The Gates Foundation’s choices in this area have been instructive and important. Gates invests billions of dollars a year in global health, and hundreds of millions of dollars a year in domestic education, but has consistently decided not to make global education a funding priority. This seems to stem from a desire to focus Gates’ global work on a present-day push for health and agriculture gains rather than making longer-term investments in human capital. Gates probably also has a prudent reluctance to tackle constrained educational delivery systems in developing countries when the foundation’s work on US education has not yet produced convincing results. These two causes for hesitation – a focus on measurable shorter-term gains and a reluctance to tackle developing country education systems – probably underlie other foundations’ wariness as well. As GPF’s Jane Wales put it, ‘Education has been confounding, how do you crack that nut?’
Social entrepreneurs have until recently acted similarly, more comfortable working in areas such as microenterprise where individual initiative dominates, and institutions are smaller and more flexible. Education officials, for their part, have not seen the relevance of social enterprise to the problems they have to solve.
This is now beginning to change. Both philanthropy and social enterprise are starting to play a more active and influential role.
Though it did not choose to make education a programmatic priority, the Gates Foundation did make a $40 million investment in the Hewlett Foundation’s ‘Quality Education in Developing Countries’ (QEDC) programme, focused on measuring learning, improving instruction, and tracking resources and effectiveness. Hewlett has used this QEDC funding in very strategic ways to build up philanthropic investment, coordination and leverage. It has played an important role in introducing foundations to the Education For All movement, with a focus on creative thinking and data-based problem-solving. Hewlett and others have encouraged new foundations to enter the global education field, to the extent that the International Education Funders Group now counts 60 members and is growing rapidly. Private foundations have recently gained a seat (shared with the private sector) on the board of the Global Partnership for Education, which grants hundreds of millions of dollars each year to help developing country governments finance their push towards education for all. Philanthropy is starting to act strategically in global education.
The rise of social entrepreneurship within education is even more striking, epitomized at the GPF gathering by Salman Khan (pictured) of the Khan Academy, which has produced 4,100 short educational videos which have had more than 250 million views on YouTube. The Khan Academy characterizes itself as ‘a not-for-profit with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere’. It has all the elements of the social entrepreneur ‘heroic narrative’ – a person armed with an idea, a prototype that expands to a surprising scale, and an unexpected improvement in a previously intractable problem. In this case the problem is the ‘factory-style delivery’ of basic education, and the piece of the solution on offer is not just videos but an opportunity to use technology to deliver basic information, freeing up teachers to help students with concept mastery and higher learning. Khan and others favour ‘blended learning’ which combines online delivery and human instruction, paced according to the needs of individual learners. The implications of this approach for schooling systems in the global South and its push towards quality education for all are only just being grasped.
Other innovations are also changing the way we look at education systems. The ‘massive open online courses’, or MOOCs, of Coursera and Udacity, which offer tens or hundreds of thousands of students courses offered by top-flight universities, are arguably more game-changing for higher education than the work of the Khan Academy. MOOCs may eventually fundamentally change the business model of the delivery of schooling, at least at its higher levels. This is not lost on human-centred design firms like IDEO, represented at Skoll by their education lead Sandy Speicher, which have started to move from a focus on designing physical spaces for schooling to the design of entire education systems.
Another education visionary at GPF was Patrick Awuah, who left Microsoft to found Ashesi University in Ghana, whom I interviewed for the third blog in this series.
In my first blog, I asserted that ‘Education for All’ was a 100-year effort, which began with African independence in the 1960s but still has another 50 or so years to go before we as a global society can provide a quality secondary education, linked to a livelihood, to all our children. As I review the rapid changes happening in education today, I am thinking that the second 50 years may only take 30 or 20 years – and that the ‘quality education’ of the future may be delivered in a very different way than in the past.
I find this fitting. For decades, we have held that education is the key to learning, creativity and change, yet the school itself has been one of the most standardized and immutable of institutions, both across countries and over time. This is likely to change over the coming decades. I expect to see an explosion of creativity and possibility which will be featured in years of philanthropic work to come. It’s time to revise our long-term visions, to overcome our hesitations about investing in global education, and to bring our assets and ideas into this promising arena.
Hats off to the pioneers who have brought philanthropy and social enterprise into this space – Hewlett, the Global Partnership for Education, Salman Khan, the creators of the MOOCs, IDEO, Ashesi, and many others. May they continue to expand opportunity.
Peter Laugharn is the executive director of the Firelight Foundation
Obama is right not to rush to war, given our checkered past on the use of chemical weapons and the sinkhole of hatreds in Syria, writes Leslie H. Gelb.
Pursuant to the plan announced by the National People’s Congress (NPC) in March and the follow-up decision to create a timeline of the expected changes to be carried out by the State Council, China Daily has recently reported that the plan now states that establishing four categories of CSOs ‒ industrial associations, charities, community services and organizations dedicated to promoting science and technology ‒ will entail direct registration with civil affairs authorities, abandoning pre-examination and approval by other regulators. While there has been some confusion about how many different categories of CSOs will qualify, the latest statements by civil affairs officials to newspapers indicate that the categories have been clarified and refined. One assumes that there will need to be clarifying rules issued in addition to the major regulations establishing this new direct registration policy.
Officials have called the plan as ‘a major breakthrough’ for the development of CSOs in China, predicting that empowered organizations will be a driving force for the country’s development in the coming three decades. As explained in an earlier post, this plan is part of a major economic reform package, the elements of which entail moving forward with plans to implement the ‘small government/big society’ slogan by creating more CSOs to which social services can be outsourced.
It is also relevant that about 1 million CSOs either operate without legal identity or have to register as companies because of the current registration policy. In terms of the types of organizations covered by the new rules, it is important that there were more than 490,000 CSOs at the end of 2012, of which 85 per cent were of the above four types, according to the ministry.
Commentators are cautiously optimistic. ‘We have repeatedly heard “spring is coming for NGOs” for many years but have always felt let down. But, this time, I think it really is coming,’ said Deng Guosheng, a professor who specializes in CSO studies at Tsinghua University. ‘Before, we had hints from the Ministry of Civil Affairs, but this time round it’s an NPC decision, one with legal backup.’ Wang Ming, Deng’s fellow researcher at Tsinghua, said the reform of the registration system reflects a fundamental shift in official attitudes toward these organizations and marks the starting point in another round of social reform, following the market-oriented reforms that began in 1978.
The categories of domestic CSOs that will not be permitted to register directly include ‘religious, legal, and political’ CSOs. The precise meaning of the terms is unclear, but some experts think that there is a good rationale for not allowing direct registration for them. For example, religious organizations are regulated by the State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA), as are their charities. Public-interest law firms, like regular law firms, must be regulated by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), even though MoJ has as yet issued no regulations for the public interest firms. Political organizations, such as the five ‘democratic parties’ in China (aside from the CCP) are regulated by the United Front Department of the Party, which means that MCA would have no jurisdiction over them either.
A fourth category that will not be directly registered is foreign organizations. At present only branch offices of foreign foundations may register (with a sponsor). CSOs operating in Yunnan Province are allowed to be ‘recognized’ by the authorities. MCA officials have said that another aspect of the reforms that will be carried out by 31 December is to clarify the status of all types of foreign organizations.
A 6.6 magnitude earthquake struck on 20 April 2013 near Ya’an in Sichuan Province. While the temblor was not as strong as that in 2008, there was widespread devastation and misery because of the steep rural area in which the epicentre lies. Four different aspects of the disaster response deserve to be mentioned.
Charity prizes awarded
On 19 April the government gave dozens of individuals and corporations the country’s highest charity award for the charitable efforts in 2012. Twenty individuals received the ‘most charitable donor’ award, including Gu Runjin, president of Perfect (China) Co, Ltd, the organizing committee for the China Charity Award announced at an award ceremony held in Beijing. Billionaire Cao Dewang, president of Fuyao Glass Industry Group Co Ltd, received the award for the third time in as many years. Twenty philanthropic projects and 40 companies also received awards, including the China Three Gorges Corporation and the Shanghai-based Baosteel Group Corporation. The awards were given based on online votes from 4.5 million people, the committee said.
China Charity Alliance announced
The establishment of the China Charity Alliance was announced at the same ceremony, with Civil Affairs Minister Li Liguo as its president. Li promised to improve disciplinary management in the field and to maintain development in charitable undertakings. Aimed at promoting transparency and cooperation in China’s booming philanthropic sector, the alliance has more than 160 members, including property tycoon Wang Jianlin, president of Wanda Group, and Yang Lan, a famous TV anchorwoman.
Karla W Simon (西 门 雅) is Research Professor of Law at the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law. She splits her time between Beijing and the Washington, DC area
The United States tried to convince Israel to join the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) when the treaty was first introduced and before it was widely believed that Israel had nuclear weapons. The NPT's objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology and further the goal of universal disarmament.
As we approach the annual EFC conference next month, Alliance is again planning to put together a team of bloggers to report from the event. We hope to be able to share the topics and themes from the conference with those who are unable to attend — and hear comments from those who are.
We would love to hear which sessions at the conference our readers would be most interested in reading about. Please cast your vote below for which session you would like to see covered. One of our team will attend the session with the most votes and a full report will be published here on the Latest from Alliance blog. The full programme includes many interesting sessions in addition to those listed below — let us know if there are any others of particular interest.Take Our Poll
As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton helped restore America's standing in the world, but she left office with no signature achievement. If she gets her way, her tenure as the country's top diplomat will come to be seen simply as a stepping-stone to the presidency
Anti-Americanism might have ebbed momentarily thanks to U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and support for the Arab Spring. But hostility is once again mounting in the Arab world. In Amaney Jamal's new book, she tries to determine why.
First came GlobalGiving, DonorsChoose and Kiva. These platforms brought crowd giving/lending to new heights. They also represent a trajectory of increasingly narrow area of focus for the platforms – GlobalGiving funds development projects internationally, DonorsChoose focuses on US classroom teachers’ needs, and Kiva ‘kickstarted’ the crowdfunding of microloans. More recently, Dave Eggers and the good folks at 826 National launched a platform to fund college aid called ScholarMatch.
2013 may be shaping up as the year of crowdfunding medical needs. There are least three (send me others) new sites that provide access to funding for urgent medical needs. One of them, Watsi, has received a lot of attention for being the first non-profit included in the Y Combinator accelerator – a badge of honour at least in Silicon Valley. Another, Samahope, which funds surgical procedures, comes from the brains behind SamaSource – a pioneer in digital micro job creation. The third, Kangu, focuses specifically on helping women have healthy pregnancies and births.
I had a chance to meet with Grace Garey of Watsi, so I have a better sense of how that program works than the others. What struck me about Watsi is its commitment to make transparent all the information about the process, the patients, the clinics, the funding. This is a big deal – especially since we are talking about people’s healthcare. It raises issues of what kinds of health information are individuals willing to share? How do you present enough information to attract funding and protect the dignity of the individual? What will happen to all that data as Watsi grows? (It has already served more than 200 people in just a few months.) That’s 200+ life changing medical treatments. By virtue of their involvement at Y Combinator you know they’re interested in getting big (‘scale’ being the buzzword you are looking for). Watsi is already working with its medical partners on ‘informed consent’ and patient waivers. These patients may well be more informed than many Americans are about their own medical care. They may also be more in charge of the consent they give. But what rights to their data will they have down the road?
It seems critical to me that these platforms be ‘patient-centric’ by design. These are peoples’ lives we’re talking about here. Sure, the donor experience is important, but the possibility for horrible power dynamics to emerge between donor and recipient seem that much more magnified in a situation in which a compelling story is key to motivating a donation. Watsi is very attuned to these issues and working hard not to structure a marketplace of sob stories. Being incredibly clear about what’s actually being funded (the medical practitioner, not the patient) is part of that. Finding ways to keep the doctors/nurses in control of the timing of any medical action (and not contingent on funding) is another piece of the puzzle (one which Watsi has already addressed).
In addition to the plenitude of intimate issues raised by sites like these, there are also larger policy issues. The growth of microfinance has had positive results and there are significant concerns with how it influences commercial lenders with purely financial motivations or shapes national policies and state investments in functioning financial systems. With any philanthropic activity there is the question (if the holy grail of ‘scale’ is reached) of letting public funders off the hook and leading them to invest less in a social safety net, not more. Which is, given the attention deficit disorder of both individual and institutional funders, a real problem.
Watsi, and I assume Kangu and Samahope, have the potential to become powerful new sources of data. Just by browsing Kangu’s website, for example, I can now tell you that prenatal care and an attended birth costs $253 in Uganda. As more and more people are served by these systems, their data on costs, quality, efficiencies and health outcomes could become quite valuable.
These medical crowdfunding site are fascinating to me. In many ways, they are returning us to the time before national health services and social security, when turning to one’s community for financial assistance with medical needs or college costs was the norm. Of course, global connectivity is changing our definition of who constitutes ‘one’s community,’ but another way of seeing these services is as mutual aid on steroids. (And minus some of the mutuality – will a Ugandan woman ever contribute to the costs of maternal care for an American? I suppose it’s possible, Kiva now facilitates many loans between ‘developing’ countries).
What do you think is the next frontier for social sector crowdfunding?
Lucy Bernholz is the author of the blog philanthropy2173, where this article first appeared.
Yingluck Shinawatra was elected prime minister of Thailand in July 2011. She has so far achieved the most important thing in Thailand today, which is preserving a fragile peace between different interest groups and political sides.
Sheila A. Smith argues that tensions between Japan and China over disputed islands in the East China Sea could seriously harm U.S. interests. She discusses steps the United States could take to de-escalate the crisis.
GlobalGiving aims to catalyse a global market for ideas, information and money that democratizes aid and philanthropy. Co-founder and president Mari Kuraishi says that their challenge is to ensure that each dollar counts. In the latest free article on the Alliance magazine website, Kuraishi outlines two of the fundamental beliefs that GlobalGiving is based on and looks at how they have upended their theory of change to become more effective.
Identifying the tensions between supporting the ‘best’ organization and supporting small, new, local organizations without a track record, the article considers the ways in which Global Giving ensures value for money. With examples of the results they achieved from opening up their referral system, Kuraishi details how this has helped them to reach social entrepreneurs who were not yet in the limelight but still doing valuable work.
“We can’t promise that every social entrepreneur on GlobalGiving is a future Ashoka Fellow. But we also don’t want to stand by while we watch the roulette wheel spin. Increasingly, we believe we can maximize our chances of supporting a future Nobel Peace prize winner today by giving them access to a set of tools and enabling them to learn. We are developing tools for every social entrepreneur in our community to track their performance and to learn from peers. And because we are a funding platform, we can structure a series of incentives for those organizations that engage in behaviours we associate with learning.” Read more >
This article was published as part of the free content available on the main Alliance website. To discover more about subscribing to access the full content of the magazine, visit www.alliancemagazine.org/subscribe.