The Education Commission’s vision calls for substantially increased resources from all actors to achieve the Learning Generation. The most important financiers of education are domestic governments responsible for funding 97% of the Commission’s projected $3 trillion education investment by 2030. But domestic governments alone will not be able to cover the costs. Even under an optimistic scenario of domestic investment, improved efficiency, and increased cost-sharing by households for higher levels of education, the international community will need to increase its total contribution from $16 billion in 2015 to $89 billion by 2030. And any expanded financing must also be matched with reforms that will deliver the necessary return on investment. To that end, transformations in performance, innovation, inclusion and finance will not only increase the impact of finance but also be critical for mobilizing more resources for education.
All actors have a role to play in funding – but in education, there is a missed opportunity for foundations and high-net-worth individuals. One of the Commission’s main recommendations is an “Education Giving Pledge,” encouraging high net worth individuals — millionaires and not just billionaires — to make a substantial and public commitment to education, and in doing so motivate their peers to do likewise.
The precedent for such a platform exists, with the most well-known example being the Giving Pledge, a global effort initiated by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates in 2010 to encourage the world’s wealthiest individuals to give a significant portion of their wealth to philanthropic initiatives. The group is composed of a diverse set of business leaders and entrepreneurs and garnered 17 more signatories this year, bringing its membership to a total of 154 individuals and families from 16 countries.
Indeed, philanthropists and foundations are better positioned than many governments and non-profits to take risks. Consequently, foundations and philanthropists are increasingly exploring new and innovate forms of finance such as impact investing and making loans and grants tethered to a financial and social return on investment. Another trend is “big bets,” grants designed to enhance grantees’ long-term sustainability by engaging other funding and management partners.
Philanthropists and foundations are well-positioned to summon their influence and knowledge to seek systemic change in global education. This year Commissioner Jack Ma called the Xin Philanthropy Conference, a first-of-its-kind philanthropy conference in Hangzhou hosted by the Alibaba Foundation. Ma, Alibaba Executive Chairman and Commissioner, put education at the forefront of the agenda and emphasized the need to explore the “next-generation” of philanthropy and ideas around how Big Data, technology, crowd-funding and crowd-solutions can be leveraged to maximize impact. When the Commission announced its findings at the UN, Commissioner Jack Ma said: “I believe philanthropy could bring new momentum, new thinking and real results for the most vulnerable young people across the world.” He went on to comment that realizing the Learning Generation vision means “governments and philanthropists and corporations and charitable organizations should all work together to close this funding gap.”
We are already witnessing philanthropic breakthroughs in education as evidenced by some foundations utilizing crowd-sourcing as a strategy to highlight innovative and underrepresented ideas. The Rockefeller Foundation uses what it calls “Pulses,” or loosely curated crowd conversations using various technologies, to pool intelligence on a range of social issues from online and offline networks.
An Education Giving Pledge could serve as a platform through which momentum is catalyzed and communication increased between funders seeking to share information on innovative funding concepts. Research for the Commission by the Foundation Center revealed that US funders often find it difficult to witness comprehensive dividends in a sector as expansive as education. The Foundation Center’s paper clearly showed traditional philanthropy can do more to fund global education. In turn, these findings led the Commission to articulate an Education Giving Pledge vision, one that would motivate those philanthropists capable of driving forward change in the education sector. This action would, in turn, inspire more to follow suit.
Taken together, the message is clear. When it comes to funding global education, everyone has a role to play. The Commission calls for funding from philanthropists, corporations, and charitable organizations to increase education funding to at least $7 billion by 2020 and $20 billion in 2030. And so on #GivingTuesday, the Commission calls on all of these actors to mobilize in an effort to reach the ambitious goals necessary to create the Learning Generation.