Grantmakers need to think well beyond today’s programmatic approaches to foster collaboration, political ambition and collective action at an unprecedented scale.
Here are 3 strategies philanthropic organizations can adopt to transform learning and education systems:
1. Make crisis collaboration the norm
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the philanthropic sector mobilized resources for children’s learning at tremendous scale and pace. Grantmakers and grantees came together with a shared sense of urgency, rapidly deploying support and removing unnecessary barriers to access and impact.
This heightened collaboration allowed communities to respond rapidly and innovatively to school shutdowns and subsequent academic, emotional and social fallout. But what if crisis-related collaboration, the ‘exception,’ became the rule?
Long-term transformation for learning demands this kind of collaboration continue in order to garner broad support for changes that lead to more resilient education systems, adaptive to children’s needs. But funders must go beyond making collaboration a requirement for grant agreements. They must consider their role in facilitating partnerships.
Grantmakers are well positioned to convene groups working in the same issue area and to identify points of alignment, but there must also be adequate funding and time allowed for such collaborations to take shape.
When timelines for results don’t account for the complexity of relationship building, organizations will rush to get quick wins instead of putting in the time to expand networks and collaboratively build long-term impact.
As movement-builder and author Adrienne Maree Brown says, in order to build sustainable partnerships, we must “move at the speed of trust.”
2. Invest in strategic communications
The classroom is only one part of the equation when it comes to a child’s learning and development. Learning-reform programs often underestimate the role families and broader communities have in shaping a child’s education outcomes.
Philanthropic funders could have a role to play in reaching these key audiences by investing more actively in strategies that:
- Identify where they consume information (be it TV, radio or social media);
- Engage parents and caregivers through these channels and platforms; and
- Drive culture change at the community level in support of children’s learning.
In 2021, a new coalition was formed in Rwanda between institutional players (including UNICEF, Right to Play and VVOB), community-level leaders (such as libraries, museums, educators and local government) and the Rwanda Media Commission to develop effective messaging and content about the importance of holistic skills development and parental engagement.