A first for the education philanthropy community at the UN
In September, the education philanthropy community did exactly that. It did so through a joint statement to the UN Transforming Education Summit and, in this, created the first moment – to our knowledge – of joined-up education philanthropy to a UN summit.
Both of us have the privilege of working for two networks that connect and enable collaboration between private philanthropy actors. The OECD Network of Foundations Working for Development (netFWD) has three working groups: on education, gender and health. The International Education Funders Group is a network of 100+ education philanthropy organizations working in low- and middle-income countries.
There is incredible range across our members, in what they fund (from early childhood education through to youth entrepreneurship), who they fund (from those in school, those out of school, girls, boys, children with disability, refugees), how they fund (from competitive grants to unrestricted grants, to prizes, social impact bonds and multilateral partnerships), and who they partner with (from global multilateral partners through to grassroots activists in rural Mongolia or Kenya).
What binds them together is being neither civil society nor the private sector and somehow not having been terribly well included in the global development agenda over the last decades.
Philanthropy’s increased role in education
Indeed, philanthropy is growing in advocacy, contribution and impact in global education. Philanthropic funding for education was USD 4.5 billion between 2016 and 2019, according to the OECD Centre on Philanthropy.
Collectively, cross-border philanthropic giving was the eighth largest source of financing for education in lower-income countries in that period, on par with some of the most prominent official development assistance providers.
Philanthropic actors have been working to strengthen and transform education systems for decades. They’ve been leveraging innovation, looking for solutions to pervasive challenges in education. They’ve been producing and brokering knowledge, enabling a culture of evidence in policymaking. They’ve been advocating for change, backing important education agendas at a time when global support is declining.
Nearly 60 (and counting!) of these organizations signed the joint statement of philanthropy before the Transforming Education Summit. We, together with our partners GPE, UNESCO and NORRAG, hosted a full-capacity event in the TES margins to discuss the statement’s themes and commitments.
These commitments are made by philanthropy but they are a call from philanthropy to others too. There are two key overarching messages from this action that we took away.