Problems of the global education sector are achievement gaps, limited access to a general decline in the quality of education, stretched financial resources, and in some areas, failure of government and market forces to address the quality of and access to education.
A McGraw-Hill Research Foundation policy paper released February 2, 2012 – entitled How Social Entrepreneurship is Helping to Improve Education Worldwide – outlines how social enterprise is helping the education sector in the U.S. and developing countries.
Written by Rupert Scofield, President and CEO of The Foundation for International Community Assistance (FINCA) and author of “The Social Entrepreneur’s Handbook: How to Start, Build and Run a Business that Improves the World”, the paper uses case studies to illustrate the effectiveness of the social enterprise model on a variety of issues afflicting the education sector.
Specifically, the social enterprises are creating sustainable impact by:
- Improving early childhood and youth education in low-income communities
- Introducing alternative channels of funding for education and redefining traditional methods of giving
- Providing basic education and business skills training to underserved and at-risk populations
- Increasing income opportunities for people living in poverty through financial services that allow for start-up or expansion of microenterprises, enabling them to afford education for their children
The four organizations examined in this study are Genesys Works, The Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDco), DonorsChoose.org, and The Mann Deshi Foundation.
Genesys Works addresses the achievement gap by improving educational access and quality for low-income students. They offer an intensive eight-week course that enrolls youth prior to their senior year and trains them with skills suitable for professional positions at corporations. During their senior year, the students work part-time jobs at Genesys Works clients and may be suitable for full-time employment upon graduation, where they simultaneously pursue college degrees.
WHEDco addresses the achievement gap, which can be traced back to a child’s early years growing up in low-income communities, by providing stress-free environments for young children. They create high-quality housing comparable to middle-class communities that include health amenities and after-school programs. They also have a sustainable business model which train their caregivers and creates hundreds of revenue-generating businesses for them.
DonorsChoose.org helps with the funding gap. U.S. funding for public schools is largely dependent upon state and local government tax bases where the school is located. DonorsChoose.org allows teachers to apply for small grants that allow them to purchase necessary classroom materials.
In developing countries, The Mann Deshi Foundation is improving access and quality of education for women. In India, they help provide basic necessities such as healthcare and loan bicycles to girls in isolated areas to get to school regularly. The Mann Deshi Business School also trains poor, rural women in entrepreneurship, computers, fashion design, bank finance, mentorship, and marketing skills. Women may enroll at any time for a nominal fee.
These organizations all try to find innovative solutions by engaging with administrators and teachers to make their efforts more effective. They also show the ability to scale-up as a critical element to address pressing social problems.
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