Photo Courtesy of DFID
Four months ago, GBC-Education joined world leaders and education stakeholders in Istanbul for the launch of the Education Cannot Wait (ECW) Fund. For the first time, a mechanism was created to ensure that education is not left behind in the next crisis, with resources ready to deploy fast to get education to those displaced.
It is a bold and innovative disruption of the existing humanitarian machinery, and a recognition that education has too often lagged behind the wider humanitarian response.
GBC-Education pledged to rally the private sector behind the plans. Classic donor contributions are vital and welcome, but not sufficient. The systems we have designed to respond can no longer cope, especially when governments can’t deliver on their pledges. We believe that this is not about money alone, but about a new, collaborative way of responding. A way of engaging business that is about corporate social results, not just corporate social responsibility.
Our research shows that the main obstacles to global education are lack of school buildings, textbooks and teaching materials, internet connectivity, trained teachers, school transport, and the logistics to get education to communities on the move.
Launched at GBC-Education’s annual high-level breakfast during the 71st session of the UN General Assembly, the REACT database is ready to meet these challenges. Registering companies across the globe who are at the ready to deploy resources and expertise at the onset of the next emergencies, REACT is a powerful new idea bridging humanitarian aid and educational progress. REACT provides the mechanism needed to connect the movers with the shakers, linking engineering companies with governments as they rebuild school facilities, creating avenues for education suppliers to provide essential books for quality learning, and engaging social media giants to support high-speed internet connectivity so that students may access digital content right from their phones. The smartest innovators can lend their time to crack the problems that governments can’t, offering expertise and insights at every stage of the implementation from logistical coordination to evaluating the impact.
We are just at the beginning of this effort, and businesses are telling us they are up for it. Already over 30 companies have joined our database, offering to be on the frontline of the next crisis, and many of whom continue to lead efforts responding to existing crises. Consultancy companies such as Boston Consulting Group have come forward to offer time and brainpower on the practical problems holding back education provision. Technology companies such as Microsoft and ITWORX Education are offering significant in-kind support – providing tablets and access to digital learning platforms for those hit by crisis. Big global brands such as HP are offering digital learning students to support learning on the ground, while NRS International has pledged tents and shelter for schools. In Jordan, engineering companies are working with USAID and the Jordanian government to build new schools. Coalitions of companies, such as Techfugees, the UK/Lebanon Tech Hub, and Alt City, are bringing ingenuity and time to the challenge. Universities such as Oxford, Kiron and New York University are opening up places for students and faculty, backed by companies such as BMW. Others are pledging significant finance directly to the ECW Fund, for research, humanitarian action and recruitment.
This is a crisis response model that is genuinely collaborative, innovative and effective. A way of marshalling business, individuals, NGOs, the UN and governments in meaningful partnerships.
Back in May we were able to report to the UN that, following our pledge at the Supporting Syria and the Region conference, GBC-Education helped mobilize over 75 million USD of support from business and partners to the effort to get education to 1 million Syrians. That number is now over 100m USD, as the private sector continues to step up their effort on the ground.
GBC-Education was also part of the campaign that enlisted over a million people to press donors to deliver on the commitments to Syria made in London in February, and we will continue to mobilize our networks to lobby governments to deliver on the pledges they themselves have made.
All the while we must continue to sign up companies to REACT, with commitments of potential support, whether finance or in kind. Of course, much depends on where the next crisis hits, and who can deploy their assets in the most effective way. But we have momentum. When we get the call from those coordinating the response, we will be ready to mobilize this coalition in support.
If we get this right, the people traffickers and terrorist recruiters miss out. We will get education to many of the 75m young people out of school, who will go on themselves to be teachers, doctors, entrepreneurs. Business will have a pool of talent from which to recruit and build. The next Einstein, Marie Curie, Mandela or Gates will make the scientific, medical, political or technological breakthrough that changes our lives. Business is doing this because it is the right thing to do. Because we have no choice. And because we want to be part of the effort to restore hope to a generation.