How Business Can Help Create a Global Ecosystem for Learning and Innovation

Photo by Noah Sheldon

Wendy Kopp (@wendykopp) is a GBC-Education Advisory Board Member, and is the Co-Founder and CEO of Teach For All. 

Every child is born with tremendous potential. But around the world, hundreds of millions of children can only dream of realizing that potential—or of a future full of opportunity, promise, and financial security. The obstacles these children face— inadequate education, poverty, hunger, discrimination, conflict—are too often insurmountable. Today, 330 million children are not learning even though they are in school, while 250 million children and young people are out of school altogether. Not only is this an unacceptable injustice, but when millions of children aren’t learning, it affects us all—perpetuating poverty, weakening economies, and dividing societies.

This is a global crisis.

Yet, as a landmark report by the International Commission for Financing Education Opportunity points out, it is one that we have the ability to overcome in a single generation. Most of the work will necessarily happen in local communities, where locally rooted leaders will need to drive the change. At the same time, there is an urgent need for a dynamic, mission-driven global ecosystem, comprised of new, goal-oriented partnerships between bilateral and multilateral donors, the philanthropic community, corporations, and global non-profit organizations to catalyze local innovation, bolster local capacity, and create new channels for sharing local solutions with other places grappling with similar challenges.

Today, the absence of this global ecosystem presents one of the greatest obstacles to achieving systemic change in countries around the world. The Education Commission’s report recognized this: for the first time, it recommended that the international community increase its investment in educational “global public goods” and “invest in a global ecosystem for education…[which] might include ensuring that some international investment goes towards strengthening civil society and the capacity of non-state organizations to collaborate and scale innovations in education.”

Credit Suisse provides a leading example of how corporations can contribute to the development of this global ecosystem. Credit Suisse’s innovative Global Citizens Program puts senior employees on the ground with Teach For All’s network partners to provide guidance in team building, long-term organizational planning, finance, marketing, and other areas. This expert support, combined with their financial support of Teach For All’s global organization, helps national organizations around the world scale, increasing the number of teachers they place and developing more leaders who spend a lifetime working on behalf of children.

Every corporation can contribute to creating and informing the global ecosystem that we need to drive the innovation and progress we must see to meet the Sustainable Development Goal around quality and inclusive education for all. Global companies can and must be active participants in this ecosystem, sharing knowledge and skills with civil society organizations, social entrepreneurs, and others who work day in and day out to strengthen education and the range of other services that are central to children’s healthy development.

At the same time, global business can help create this global ecosystem by making sustained investments in global non-profit and civil society organizations that collectively work to drive innovation, develop local capacity, and connect communities around the world that are working to address shared challenges. If just a fraction of current investments were directed towards non-profit actors, we could begin to catalyze this global ecosystem of innovation, learning, leadership development, and capacity building—and we would significantly increase our chances of making the progress we seek within a single generation.