How can innovative partnerships lead to effective education financing? What role can business play in supporting education in emergencies and skills’ development? These questions – among others – were central at the Global Business Coalition for Education’s breakfast event, Innovative Partnerships & Financing: Making Education Work for the Next Generation, which took place in Washington, D.C. on April 19. Business, governments, UN agencies, civil society, and other key stakeholders convened for a morning of conversation and coffee to tackle the issues prevalent throughout the education community today.
Opening Remarks and Keynote Addresses
The breakfast event kicked off with opening remarks from Sarah Brown, Executive Director of GBC-Education. “We need to build these partnerships, make them stronger, and find new ways to innovate as we aspire to achieve education for all,” Sarah said, commenting on partnerships that exist today in trying to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4. Sarah was followed by Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, who spoke on the challenges the international community faces in delivering quality education to all the world’s children and youth.
“Economies are going to require higher skilled workers, which means innovation and technology need to go hand in hand,” Amina Mohammed said. “Closing the gap between the education we have and the training we have is quite serious.” The gap in skills development was an essential issue that all participants at the breakfast pointed to as a barrier toward preparing today’s youth for the workforce of tomorrow.
Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education, introduced Kristalina Georgieva, CEO of the World Bank, who spoke on the importance of human capital throughout the world. “Most of the wealth of the world is us – people. Two thirds of the wealth of the planet are people,” Georgieva emphasized. “This makes the case for investing in people- skills, health, the way they productively contribute to their health, to their communities, families, countries.”
Upon the completion of opening remarks and keynote addresses, a panel of government ministers, UN agency heads, and private sector voices gathered on stage to offer different perspectives on issues the world faces in ensuring quality education for all. Moderated by Tom Fletcher, Senior Advisor to GBC-Education and former UK Ambassador to Lebanon, the panel featured:
Each panelist had the opportunity to deliver remarks on various challenges faced by communities throughout the world. Nikolai Astrup emphasized that, “at the top of Norway’s priorities is education. Especially girls’ education. Donors can do a lot, but without domestic resource mobilization we cannot succeed. The focus in Dakar [at the Global Partnership for Education’s conference] was not just more education, but increasing the quality of education.” Ulla Tornaes followed, saying, “[Education is] the key to prosperity and peace,” describing her country’s success in investing in girls’ education and the fact that Denmark is the only nation to have a tech ambassador.
Sigrid Kaag and Filippo Grandi both highlighted the plight of refugees and marginalized people when it comes to education. Speaking to the business community, Sigrid Kaag said, “there are a growing number of people who are lost. [Business needs to] employ refugees or people from marginalized groups.” Filippo Grandi argued that it’s necessary for all actors to “remain joint and coherent” , with the Education Cannot Wait fund serving as a “great catalyst.” He finished his remarks by stating that “we need civil society and business to be part of the solution.”
The importance of partnerships was central to many of the panelists’ remarks; David Boutcher said, “the more we can share ideas and team up and innovate, the better.” From her perspective as a Commissioner for the African Union, Sarah Anyang Agbor highlighted the fact that, “partnership is essential…We must also take on ownership. It’s not that we don’t have money. We must use what we have to make better things.” Annemiek Hoogenboom offered examples of how the People’s Postcode Lottery is utilizing partnerships to maximize support for girls’ education and education in emergencies, pointing to her organization’s work in Lebanon and in Germany.
The meeting culminated with remarks from speakers at their respective tables, with representatives from various sectors offering their viewpoints on youth skills, education in emergencies, and education financing.
Yasmine Sherif, Director of the Education Cannot Wait fund, said that “if you invest in the human mind, then you are investing in the present and the future. You’re investing in human beings…in their humanity, and your own.” In addition, Julia Gillard of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) reinforced the notion that business has a key role to play at the decision making table; in fact, the business community is currently represented by David Boutcher on GPE’s board, who represented GBC-Education at GPE’s meeting in Dakar, Senegal in early February.
Impact investing was a key part of others’ remarks; Sir Ronald, Chairman of the Portland Trust, spoke on how education outcomes investing can leverage private sector capital to maximize impact for children and youth. Gus Schmedlen – Vice President of Worldwide Education at HP, a GBC-Education member company, provided brief remarks on the work that his company is doing to support refugee children, with a strong focus on education outcomes.
Youth skills was another theme that emerged during the floor interventions. Matthew Rycroft, Permanent Secretary at DFID, emphasized that “there is a massive skills gap in terms of education.” Scott Mitchell from Sumitomo Chemical – a GBC-Education member company – reinforced the fact that business should “invest in training” to “get the next generation of factory workers ready.” Tariq al Gurg spoke on how his organization, Dubai Cares, is now expanding its work into youth skills and empowerment – on top of its work in education in emergencies.
The Global Business Coalition for Education was proud to announce the launch of its REACT platform toward the end of the breakfast event; Flavio Villanustre, CISO and VP of Technology at LexisNexis Risk Solutions, spoke on how RELX Group and LexisNexis Risk Solutions have supported the development of the REACT platform. The new platform allows for business to connect with on-the-ground implementation partners – in addition to the Education Cannot Wait fund – who are delivering education to children caught in conflict and emergencies.
Throughout the breakfast, a variety of stakeholders had the opportunity to channel their experience and expertise to shape the conversation around education financing, youth skills, and education in emergencies. Moving forward, GBC-Education looks forward to using the discussions from the breakfast to further revolutionize the way business, civil society, and governments work together to ensure quality education for all.