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Fragments II: micro stories about the learning business

The End of Fundraising in Schools

A few years ago, I submitted a conference workshop under this title. It was turned down.

There can be little doubt that education and philanthropy have traversed a similar path through the course of modern history. Over the past two hundred years, philanthropists have directed kindness to strangers by investing in all manner of educational endeavours. In this way, some of the world's wealth has been redistributed to improve the quality of human life and create truly meaningful change.

Today, as much as we value the social impact of those who came before us, whose generosity led to the opening up of education as a basic human right - and whilst we also recognise that there are still areas of the world in which education is not accessible - we are also acknowledging that the industrial model of education into which these benefactors invested so much is itself coming to an end.

In other words, schools are changing. And my point is simply that our traditional fundraising strategies in this new educational landscape may no longer apply.

A photograph of someone in a field holding a picture that says give thanks
Time to reformulate fundraising in schools?

Michael Polanyi, the philosopher-chemist, used to say that we know that a paradigm shift is about to occur by the appearance of anomalies - things that, to put it simply, just don't quite square away. An anomaly, he suggests, isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it may be an indicator of a more significant seismic shift just around the corner.

Here are three examples of Advancement anomalies that may resonate to those of us who work in international schools around the world.

  1. We continue to feel the tension between raising money to support our relatively wealthy institutions and the expressed desire by members of our community to contribute to social projects beyond our school gate.

  2. Whilst much progress has been made in recent years, many schools are still arguing that fundraising is not part of their school's culture.

  3. Many of us still don't have the confidence to state that, in the end, all development actions are about the impact on the balance sheet. We somehow feel that there are other, more complex factors, at play and that giving is not just about financial donations.

Learning by Design 2019 is a call to re-imagine the way schools facilitate learning in a culture characterized by open knowledge systems, inclusive educational communities, and rapid social change. In this context, I suggest it is important for us to start re-designing, alongside this pedagogical revolution, the role of fundraising in our schools.

And it's perhaps as easy as starting with one simple (yet complex) question:

What is the contribution I need to make in order to ensure that our children get the education they really need?

If you are interested to join the conversation, let me know.

Photo by Simon Maage on Unsplash



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