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The importance of planning for philanthropy in education

Social Impact

The importance of planning for philanthropy in education

May 7, 2021

Education can help to create a better world. Edward Ma, Secretary-General of the Yidan Prize Foundation, shares how proper planning and collaboration with experts can drive change in education globally.

Creating impact through giving is never easy. As the Scottish-American industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie once said, "It is more difficult to give money away intelligently than to earn it in the first place." 

Carnegie's sentiments are shared by many philanthropists around the world. Money on its own is insufficient. Even the most committed donors find it challenging to bring about meaningful change, particularly in the field of education philanthropy. 

Education consistently receives the most philanthropic dollars globally. A 2020 survey conducted by the not-for-profit Rockefeller Philanthropic Advisors showed that education was the number one area wealthy families around the world donated to, constituting 29 per cent of the average philanthropic portfolio, followed by health (14 per cent) and art, culture, and sports (10 per cent). 

In a positive development, there has been a lot of recent commentary on how donors who give to educational causes can amplify their impact. The challenge with education is that the needs and priorities differ as local conditions vary, said Edward Ma, Secretary-General of the Yidan Prize Foundation, following the field trips he and his team made to various countries. 

The Yidan Prize Foundation (the Foundation), a Hong Kong-based education philanthropic organisation established by Tencent core founder Dr. Charles CHEN Yidan in 2016, builds on the belief that education philanthropy, with the support of a sound ecosystem, can drive real change and create a better world.

Based on this vision, the Foundation awards its annual Yidan Prize to recognise individuals and teams who have contributed significantly to educational research and development. Through giving out the prize, the Foundation aims to build a global knowledge network and solutions bank of inspiring educational ideas.

Creating a better world through education

There are many real-life examples of how the Yidan Prize is driving change. Two Yidan Prize laureates are using the proceeds to build a global and scalable model for online education. While BRAC, an international development organisation based in Bangladesh and another prize winner, has been able to expand upon its work of implementing play-based early childhood development programmes in learning centres across Africa and Asia. BRAC is using the funds to improve the physical, cognitive, psychosocial and language development of children from infants through to six years of age. 

Planning for lasting change

Reflecting on the years spent working to drive change in education and the success the Foundation has been able to achieve to date, Ma could not stress enough the importance of planning. 

If we could start over again, I believe we should double or even triple the amount of time we spend on planning. We should also learn from other people’s experience so that we make fewer detours along the way.

Plan - Do - Check - Act is a commonly used framework for the continuous improvement of processes. Ma adjusted this model and created the Accumulate - Reflect - Rethink - Distill - Refresh process to support the operational transformation of the Foundation. 

Ma has led the Foundation on this journey which is now in the Reflect and Rethink stages, where fresh thinking is needed on how to mobilise the educational resources and global network of the Foundation to ensure continued impact. 

Collaborating with professionals

Like other philanthropic organisations, the Foundation has benefitted from external professional support to implement its strategy. It has sought the advice of third-party evaluation workgroups as well as collected feedback from the board and internal stakeholders. 

The Foundation is working with The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on a research project to examine the impact of growth mindsets on educational outcomes and student well-being.

As part of the Foundation's transformation journey, Ma and his team established the Council of Luminaries (the Council) in 2020 in response to the pressing need for greater collaboration amongst education leaders around the world. The Council, through its diverse group of industry influencers who have both practical and theoretical expertise in education, forms a transformative force to share knowledge and best practice of programmes for implementation and adaptation in each of the luminary's own countries and regions of operation. 

Ma believes in running a philanthropic organisation with the same mindset as a business. Drawing from a strong corporate background and experience working with charities, Ma understands that people are an organisation's greatest asset. Talent management at the Foundation is approached seriously and carefully executed policies for long-term training and development have been implemented to optimise the organisation's resilience and performance.

A look to the future

Philanthropy is difficult. Education is difficult. Driving positive, lasting, and high-impact change through philanthropy in education is even more difficult.

Ma speaks from experience, being acutely aware of the challenges that exist when conducting philanthropy in education. However, as a firm believer in the transformative power of education, Ma is committed to working with Dr. Chen to take his vision forward. 

Ma sees a bright future for the Foundation. "Looking ahead, we hope to enhance our position in strategic education philanthropy, driving systematic changes in order to unlock the infinite possibilities that education provides," he commented. 

Philanthropy in education is a humanitarian effort to create a lasting, multigenerational impact.

Ma observes that,

As a philanthropist, you can't just focus on the returns. Your charitable or philanthropic efforts should always be underpinned by your core values, clarity of purpose and unwavering sense of commitment. For philanthropy in education, it will often take at least one to two decades before your efforts bear fruits.

"Edward's sharing on the Foundation's transformation journey reflects the importance of organisation and structure in philanthropic planning," says Dorothy Chan, Head of Philanthropy Advisory, Asia Pacific. "Tackling global challenges such as climate change and inequalities requires strategic investment and patience. In addition to having a clear understanding of why something should change and a vision on how to make it happen, organisational structure and governance frameworks are equally important for enabling effective execution and ensuring each philanthropic project works on a long-term basis."

At HSBC Private Banking, we support our clients in making a positive impact. Our global presence means we can access philanthropy networks around the world to provide clients with the information they need to guide the development of their philanthropy, from initial vision and planning through to implementation and ongoing management. To learn more about how we can help you achieve your philanthropic goals, please contact us or your Relationship Manager.

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