Gergen on Scaling Social Entreprenuers in Education

Gergen I had the pleasure, yesterday, of hearing David Gergen (political advisor to Ford, Reagan, the first Bush and Clinton) speak at the Changing Our World Philanthropy Summit in NYC on challenges philanthropy will have to face if it is going to have impact versus "...doing things that simply make us feel good."

One challenge he discussed was the difficulty of taking great ideas to scale.  He focused on education, citing the work of Wendy Kopp's Teach for America which taps college graduates to teach for a year in inner-city schools.  According to Gergen, one out of 12 students at Ivy League universities including Harvard, Yale and Dartmouth, apply to Teach for America.  In total, 17,000 graduates apply but resources are only available to apply the talents, energy and passion of 2,000 of them.  He personally knows a young women who was accepted to five top law schools but denied a slot in Teach for America.

He also cited statistics that while 115 nonprofits are started in this country each day (!), a mere fraction develop to exceed $20 million in revenues.  Asking a rhetorical question perhaps only the head of the JFK School of Government at Harvard could ask with a straight face, Gergen said, "What kind of impact can you have with $5 million?  Local impact, maybe, but it's hard."

Thank God we are attracting folks to this work who aren't blinded by limitations the Nonprofit Sector has always faced.  Gergen and Omidyar (see yesterday's post) go right to the question of what it would take to actually solve problems on a global scale, not how we might just do better with whatever pennies we can scrap together. 

One more signpost pointing to the end of philanthropy as usual. 

Susan Herr

Posted at 1:39 PM, Nov 01, 2006 in Education | Permalink | Comment