Dana Schmidt, Echidna Giving
May 14, 2018
April marked the first full month of a new season (spring for some, fall for others). With the shifting weather, it’s only fitting that we kick off our summary from April with a focus on climate change. In case you missed it, educating girls came up as # 6 on a list of solutions to combat climate change from Project Drawdown, which bills itself as "the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming." By their account, educating girls could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than electric vehicles, clean cookstoves, and conservation agriculture combined. (In addition to pursuing girls’ education as a route to combat climate change, it may also be a necessity to deal with the effects of climate change, from which women suffer more than men.)
It’s no wonder, then, that France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, has put some weight behind girls’ education, pledging that "Gender equality is the great cause I’ve chosen for my presidency in France. This issue has no border. One of the key for a better future is girls’ education." Likewise, UK Prime Minister Theresa May pledged £212m in support of Commonwealth girls education, calling “for ‘concrete measures’ to ensure girls in Commonwealth countries spend at least 12 years in education.” And the Malala Fund announced a new cohort of Gulmakai champions: 14 individuals working to advance girl’s education in six countries.
With all this energy and investment going into girls’ education, where should it be channeled?
A recent Twitter debate about "politically-incorrect research findings” is provocative. Lant Pritchett argued that "there is too much attention to inequality within poor countries and not enough to the very low [absolute] levels” given that: (1) "on many individualized indicators of well-being (education, health, malnutrition, self-reported subjective well-being) the gaps between the sexes within poor countries are at least an order of magnitude smaller than the gaps between males in poor countries and females in rich (OECD) countries;" (2) the rich in poor countries are worse off on well-being indicators than the poor in rich countries; and (3) the highest performing students in poor countries score lower than average OECD students on exams like PISA. In the case of girls’ education, addressing the biggest problems standing in the way of most girls—arguably the learning crisis—even though it’s a problem that affects girls and boys alike, may be just as important as focusing on marginalized girls, who are the most behind relative to boys. (In our own work, Echidna hopes to improve education quality for girls and boys, with concerted efforts to ensure girls benefit at least as much as boys from the rising tide.)
And how can you channel your own energy to build a strong organization capable of catalyzing social change?
Our very own Erin Ganju has just published a book with co-author Cory Heyman on Scaling Global Change: A Social Entrepreneur's Guide to Surviving the Start-up Phase and Driving Impact. The book draws on Erin’s and Cory’s experiences growing Room to Read and offers a practical guide for developing program excellence, operational effectiveness, and strategic influence.
Also out this month is a piece in the Stanford Social Innovation Review by William Meehan and Kim Jonker about “Earning the Right to Scale” by mastering seven elements of nonprofit performance: a clear and well-focused mission, a rigorous strategy, regular impact evaluation, insightful and courageous leadership, talent, funding, and governance. (The piece features Pratham, one of our grantees, as an example of an organization that has brought together these seven elements.)