This academic and research focused title adds a different perspective to philanthropy, but reading it was like climbing a high mountain: the way up is rather bumpy and the reader has to take a couple of detours before arriving at the top. But the view in the end is great! It offers an outlook on philanthropy’s impact in the field of education that is highly critical of common beliefs.
The book summarizes several years of research on philanthropic strategies in the field of primary and secondary education. It should be added that the authors’ understanding of philanthropy is a rather broad one. Some of the case studies – especially those from the USA – have only a second-degree relationship to philanthropy. Another title for the book might have been ‘The Third Sector and Education’.
The authors of this book, all related to the University of Heidelberg’s Centre for Social Investment in Germany, present six case studies of education-focused projects from Germany (3), Switzerland (1) and the USA (2). The authors explore the impact of these projects/organizations on education policy by reviewing the literature and evaluations published on each initiative, interviewing leading actors of the programmes, and some additional desk research. This multi-layered approach allows insights into programmes like ‘The Chance’ of the Swiss Chance Foundation, the semi-autonomous school initiative of the Bertelsmann Foundation in Germany, or Teach For America in the USA.
The results of this analysis need to be read and discussed because they are rather discomforting for the world of philanthropy and the third sector overall. Education is one of the top causes for giving and children are the central target group. After reading this research, one can only conclude that some strategies for creating positive change may have to be reviewed. Through the rigorous application of their research model the authors show that some beliefs in philanthropy about how to create impact in education may actually be no more than that: beliefs.