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Giving more impactfully to education

A new study shows that educational philanthropy has become more professional and sophisticated in Asia

EDUCATION is widely viewed as a key driver of long-term social impact in Asia, and as such has been a popular area of focus for many philanthropists in the region. In recent times, educational philanthropists are increasingly targeting innovative projects that help marginalised and deprived communities, according to a recent report commissioned by Credit Suisse.

"Philanthropic giving is driving significant progress in Asia's education sector, as it becomes more professional, more disruptive and better complements the continent's economic development," said the report titled The giving chain: How philanthropy is driving progress in Asian education, which was written by the Economist Intelligence Unit and released at the Credit Suisse Philanthropists Forum 2016 held in Singapore last week.

This report is based on a series of interviews with philanthropists and leading workers within the sector, conducted from August to September 2016. It found that educational giving is becoming more sophisticated, with more players utilising modern management and impact-evaluation techniques to make educational philanthropy more systematic and effective.

"Individual philanthropists and their foundations have a deeper understanding of how they can effect change, supported by a new intermediary tier of organisations that act as expert matchmakers between givers and projects, and offer expertise in areas such as logistics, administration and impact measurement," the report said. It noted that educational institutions such as universities are also becoming more professional in developing and engaging alumni networks and fund-raising.

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Educational philanthropy has also widened the scope of its impact, addressing problems along the entire educational value chain, the report found. Philanthropists are giving to areas beyond physical infrastructure, and branching into less tangible areas such as policy-level initiatives and curriculum development. It is also involved in capacity building, such as scaling up educational systems and models and training teachers.

"This is due to an enhanced level of engagement among givers, beyond the low-hanging fruit of material gifts, into areas of greater added-value. A newfound emphasis on key performance indicators, largely driven by tech-savvy younger philanthropists, is boosting effectiveness and measurable returns," said the report.

To increase their effectiveness, educational philanthropists and organisations are finding new ways to work with each other and other NGOs, as well as alongside governments in the region.

Rather than just focus on projects in areas that governments have ignored, more sophisticated philanthropists are now finding ways to work with under-resourced governments to create greater impact. This often involves partnerships with NGOs, leveraging their expertise and resources to effect change through complex projects with a broader reach.

Finally, the report found that philanthropists and NGOs are developing new approaches to funding their projects. These include employing innovative solutions to tackle hurdles such as government corruption.

"Regulatory and tax regimes in some countries and regions are particularly supportive of giving, and philanthropists are utilising this largesse. Some use competitive prizes to raise awareness of and spur interest in particular issues."