Portfolio & Transparency
Occasionally, people ask me, “What’s in it for you?” I think it’s a fair question, and I have no problem offering complete transparency. These are challenging times, and I think all of us owe it to others to be transparent. So here goes.
For starters, I have no interest in any education entity that is, or can, generate financial gain for me personally. Almost all of the initiatives I grant money to are non-profits. A few (noted below) do produce fees or (potential) financial gain, all of which goes to the 501(3)c edu21c. My overall financial position involves no holdings in any kind of company (public or private) that stands to gain from my efforts. I’m fully retired from my venture fund, and have no economic interests in their current investing. In terms of net worth, just to give you some perspective, if people like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg are the Empire State Building, I’m less than a twelve-inch ruler.
In the world of film, I organized, funded and helped produce a feature-length documentary on education and the economy called Most Likely To Succeed. This film was directed by Greg Whiteley and is, I feel confident to say, the best film ever done on the topic of education. I’ve also been the executive producer of several other films on education and youth leadership. Check out She Started It, The Hunting Ground, CodeGirl, They Call Us Monsters, School in the Cloud, and The Bad Kids.
Initiatives I’ve Donated Money To
The Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success has the potential to change a very broken admissions process, and begin to let high school kids pursue their passions, instead of jumping through hoops. Read this op-edI wrote with Sir Ken Robinson this op-ed about the importance of this initiative.
The Mastery Transcript Consortium is led by the impressive Scott Looney of the Hawken School in Cleveland, with the goal of completely reimagining the very obsolete high-school transcript. The initiative is gaining real traction, not a moment too soon.
School Retool is a non-profit that helps leaders bring cultures of innovation to their schools. Its roots are the Stanford d.school, IDEO, and the Hewlett Foundation. One of their initiatives is Shadow A Student, which encourages school leaders to walk in the shoes of a student for a day, and then share reflections to the rest of the school community. Very powerful experience.
Big Picture Learning works with almost 100 schools around the globe helping them create learning experiences that go beyond the narrow boundaries of school. Their students have access to internships, meaningful projects, and advisors — all so powerful in engaging students and help them develop essential skills.
Buck Institute for Education is a champion for project-based learning in the classroom. I’m particularly excited about their new offering of smaller, easy-to-try PBL challenges, which can be found at PBL Done Well.
EdLeader21 works with schools and districts to help them build community consensus on the skillsets and mindsets that are essential for their students to develop. Check out their online portal Profile of a Graduate, which your community can access to help you with this very important process. This profile can serve as your North Star, helping you understand which learning experiences really benefit your students, and which are irrelevant or worse.
The Future Project, with the great tagline, “Re-imagining education, one dream at a time,” has the goal of helping kids identify dreams and passions they want to explore, and to learn how to make these dreams become reality. They believe, and I agree, that school needs to be a lot more about setting big goals for yourself and learning how to accomplish them, than memorizing facts and taking multiple choice quizzes testing your recall.
In India, Avanti Fellows is committed to providing life advantages to low-income youth in India by providing superior educational experiences (arguably better than what college kids get at top US colleges) at a very modest cost. Their early results are stunning, including that smart, motivated kids can learn better with an engaged social worker present than with a teacher. [Note, this is now a for-profit and if I ever derive a gain from it, it goes to edu21c, a 401(3)c].
African Leadership Academy seeks to transform the entire continent of Africa with a cost-effective program developing the next generation of inspired leaders. The centerpiece of ALA is a intensive two-year school in Johannesburg, South Africa, that combines academics, leadership, and entrepreneurship. ALA’s twograduating classes have gone onto great colleges worldwide, and each graduate is committed to returning to their home country at some point and working for positive change.
NBA Math Hoops, based in Denver, Colorado, is focused on using kids’ passion for basketball to help them develop stronger math skills, and appreciate and love the power of math. The CEO, Khalil Fuller, was named the youngest Echoing Green Fellow in the organization’s 25-year history.
When I represented our country at the United Nations General Assembly, I organized along with UNICEF and Conrad Wolfram, a summit in 2013 on the future of high school math, and how we can transform it to provide compelling life opportunities to youth around the globe. The gathering pointed to how math could be so much more powerfully learned and applied if we didn’t relegate kids to spending years doing tedious calculations by hand.
Wishbone is an early-stage social venture in San Francisco that has a very powerful model for transforming the lives of some of our highest-potential, but challenged, kids. They recognize that immersive summer programs have a real likelihood of “lighting a fire” in a kid otherwise trapped in uninspiring educational circumstances.
I worked closely with a professional baseball player, Logan Morrison, from January through August on an initiative we called Project Lomo. He’s worked tirelessly on behalf of fighting lung cancer, which took his dad’s life several years ago. To encourage and recognize youth leadership and civic engagement, he asked his young fans to tell him about what they’re doing to help make their community better. Five of the most compelling young social entrepreneurs stood out, and were recognized at a game on August 24th, 2013. Here’s what one reporter had to say.
I supported Craig Breslow, a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, on an initiative to encourage kids to be social entrepreneurs. This press release describes the program. Craig is an amazing person, both on and off the field. He’s a role model for all young fans, works tirelessly on behalf of the cause of fighting children’s cancer, and will do amazing things with this initiative.
I’m an active alum of the College of William & Mary, and working with the school to develop a technology and educational strategy to help create meaningful lifetime partnerships between the College and its alumni. I’m also actively involved in a program at W&M to support research fellowships for undergraduates, helping support the college’s highest potential students to do exciting research in their field of passion. In 2014, I delivered The Convocation Address at this great college.
My past board seats (and I’ve donated to each) include Boston Lyric Opera, Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), Spoleto Festival, the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, the endowment Board for the College of William and Mary, and the Foundation Board for the College of Charleston.
Education Initiatives I’ve Invested In
I have invested in two for-profit companies doing work in education. The Flatiron School was recently acquired by WeWork. The gains I made were donated to the 501(3)c educ21c. And I have provided funding to MissionU, a post-high-school immersion that helps young adults access great careers, while charging no tuition. Any gains I might make from this go to edu21c. Neither investment has a material impact on my financial situation.