I was recently in Switzerland to present my research on philanthropy and education as well as my book Unequal Partners at the Inaugural Symposium “Philanthropy on Education: Global Trends, Regional Differences and Diverse Perspectives.” The Symposium, which took place at The Graduate Institute in Geneva on November 22-24, was the perfect place to discuss issues related to philanthropy in education.
This symposium marked the start of a worldwide two-year series of symposia, organized and sponsored by NORRAG (Network for international policies and cooperation in education and training), Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research, Open Society Foundations and The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies.
I was very impressed with the quality and richness of the presentations, and the wealth of discussions and exchanges which were generated between researchers and practitioners from all over the world. The symposium provided a forum to discuss empirical research on philanthropy and education. In addition, it provided a space to share studies that explore socially responsive and effective giving of individuals, corporations and foundations.
As the number and type of philanthropic organizations continue to grow across the world and they become more influential actors in the education and development sector, it is important in my opinion that we examine the complementary role that philanthropic institutions play in the distribution of public goods, such as education. It is also critical that researchers and practitioners exchange and highlight the importance of cooperating with new partners while analyzing issues related to equity, accountability, neutrality, effectiveness and efficiency.
In my presentation on transnational collaborations in higher education, I introduced the notion of equal partnership in the grantor-grantee relationship drawing from my research on American foundations and universities in Africa. Other speakers presented on global trends and approaches, as well as motivations for philanthropic engagement in education. My panel was chaired by Noah Drezner of Columbia University who also gave a brilliant keynote on the tradition of fundraising and the culture of alumni giving in the United States. This was also an opportunity to hear about the new journal Philanthropy and Education.