HITTING LEFT #21 with Pidgeon Pagonis

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I'm reading...

Billions of Drops--A drop in the bucket

If the social entrepreneurs like Gates and Broad, and agencies like TFA, New Leaders and NewSchools Venture Fund, where to be evaluated on the basis of performance or results--the way schools are--they would flunk the test. This, despite their access to tons of money, tax incentives, and efficient management styles. As least that's the conclusion drawn by author Steven Goldberg in his book, Billions of Drops in Millions of Bucket: Why philanthropy doesn't advance social progress.

For example, writes Goldberg,

Since 1998, NewSchools has raised and deployed tens of millions of dollars for educational innovation at dozens of charter-management and school-support organizations. It states that “over the next several years, the organizations we support will run more than 200 charter schools and serve nearly 75,000 students, making NewSchools’ national portfolio comparable in scale to a mid-sized urban district. After 10 years of exceptional work and highly sophisticated financial management, the aggregate result (at least of the charter school portion of its portfolio) amounts to one school district that performs at the level to which the entire country aspires.

But Goldberg--who buys into most of the premises of the ownership society--and I, reach totally different conclusions from all this. He thinks the big foundations need even greater centralized power, have to become even more top-down, more efficient and results-driven by "scaling up" and replication.

I think the problem is they've become too big, ill-purposed, and anti-democratic.

But Billions of Drops is still worth the read.

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