“I have been sharing my idea of catalytic philanthropy for a while now.” – Bill Gates



Bill Gates, Bill Clinton and many other famous (and wealthy!) people are committed to solving the world’s biggest problems.
Gates explains the term in Wired Magazine:

“You invest for big returns…If you want to have a big impact, you need a leverage point — a way to put in a dollar of funding or an hour of effort and benefit society by a hundred or a thousand times as much. One way you can find that leverage point is to look for a problem that markets and governments aren’t paying much attention to…You can also discover a strategy that has been overlooked.”

The Gates Foundation invests in education in the US and global poverty and health issues. The Clinton Foundation is a “launching pad for projects benefiting the global good.”

What does this mean for schools?

Can we involve students in solving the world’s biggest problems as part of their core learning experiences and not as an add-on?

Yes! These projects involve problem-solving, innovation and monitoring progress, not to mention a healthy dose of expertise in science, mathematics and social studies.
This trend ties nicely with three other trends that education can’t ignore right now:
1) Self-directed or personalized learning. If not in school, outside of formal schooling kids are choosing what they learn and moving at their own pace. Some are lucky enough to attend schools experimenting with this phenomenon. We could meet this need by providing opportunities for students to choose from a variety of global problems to work on.
2) Innovation. In Creating Innovators, Tony Wagner pinpoints keys for building an innovator: play, passion and purpose. Allowing young people rich and diverse opportunities to play allows them to find their passions which usually translates into a purpose-driven adulthood. Innovation in solving global problems would meet this need as well.
3) Concern for the world. Wagner points out that, “many young people are deeply worried about the future of the planet, seek healthier lifestyles and want to make a difference more than they want to make money.”
Bill Gates says something similar:

“Technology is helping us overcome our biggest challenges. Just as important, it’s also bringing the world closer together…I think this helps explain the growing interest young people today have in global health and poverty. It’s getting harder and harder for those of us in the rich world to ignore poverty and suffering, even if it is happening half a planet away. Technology is unlocking the innate compassion we have for our fellow human beings.”

This week we will share ideas and examples for how to build global problem solving experiences into formal schooling. Let us know what you think!