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The Difference Between Giving Support and Designing Solutions

Last week, I attended a breakfast on K-12 Education Philanthropy sponsored by Town & Country in San Francisco. Jeff Raikes, co-founder with his wife of the Raikes Foundation, and former CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as well as President of the Microsoft Business Division gave the keynote address. He gave advice to new philanthropists, stressing the importance of “getting as close as possible to the work.” He explained how important it is for philanthropists to distinguish between support and solutions. Solutions, he emphasized, need to come directly from the community members facing systemic challenges, not the philanthropic community. It’s clear that he follows it in his own grant-making process. In fact, his current philanthropy is focused on helping middle school students achieve academic success by first acknowledging the importance of developing a growth mindset—the exact approach we take at Classroom, Inc.

His advice reminded me of how fortunate we are to be in classrooms, afterschool and summer school programs every day—and to have a team that constantly listens. Our approach works because it is continually informed by the students, teachers, and program teams we serve. We don’t always get it right the first time—no one does—but we eventually get it right because we listen and then act on what we’ve heard. That’s why we can give students the agency to take charge of their learning, and educators the support they need to excel at what they do.

And it works. As one young, remarkable man explains in this video, students who face enormous challenges can and do use our innovative tools to change their lives and design their futures.

As we head into Thanksgiving, I am grateful to work with a passionate group of people committed to listening, and to Yazid and his fellow students for inspiring us all.

Lisa Holton
Classroom, Inc.