March 14, 2019

Philanthropy in education – A space for learning and collaboration

From left to right: Crain Soudien (HSRC), Gail Campbell (Zenex), Joost Monks (NORRAG), Sharlene Swartz (HRSC) and Mary Metcalfe (PILO) From left to right: Crain Soudien (HSRC), Gail Campbell (Zenex), Joost Monks (NORRAG), Sharlene Swartz (HRSC) and Mary Metcalfe (PILO)

The South African leg of the global Philanthropy in Education (PiE) series held its roundtable in Magaliesburg on the 31 January and 1 February 2019. The South African series was co-hosted by the Zenex Foundation, Human Sciences Research Council, and NORRAG, a global membership-based network of international policies and cooperation in education.

NORRAG is currently facilitating the PiE series worldwide with the aim to foster greater understanding and collaboration between philanthropic organisations; national policy makers and academics working in the field of education. To date, the PiE series was held in India and China. Work is underway to host such a roundtable in South America and end with a closed session of invited philanthropies in California.

South Africa has a plethora of organisations and institutions ranging from CSI units in large companies; private foundations; charitable trusts to purpose-built foundations focused on educational support. According to the 2010, UNESCO Report titled Education Sector: Current Challenges in Basic Science Education, investment in education by the philanthropic community is estimated at R25 Billion ($2.6 billion). Given the size of philanthropic contribution to the education sector, there is a need for engagement on how these funds are used and how they contribute towards improving the quality of education in South Africa.


Adam Habib (University of the Witwatersrand)

The Magaliesburg PiE session brought together philanthropists; Corporate Social Investment (CSI) entities; researchers and government with a view to furthering dialogue around research needs and stakeholder collaboration to improve education quality in South Africa. The participants engaged in an open discussion on how philanthropies and researchers can collaborate, with each other and with government, in an effort to enhance education quality (see Learning and working together: A framework for donor collaboration for insights on types of funder collaboration).

More specifically, the discussions focused on:

  • Sharing experience on the various models, approaches and innovations to collaboration between private philanthropy and the public sector.
  • Examining the unique space philanthropies occupy that create opportunities and innovation for further research and learning around improving the quality of education in South Africa.
  • Identifying existing gaps in data and research on philanthropic engagement.
  • Exploring potential avenues to collaborate (with other philanthropies, along with implementing partners, government and academics) and further enhance learning from and within the philanthropic sector in education.

There was general consensus among delegates that making the contribution from philanthropies count will require a deliberate plan and action. Some of the small, first steps to consider towards this end include sharing learnings frankly in safe spaces; reducing duplication and competition among philanthropies, and reducing the load on government from multiple approaches and programmes. The roundtable produced a declaration, called the “Johannesburg Declaration” to which all present agreed. A report of the proceedings can be accessed here.

The programme and presentations can be accessed on this link