By Anne McPherson
“In the little world in which children have their existence, whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt, as injustice.” – Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
One of the foremost leaders in the cause for global education, Ann Cotton, Founder and Executive Director of CAMFED International, has dedicated her life to improving girls’ education. Ann, who quoted the above line from Great Expectations in a recent TEDx talk, recognizes that prohibiting children from obtaining access to education is one of the worst injustices one can commit against a child. As a part of the United Nations’ Millenium Development Goals, universal education has risen to the forefront as one of the many issues which NGOs and for-profit companies alike can help address. Education is fundamental to improving the circumstances of the next generation and creating a better world and by utilizing staff talent, sharing educational resources, and donating supplies, organizations around the world can assist in this effort. Below are just a few examples of how companies are promoting this cause.
The Nike Foundation
The charitable arm of Nike, The Nike Foundation, produced a powerful video for their campaign, The Girl Effect. The animation is simple and the message is clear – women’s empowerment and education is crucial in preventing disease and combating poverty. The video illustrates the transformative power of education. For the most part, when children are educated, they are more apt to make better, healthier decisions and these decisions will impact future generations in a positive way. With education and improved healthcare comes upward mobility and social advancement on a large scale. Nike purposefully left the campaign “unbranded,” but the brand association made by anyone that has seen the video surely makes a difference in their purchasing decisions – improving Nike’s bottom line. Investing in education has allowed Nike to align themselves with a cause that resonates with their consumers and the theme of empowerment for which the company is known.
On the private sector side, Discovery Communications is a good example of a company that promotes education in their everyday activities. The company’s entire mission is based on the idea of accessible education and continual learning. Popular hits such as The Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” and the series “Planet Earth” have drawn in millions of viewers from all age ranges, inspiring interest in nature, science, and the environment. These particular programs have developed cult followings while disseminating educational material in an entertaining manner. They have successfully used a global media platform to engage audiences for educational purposes.
In addition to providing educational material through their television channel, Discovery is leading the way in the digital learning movement by making video-based content that reaches more than half of all U.S. schools, including 1 million teachers and 35 million students. The company also develops digital math and science curricula for public school students in Chicago and Detroit.
Utilizing technology, Discovery and other organizations such as Dell’s Youth Connect program can effectively tap into their existing resources to funnel educational materials to communities in the U.S. and abroad that do not have access to materials. Dell specifically gives $16 million to organizations supporting 2 million students in eight countries to provide technological solutions that advance learning. Dell’s site says, “through learning, we believe, opportunity abounds” and herein lies the reason for companies to invest in education. By educating younger generations, Dell is fueling the drive for children to participate and contribute, ultimately making a more fruitful and productive society which will one day, ideally, feed back into the success of the company itself.
While the immediate pay-off for education investment may not be recognized, the ripple effect, like that demonstrated in The Girl Effect video, is monumental. Education empowers and elevates individuals and communities into a place where they are informed global citizens that can then lead a healthy and meaningful life and in turn make their own mark on the world. It’s a critical issue in our own country just as much as it is in the developing world and both domestic and international organizations are obligated to assist in the effort to educate for the future. What other some other examples of organizations that are working to improve youth education?