Photo: GEM Report
Photo: GEM Report

« In sheep’s clothing: Philanthropy and the privatisation of the ‘democratic’ state »

published 22 March 2019 updated 13 August 2021

By Carolina Junemann and Antonio Olmedo

This report seeks to advance our existing knowledge on the shape and new roles of philanthropic actors at different levels of the policy-making cycle in the field of education. First, it seeks to identify, map and examine a number of key philanthropic organisations that are now active in the field of education across the globe. Second, it aims to develop a typology of philanthropic involvement and participation, particularly focusing on the way in which they interact with and modify the roles of other traditional actors involved in education policy development (i.e. governments, unions, professional organisations, training institutions, etc.).

The first part of this report considers the more general implications of the involvement of ‘new’ philanthropists in global education policy communities in different countries across the world. Numerous adjectives have been used to describe this new approach to philanthropy, which highlight different facets of engagement (e.g. impact, strategic, engaged, venture) but all share a common denominator: they all apply the principles and methods of venture and investment capital to philanthropic decision-making and activities. More concretely, it focuses on the rationale and portfolio structure of four venture philanthropy organisations: Omidyar Network, NewSchools Venture Fund, Reach Capital, and LGT Venture Philanthropy.

The second part of this report, focuses on the UK registered education charity Absolute Return for Kids (Ark). It is best known for its role as a provider of academy schools in partnership with the government in England. It is rapidly growing in geographical and budgetary terms, and in the number and nature of the programmes in which it is involved. The aim of this part of the research is to identify, through the analysis of Ark’s international work, some of the multi-faceted channels for philanthropic action into the field of education policy, including but also exceeding philanthropic funding —in the form of investment and grant making, that are turning philanthropy into a significant force in the re-working of education as a non-state activity in different spaces and locations.

Read the report

Read the summary of key findings