Are We Doing Enough?

According to the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Census, seven in ten children in California do not have access to public preschools, which means many of them will start with a disadvantage on their first day of kindergarten; while 4.5M adults in California have some college but no degree. And numbers between kindergarten and college look grim too. 
These numbers are juxtaposed with unprecedented economic success. The Bay Area Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is ranked in the top 20 across the world and corporate philanthropy continues to grow. But are we doing enough and are we doing it right? 
SVCF’s Business Council for Innovation in Education (BCIE), in partnership with SanDisk , a Western Digital brand, recently hosted an event for its members and other corporate attendees to talk about a long-term approach to educational opportunities for youth. The event featured top researchers, educationists, philanthropists and policy experts to discuss the why and how of such an approach. From early childhood to early adulthood, not all kids in America have access to a continuum of support systems to help them succeed in the educational system up through early career opportunities.

Pictured: David L. Kirp presenting his keynote
Experts, such as David L. Kirp, Professor of the Graduate School, University of California at Berkeley; Senior Fellow, Learning Policy Institute; Contributing Writer, New York Times, call this a cradle-to-career approach. Professor Kirp is an education policy and research expert and has written a book called, Kids First: Five Big Ideas for Transforming the Lives of Children, which makes a compelling case on the need for systems that reach from cradle to career. As the keynote speaker for the event, he set the tone by delving into why such an approach may be the most effective and gives the highest return on philanthropic investments. He also emphasized the great need for different stakeholders, such as the government, businesses, schools and parents to collaborate to enhance the impact of their individual efforts. Strive Network, with its presence in 32 states, is one such national partnership of cross-sector influencers, aiming to improve access to quality education for all.   
The majority of the event featured a panel discussion which explored ways donors, particularly corporate donors, can channel their key resources—funds, product and policy support—to affect this change. Amy Gerstein, Executive Director, John W. Gardner Center for Youth and their Communities, Stanford University, brought her expertise as a champion of district reform and quality education to moderate the panel discussion. Gisela Bushey, former Director, SanDisk Foundation and Community Relations, shared real examples of how companies like SanDisk provide funding support to programs that cover the full spectrum of programs. Adriana Flores-Ragade, Partnerships Director, Fusion Media Network and Univision Communications Inc., shared insights from Univision's CSR initiative which offered the company's core product—its television broadcast network—to bring educational programming to young Hispanic audiences. Through this initiative, the company has donated $50M in airtime for the community to date. Recently, the company also partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to increase Hispanic students’ high school completion and college readiness, exemplifying the value of a cross-sector approach in community service. 
Pictured Left to Right – Adriana Flores-Ragade, Gisela Bushey, Khan D. Russo, and Amy Gerstein
Khanh Russo, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Innovation at City of San José, Office of Mayor Sam Liccardo, presented various examples of initiatives where the city is partnering with local businesses to advance the goal of access to education. A brief synopsis of SJ Learns, SJ Works, and My Brother’s Keeper initiatives inspired the audience. 
The event encouraged discussion on bringing innovation and collaboration to address the wide opportunity gap in the valley. SVCF’s Gina Dalma, Special Advisor to the President for Public Policy Initiatives, closed the event by reminding audiences of the fast-changing context of education and future careers, imploring philanthropists to not just be creative but to take some risks, too!   
To learn more about SVCF’s Business Council for Innovation in Education or about our upcoming events, email us at or call us at 650.450.5444.