EdFunders Case Study Identifies Unusual Model for Philanthropic Collaboration

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Case Study Identifies Unusual Model for Philanthropic Collaboration

Education Funders Research Initiative Moved Philosophically Diverse Funders to Common Priorities


New York City – Philanthropy New York, “the regional association of grantmakers with global impact,” today announced the release of a case study produced by an external researcher documenting the formation, challenges and ultimate success of the Education Funders Research Initiative – an unusual collaboration that brought together funders with very different approaches to education reform, and differing views on controversial topics such as testing and accountability, charter schools and the Common Core.

Thomas J. Hilliard, author of “Education Funders Research Initiative: A Case Study on Moving Philosophically Diverse Funders to Common Priorities” and a Senior Fellow at the Center for an Urban Future, has recently been named Policy Director of the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness.  Hilliard places this funder collaboration in the context of other past efforts at philanthropic collaboration and says of EdFunders, “The dynamic of pervasive and chronic disagreement, so emblematic of education policy, prompted an unusual and creative response.” 

The case study presents the history of the initiative, which aimed to:

  • Model a process of collaboration among stakeholders of differing viewpoints
  • Inform public discussion with insights based on research and evidence
  • Inform the incoming mayor of education reform priorities that have supporting evidence and funder consensus
  • Inform the work of participating funders
  • Create a platform for more meaningful dialogue with the city’s Department of Education.

The case study documents the initiative’s success in meeting those objectives and presents an unvarnished picture of the challenges encountered along the way. Hilliard documents the initiative’s three primary components: collaboration, research and communication. He examines the key strategies in each area and draws out lessons learned for each. “While benchmarking EdFunders according to its self-defined goals is important,” Hilliard concludes, “a further point should be made: its successful completion of a collaborative project unprecedented in the national philanthropic community.”

“The first phase of EdFunders was a long, hard process, but an immensely productive one,” said Ronna Brown, President of Philanthropy New York. “We felt it was important to support the creation of this case study to advance the conversation about collaboration in philanthropy, demonstrate just how much work it really is and encourage funders who believe that finding common ground on contentious issues is achievable.”

Education Funders Research Initiative, a project of Philanthropy New York, is supported by a group of diverse funding organizations that have pursued an array of education reform strategies.  These and other private foundations invested over $2 billion in New York City public school reform efforts during the Bloomberg Administration years and were crucial to many of the reform strategies pursued by the Department of Education and other education support organizations.  As the case study explains, EdFunders commissioned a series of reports to provide unbiased, independent analysis of the various reform strategies that had been implemented across New York City public schools, highlighting strategies that had achieved success in schools or programs effective with particular populations.  Those reports and the “Six Priorities” that flowed from them were released in Fall 2013 and were subsequently the focus of numerous discussions with the new leadership of the Department of Education over the course of 2014.

To view the case study, go to:


For more information and updates on current activities of the Education Funders Research Initiative, go to www.EdFundersResearch.org.

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