How Technology Facilitated a New Funding Model

By Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, Sarah Murray
2014 | Case No. SI128 | Length 15 pgs.

In 2000, Charles Best, a social studies teacher working in a school in the Bronx, New York, scraped together $2,000 to pay an overseas web designer to build a rudimentary website he had designed using pencil and paper. On the website, teachers could post projects that needed funding—from books and paints to field trips and educational software — and individuals could donate towards those requests.  By 2014, half of the public and charter schools in the United States had at least one teacher who had used the website, more than 10 million students had received classroom resources and more than 1.4 million donors had contributed funds to providing these supplies.

Over time, the organization also found itself with a powerful tool at its disposal — vast troves of data, the analysis of which could provide insights into everything from teaching methods to core education funding needs. “This was one of the breed of start-ups that is scratching a personal itch,” explained Best.  “And the solution just started to grow beyond that particular itch.”

Best had not set out to influence public education policy. He simply wanted to raise some money to pay for classroom materials and experiences, such as trips to museums and nature preserves, which his school could not afford. But his idea for using the Internet to connect individual donors to teachers who needed extra learning resources was to turn into something far bigger than he had ever imagined.

Learning Objective

a.\tDemonstrate a market-based approach to solving a social need, specifically how innovations can disrupt the social capital marketplaceb.\tShowcase best practices in transparency and accountabilityc.\tProvide an example of a leading organization that is reshaping the social sector through its innovative work

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