Leo Tolstoy famously said, "Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself." At the Kauffman Foundation, we know that if our work is to make any difference, we must start by looking within.
So during the first half of 2014 our trustees and senior staff re-assessed every aspect of the Foundation's activities and drafted a template for the future. What we came up with was not a tightly scripted master plan, but a platform for ongoing, evolutionary change.
Goal: Increase the percentage of students in Kansas City reaching academic and life outcomes that prepare them for postsecondary success.
- Promote access to quality public school options in Kansas City by supporting new and expanding schools, as well as school turnaround initiatives, with proven or promising approaches for improving student academic outcomes
- Support existing individual schools demonstrating strong academic outcomes for students qualifying for free/reduced priced lunch in Kansas City
- Provide postsecondary completion incentives for more students in the Kansas City area, building on experiences from Project Choice and Kauffman Scholars
- Support the recruitment, development, and retention of high-quality teachers and leaders in Kansas City's urban schools
Research and Policy in Education
Goal: Enhance the environment for entrepreneurship and innovation in education, and help create the human capital necessary for an entrepreneurial economy.
- Support and conduct research on the intersection of technology, public policy, and the economics of education
- Focus on specific areas of public policy that affect Kauffman's education investments and the national movement toward higher-quality education
Goal: Reach U.S. entrepreneurs by providing educational resources and supporting organizations that assist entrepreneurs.
- Manage Kauffman's entrepreneurship education resources
- Scale proven models of exemplar entrepreneurship support organizations
- Seed innovations (new platforms, infrastructure) that enable firm creation
Goal: Accelerate entrepreneurship hubs in selected metropolitan areas.
- Establish metropolitan demonstration sites, including Kansas City, to test and elevate models that increase regional entrepreneurial growth
- Manage a competitive metro challenge program to help regions develop entrepreneurial economies
Research and Policy in Entrepreneurship
Goal: Foster more, and more successful, entrepreneurs by creating useful knowledge for entrepreneurs, policymakers, and others.
- Support high-quality research on entrepreneurship, including emerging scholars and data
- Improve the policy environment for entrepreneurship by translating research into policy ideas and guidance
- Determine the effectiveness of entrepreneurship education and training programs, and build the field of programmatic research as a vehicle for entrepreneurship research and policy work
Goal: Contribute to Kansas City's efforts to improving the quality of life and to accelerating positive change in targeted areas.
- Support institutions and organizations that are important to the economic and cultural well-being of Kansas City
- Cultivate innovative capacity in Kansas City for experimentation with new ways of creating cultural, social, and economic value
In short, we have an exciting road ahead.
We chose this approach for the same reason that prompted us to re-think our strategies in the first place. The fields in which we work—education and entrepreneurship—are changing; the landscapes for each are quite different than they were in the 1990s when Ewing Kauffman endowed the Foundation, and different still from even a few years ago. To continue doing the kind of philanthropy our donor intended, we must move (and keep moving) to where the edges have moved—to where the opportunities for impact are greatest.
The challenge now—while staying true to Mr. Kauffman's intent—is to take our work to the next level.
The challenge—while staying true to Mr. Kauffman's intent—is to take the Foundation's work to the next level. " — Wendy Guillies
Education That Works
Collaboration and integration of efforts are core principles of our new education strategies. The Foundation is forging new working relationships in the education community—in Kansas City and beyond. Our college preparatory public charter school, the Ewing Marion Kauffman School, now in its fourth year, is spinning off transferable ideas, while school-reform movements across the country have vastly grown the knowledge base we can draw upon.
We will try many promising approaches to promote access to quality public school options in Kansas City, including supporting new and expanding schools, school turnaround initiatives, and existing individual schools with proven or promising approaches for improving student outcomes. We'll also provide postsecondary completion incentives, including scholarships, for more students in the Kansas City area, building on experiences from Project Choice and Kauffman Scholars. Finally, we will invest in programs that attract and retain great teachers in our community.
Shifting Entrepreneurship Into High Gear
Today the landscape is teeming with efforts to foster entrepreneurship. Nearly all colleges and universities now teach the subject and many have on-campus centers. State and regional startup initiatives have proliferated, as have business plan competitions, investor groups, and related ventures.
The critical next step is channeling all of this action into optimum results. Given so many different programs for entrepreneurs, questions arise, such as: What works best and in which circumstances? How can diverse efforts be integrated? We see the Kauffman Foundation playing several lead roles. By rigorously evaluating what is out there, we can identify efforts that are worth supporting, replicating, adapting, or combining. Our aim is to vastly increase the number of entrepreneurs we help in the United States by investing in proven models that can scale.
Another area of emphasis will be entrepreneurial communities. Since starting an enterprise is complex work, entrepreneurs need communities in which they can get multiple forms of input and assistance. As part of our metro strategy, we'll develop a competitive challenge to spur entrepreneurial activity in select metropolitan areas.
Ripples and Convergence
The new strategies we are implementing ripple through every part of our own operations—including our renowned research and policy work, which we'll continue to build upon to further understanding and inform policy in our fields. In our home region, we will continue to support important institutions and efforts that contribute to a better quality of life for those who call Kansas City home.
Saying that these are exciting times may seem a cliché, but they are. We appear to be moving toward a set of convergence phenomena, in which many strands of our work converge. When events of this type occur, new horizons open up.
Ewing Kauffman wanted his philanthropy to have profound impact. His goal was to fundamentally improve human lives by enabling people to do more for themselves and society. We thank him for putting us on this course years ago, and we will keep taking the next steps. Stay tuned.
Follow Wendy Guillies on Twitter: @DubGkc