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In reading the rich community conversation, what bubbles up to me is: we want to give women and girls choices. Education is one of the most effective ways to help individuals help themselves in a sustainable manner. I reached out to The School Fund and its Founder, Matt Severson, to learn about how TSF uses technology to get more girls educated. Investing in education -- particularly for high-need students in low-income countries -- has a bigger impact than nearly any other form of philanthropy. In the case of girls the impact increases. Many need only $100 to continue their education and change their lives forever. In countries with a per capita income of $2 per day or less, each year of school adds 10% to earning capacity for life.

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What inspires me?  So little can do so much.

Matt Severson, Founder of The School Fund and COO, Connor Ashenbrucker created the organization while students at Brown after meeting a young boy who wanted to be President of Tanzania but was unable to afford the secondary education he would need(cost of $150 a year). They went on to build a simple and powerful crowd-funding platform that enables donors to connect with students. In 5 years they have made significant impact around the world by educating students, 50/50 girl/boy ratio. In just 5 years they have funded over 1200 years of education.

Key learnings from our conversation:

* Make it easy - Beautiful simple crowd-funding technology platform that makes it easy to connect donors and students resulting in life changing relationships. $25 can make a difference. Think Kiva for education.

* Make it clear - On both practical and personal levels - donors have 1:1 relationships with the students they are supporting and recieve reciept showing 100% of donation is really going to where it is intended to. 

* Make it local - It's imperative to have local involvement. TSF works directly with schools and local NGOs to to ensure relevance and transparent execution. 
Our full conversation:

What are the cultural implications if girls get education? Are you seeing difference/similarities across country lines? 
I think the pattern holds that the world stands to gain the most in areas where inequality is greatest -- and providing educational opportunities to girls probably tops this list.  Likewise, regions that are the most unequal are hindering their own progress the most.  

The research is vast on the incredible benefits of educating girls.  The Girl Effect video produced by the Nike Foundation does a fabulous job of showing how girls often start at a disadvantage, but if they persevere and get the proper support, they end up changing not only their life, but the lives of their children and community-members. 

How did TSF get started?
The School Fund began because of young boy named John Medo who comes from one of the poorest families in his hometown of Karatu, Tanzania.  I had the opportunity to meet John when I was graduating high school in 2007.  John was graduating from primary school that year and was supposed to go on to secondary school.  John promptly told me he wanted to become President of Tanzania, but I learned soon thereafter that he would not be able to attend secondary school because of school fees of $150 per year.  I was astonished and deeply troubled that something as little as $150 per year could stand in the way of this young man and his dreams.
With The School Fund, I wanted to create a beautiful, simple platform that allowed donors to connect and empathize with students in the developing world -- to be able to fund them and communicate with them directly.  
What is your approach? 
The School Fund is a crowd-funding platform that connects donors around the globe with students in the developing world.  We work closely with 28 NGO Partners who are the "boots on the ground" selecting students.  They use The School Fund as a fundraising tool to allow their donors to connect directly with their students.
It's essential that our NGO partners have strong local presence, including local staff members, and established relationships with the communities where students live and go to school. 

What are the key elements to success?
Key to the The School Fund's success are transparency and directness -- donors actually form 1:1 connections with students, know that 100% of their funding is supporting that specific students, and also clearly see the school receipt attached to their donation
What has your impact been to date?
Since our founding in 2009, we have supported 765 students from 15 countries including India, Haiti, Kenya and The Philippines.  We have funded over 1200 years of education.  
What kinds of committments do your stakeholder make?
Identifying and vetting our NGO Partners is one of the most important things we do.  We want to ensure we are working with credible, quality NGO Partners who have a rigorous selection process for the students they select and use the funds they raise through our platform strictly for students' school fees.  We sign an MOU with our NGO Partners. 
We partner directly with NGOs after a due diligence process.  We require that students have 1) need 2) academic merit and 3) a strong desire to attend school, but ultimately we trust partners to select their students that are best suited for The School Fund. 

What are your challenges?
It is so easy to change a students' life.  Many students need as little as $100 per year to continue their education.  More people should know how easy it is to have a profound impact on a students' life in the developing world.   
How can people help?
Funding students is by far the #1 priority.  You can help a student continue their education for as little as $25.  In doing so, you will give them a shot at making their dreams of becoming doctors, lawyers and engineers come trueWe also encourage people to create a profile on The School Fund and connect directly with students through journals, especially if they do not have much disposable income. 100% of your money goes to supporting students' school fees.  


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Great highlights, Kate. Thanks to both you and Matt for sharing.

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My pleasure Meena. Have a few more in mind! Looking forward to tomorrow's SF meet-up too. Great challenge!