If the STEM Funding Push Has a Headquarters, It's This Organization

Over the past few weeks we’ve been hitting our readers with a wave of stories centered on education philanthropy. Education is a hot topic. It's important, it’s flawed, and no matter where you fall on education reform, pretty much everyone recognizes that our current education system is outdated and threatening to leave our kids unprepared for the rapidly changing future. Something has got to change, and one red-hot front in the battle to boost student achievement is STEM education, in which a seemingly endless string of funders keeps announcing new gifts, pursuing varied strategies. 

Last week, 100Kin10, a nonprofit focused on placing 100,000 STEM teachers in schools by 2021, announced that it had secured $6 million over the course of the summer to continue its program of training and recruiting STEM educators. Since launching in 2011, 100Kin10 and its partners have trained over 20,000 teachers to give STEM lessons.

Its focus on improving education by starting with educators is not a novel one, and their case for stressing STEM is familiar enough:

Ten of the top 14 fastest-growing industries require significant know-how in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Yet Americans continue to underperform in those fields, and women and people of color are significantly under-represented.

What makes 100Kin10 stand out is the way it connects the folks with the ideas to the folks with the money. Acting almost as an ideas broker, 100Kin10 gives its funders access to proposals submitted by pre-vetted programming partners—a network of over 200 organizations spanning a wide range of sectors and disciplines including education, health, science and technology—through an online funding marketplace. Partners get to broadcast their cutting-edge ideas, while funders get to pick specific projects they want to fund. Sounds useful, right? 

Reading through the list of 100Kin10’s partners is an eye-opening experience. It's not every day you see the Girl Scouts listed proudly side-by-side with Chevron and Dow Chemicals. But what this unconventional gathering of corporations and nonprofits seems to signal, as put best by the team at 100kin10, is “the magnitude of change our country needs in STEM learning.”

Corporations actually understand that reality most keenly, since they're the ones often struggling to recruit workers with STEM skills—a problem that many experts think will get worse. In the past year, we've covered a wide range of corporate philanthropic efforts to address this issue, including by carmakers, energy companies, tech firms, and banks. Is some of this philanthropy self-serving? You bet it is, but in a good way. Meanwhile, a range of foundations worried about economic mobility and opportunity are also deeply invested in this area.

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The focused simplicity of 100Kin10 coupled with the collaborative and transparent nature of its marketplace model makes it an appealing pathway for funders interested in initiatives that accelerate access to STEM education. With over 30 funders already onboard, and past funders like the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Leonetti/O’Connell Family Foundation eagerly renewing past commitments, 100Kin10 has raised over $80 million in support of its work—with over 150 grants totaling $62 million awarded since 2011.

Now in its fourth round of funding, 100Kin10 continues to win favor among foundations and nonprofits, welcoming new supporters like the Arizona Public Service Foundation (the nonprofit arm of Arizona’s largest utility company) and the New York-based Simons Foundationkeeping in perfect step with its knack for creating new bedfellows, all with a stake in our children’s future on way or another.

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