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Applied Learning

A call for collective creativity

The Value of Knowledge underlines the power of partnerships. To meet all UN SDGs will require stronger alliances between non-profit and for-profit organizations, between philanthropists and impact investors, and between local and national stakeholders.

Our conversations with leading education experts inside and outside Credit Suisse reveal a determination to develop new models of education to give investors more opportunities to make both an impact and a return.

Edtech is a recurring area of interest; in some respects, it is leading the growth in the sector as the power of emerging technologies allows for the rapid development of new tools and services. Alison offers more than 1,000 free learning courses on a range of subjects, including technology, business and humanities in a number of languages. It is helping those who have not had access to higher education, especially those from less developed countries, yet want to further their professional or personal skills.

In Indonesia, it is the desire for greater access to quality education that drives the Ruangguru app (“ruangguru” is Indonesian for “teachers' room”). Ruangguru connects its 10 million users to 300,000 teachers so that everything a student could learn in a traditional school he or she can learn online, wherever they are based.

“Our dream is to reach the whole 52 million students in Indonesia,” says Belva Devara, co-founder and CEO Ruangguru. “They’ll be able to learn from the best teachers no matter what their education status might be.”

These smart, creative organizations are able to inspire the sector, generate societal impact alongside good returns, and access larger pools of capital.

We encourage for-profit and non-profit organizations to be bold in ambition. In the words of Janine Händel at Roger Federer Foundation, this means empowering people to solve problems, rather than passively receiving funding. “Education is one of the most powerful theories of change, but only if the individual is the actor in their own education. Then the multiplier effect is far greater.”

Partnerships between businesses and non-profit entities, such as Purdue Global University, developed by Purdue and Kaplan in the US, demonstrate the potential synergies.

It is vital that for-profits use the knowledge accumulated from the non-profit sector as these have often been established in the education space for a longer time. Organizations dedicated to knowledge sharing, such as the People's Action for Learning (PAL) Network, are growing in influence. The PAL network’s mission is to rebuild educational policy and practice around the measurable outcomes of learning.

Collaboration is not just about knowledge sharing, but also risk sharing. Philanthropic or public funding can act as loan guarantees or de-risk an investment that then makes it more attractive to investors. Pools of capital can be combined where some investors are more focused on impact, others on return, and they invest together for greater effectiveness.

Scale remains an issue. According to a GIIN survey, while 41% of impact investors had allocations to education, only 4% of impact assets under management were in the education sector1. This is due to small deal sizes – direct investments of $500k to $5 million, while funds may raise up to $10 million2. But as 36% of impact investors planned to increase their allocations in education in 20183, there is more money looking for a home.

Impact investors need to bridge the gap between their need for results within an investment cycle and the long-term impact of education measures. This will mean investing in a new way, beyond the traditional vehicles of venture capital and private equity funds. It also requires being open-minded on which goals or causes that they want to support with their investment, and which areas of those to focus on. This program has demonstrated that, rather than focusing primarily on outcomes for students, they may bring into consideration what wider impact is delivered.

“There is no limit to where investors can participate in education, because there’s need and opportunity right across the spectrum,” says Marisa Drew, CEO, Impact Advisory and Finance Department, Credit Suisse.

The Value of Knowledge teaches us that perhaps the greatest lesson is what we can learn from each other. We hope that this campaign of research, new thinking and best practice will inspire debate, fuel collaboration and spark consideration of new sustainable investment opportunities.

About the Research

The research phase of the campaign involved analysis of more than 200 papers and the collection of more than 400 data points to understand the multiplier effect of education. The selection of research material, and assessment of the linkages between SDGs, was informed by consultations with the Value of Knowledge advisory panel (see below).

Credit Suisse and Longitude, a Financial Times company, would like to thank the advisory panel members and interviewees for their guidance and insights.

Advisory panel:

  • Anna Molero, Global Head of Government and Multilateral Affairs, Teach For All
  • Eric Hanushek, Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow, Stanford University
  • Harry Patrinos, Practice Manager, Education – World Bank
  • Jasjit Singh, Academic Director, INSEAD Social Impact Initiative
  • Janine Händel, CEO, Roger Federer Foundation
  • Manos Antoninis, Director, Global Education Monitoring Report, UNESCO
  • Michael Ward, Senior Policy Analyst, Education, OECD
  • Rachel Hinton, Education Policy Team Leader, DFID
  • Simon Bailey, former Head of Learning, Research, Aflatoun International


  • Chas Edelstein, Senior Adviser, Credit Suisse
  • Daniel Izzo, co-founder and CEO, Vox Capital
  • Jasjit Singh, Academic Director, INSEAD Social Impact Initiative,
  • Julia Balandina Jaquier, consultant and author of “Catalyzing Wealth for Change”
  • Karl Richter, former Head of Research and Knowledge for the UN’s SDG Social Impact Finance initiative
  • Katharina Neureiter, Executive, Impact Management, CDC Group
  • Marisa Drew, CEO Impact Advisory and Finance Department, Credit Suisse
  • Wendy Kopp, CEO and co-founder, Teach For All

1 GIIN Annual Impact Investor Survey
Impact Investing in Education: An Overview of the Current Landscape, Open Society Foundations, 2014
3 GIIN Annual Impact Investor Survey

Read more - Part one - The multiplier effect

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