Past gains, new capacities: What we’ve learned so far in our fight to transform the lives of children living in urban poverty

Editor’s note: We invite you to read our latest giving report to gain more insight into the full scope of our global activities and the ways in which they’ve evolved in recent years.

Some numbers:

  • 400,000: The number of students directly reached through foundation-funded Indian education programs that were active in 2012
  • 18,000: The number of youth we helped to place in new jobs in India in 2011 & 2012
  • 589: The number of Dell Scholars who had successfully completed college by the end of 2012
  • 6,500: The number of Texas teachers who, using foundation-supported tools, gained access to actionable, data-driven insights into student needs in 2012
  • 108,000+:  The number of new charter seats that will ultimately be created based on foundation investments in 2011 & 2012
  • 181,500: The number of slum residents projected to gain access to permanent housing due to 2011 & 2012 investments in a new company in India’s emerging micromortgage sector
  • 50,540: Number of low-income, at-risk Central Texas students who, in 2011 & 2012, received foundation-supported during- and after-school case management and other services to improve their academics
  • 19.5 million: Number of children in New Delhi and Rajasthan who, in 2011, received deworming treatments thanks to government programs supported by the foundation
  • 2: Number of South African students who completed the Dell Young Leaders program in 2011

Why do these figures matter? For two reasons.

First, because each aggregate number can be broken down into individual stories: a Mumbai child who was three years behind grade level catches up to her peers; a teacher in Lubbock, Texas, has the insights needed to begin helping students overcome specific deficits and build on strengths on the very first day of school; a young dropout from New Delhi obtains skills and training to increase his income by roughly 300 percent; a low-income couple in Washington D.C. opts to enroll their son in a high-performing public charter school; a first-generation South African university student gains access to the range of supports she’ll need to stay in school, graduate and begin a career. These are numbers that can change lives.

These are numbers that can change lives.

New pressures and new opportunities

The second reason these figures are important is because each number points toward much broader scale change. The foundation seeks to find breakthrough solutions that enable individuals to break the cycle of poverty. And while impact at the individual level is incredibly powerful, systems-level shifts are ultimately far more transformative. On this front, 2011 and 2012 were watershed years. We saw the cumulative impact of our efforts align with broader changes in the world; new pressures and opportunities came together to help us push ahead in unexpected ways. We worked with innovative companies like India’s Micro Housing Finance Corporation not only to provide low-income buyers with low-interest mortgages, but to help size and shape the challenge of catalyzing an affordable housing sector in urban India. We worked with the Texas Education Agency not only to get data-driven insights into the hands of thousands of teachers in Texas, so they could more easily and quickly address their students’ needs, but to build tools and resources that would benefit other states across the nation to do the same. At home in Austin, we began exploring how to apply what we’ve learned about the power of specific programs used in localized efforts in Chicago, Santa Ana and Philadelphia to find lasting ways to improve childhood health in a single zip code. Meanwhile, across the globe in South Africa, we found our technical and practical expertise in education data in demand.

New ways of using resources to address the impact of urban poverty on children

To ensure we had the most flexibility and broadest impact possible, we also began to institutionalize our use of a wider range of financial tools. These tools include not only grants, but mission-related impact investments in sectors such as high-quality vocational training centers in India; program-related investments to support related businesses such as Double Line Partners, an education data and technology firm that specializes in the development of performance management systems for state and local education agencies in the US; and the establishment of the non-profit Ed-Fi Alliance as an independent subsidiary of the foundation, focused on supporting the US-based effort to ensure that educators get the tools they need to personalize education for every child in their classrooms. Around the world, we also partnered with government to help scale effective programs, connecting governmental organizations—such as school districts in the US, school and health ministries in India, and the Department of Basic Education in South Africa—with organizations capable of helping them to implement priority programs aimed at improving education and childhood health.

A clear guiding principle: Impact today

Across all these efforts, we maintained a laser focus on one guiding principle—immediate, positive impact for children and families—filtering every decision through a consistent lens: How could we deploy our limited resources to hit above our weight? How could we use the tools available to ensure the biggest and most lasting benefit for children and families? Every person at the foundation knows what a huge responsibility we’ve taken on with this work, and what a huge opportunity we have. And every one of us is committed to asking the right questions to ensure we make a difference every day.

Read our latest giving report for more insight into our work to transform the lives of children living in urban India, South Africa and the United States through improved access to high quality education and health supports.