Public Sector - Lasting Impact: A Business Leader’s Playbook for Supporting America’s Schools

Related Expertise: Public Sector, Education

Lasting Impact: A Business Leader’s Playbook for Supporting America’s Schools

The Boston Consulting Group, Harvard Business School (HBS), and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation formed a partnership in 2013, as part of HBS’s U.S. Competitiveness Project, to research the role of business in improving the U.S. education system. The initial wave of research culminated with the Business and Education Leaders Together conference last November at HBS, where more than 100 business and education leaders convened to discuss how they can collaborate in transforming the nation's schools, from preschool through grade 12.

In February 2014, the partnership released its first two research reports. The first report, Lasting Impact: A Business Leader’s Playbook for Supporting America’s Schools, examines the most effective ways for business leaders to engage in education reform. “The most progressive business leaders are moving away from mere ‘checkbook philanthropy’ toward long-term relationships with educators,” said Jan Rivkin, an HBS professor and cochair of the U.S. Competitiveness Project. “For young Americans to succeed in today’s workforce, they must out-innovate and out-produce the world’s best. Business leaders in America have a profound stake, economic and moral, in seeing that today’s students are equipped with the skills to keep our companies competitive in the global market.”

The report highlights three kinds of actions that business “champions” can take to transform the education system in America:

  • Join with educators and civic leaders to lay the policy foundations for education innovation; for example, by encouraging state and district leaders to implement the more rigorous, twenty-first-century curriculum standards known as the Common Core.
  • Help to scale up proven innovations that boost student outcomes, such as highly effective charter-school models or digital learning tools.
  • Collaborate with a variety of stakeholders—from school district leaders and local community organizations to parent groups and labor associations—to reinvigorate the entire education ecosystem in cities and towns.

These forms of engagement require greater commitment by business—and a more authentic partnership with educators—but they offer much more potential for lasting impact on student learning.