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© 2016 Opportunity Internationala 501(c)3 nonprofit.

Scale, Impact & Sustainability: An Innovative Model for Educating Vulnerable Children

By Allison Bearden

How would your life be different if you didn’t go to school? Chances are that you’ve already used important skills today that you learned in school, such as reading, problem-solving and strategic communication. Without these skills at your fingertips, it’s difficult to accomplish even the simplest of tasks. More complex undertakings, such as supporting a family, can feel nearly impossible for those who never went to school.

Each person needs an education to seize their full potential, yet there are still 67 million children worldwide who are not in school. These young people are at risk of becoming adults who face serious challenges in securing employment and providing for household needs. Additionally, rapidly growing youth populations in Africa and other emerging regions are poised to place an ever-increasing strain on overburdened public education systems.

Recognizing the transformative power of education, Opportunity International provides customized financial services and training to the key education stakeholders in low-income countries – private school owners, parents and students.  Our education finance initiative delivers scalable, impactful and sustainable offerings that help vulnerable communities tackle the major problems facing education in the developing world.Here’s how our model prioritizes scale, impact and sustainability to keep marginalized children in the classroom:

SCALE. Opportunity International has impacted more than one million children across nine countries through the education finance initiative. One of our most innovative offerings, called EduSave, is providing a total of $150 million in educational insurance coverage to low-income people. To empower even more children to attend school, Opportunity International is expanding education finance in existing markets while launching the initiative in additional countries. One of our key strategies for meeting a wide range of education-related needs is to collaborate with expert partner organizations. Through these relationships, Opportunity International provides financing to a growing number of schools for our partners’ innovative education products, such as classroom computers. We also pair our financial products with our partners’ educational services, including youth financial education and teacher training resources, to enhance their value and impact.

IMPACT. Opportunity International is a learning organization that operates through a cyclical “(re)design → implement → evaluate” framework to continually refine our products in line with client feedback and shifting needs. As part of our education finance learning agenda, we are conducting narrative studies to shed light on the wider community impact of our loans for schools. Anecdotal evidence collected in Ghana indicates that one Opportunity-supported school has facilitated crucial improvements in its community, including additional jobs, improved infrastructure and reduced social vices. Opportunity International is repeating similar narrative studies with additional schools in Uganda and Ghana to better understand the full impact of our loans on underserved communities. These studies will form the basis for increasingly robust education finance research in the near future.

SUSTAINABILITY.  While Opportunity International remains dedicated to serving the most under-resourced people, sustainability is also critical to our model. We offer education finance services through our financial institutions, which are embedded in the communities where we work. This allows our services to contribute decisively to our clients’ long-term success rather than ceasing to exist when donors or strategic partners shift their priorities elsewhere. Additionally, education loans provided by Opportunity International are continually leveraged and recycled as they are repaid. We call this the multiplier effect; it means that when one school or family succeeds, others will have an opportunity to benefit from our financial products. Within an estimated three to five years, education finance will achieve full sustainability in a given country.

At Opportunity International, we’re doing everything we can to help vulnerable children continue learning. Our goal is to equip young people in low-income communities to finish their schooling so they can have prosperous lives that are free from the pressing challenges that accompany poverty. We want more children around the world to grow up and ask the question “how would my life be different if I didn’t go to school?” rather than “how would my life be better if I’d finished school?”

Read our new education finance brochure on the Knowledge Exchange to learn more. Contribute to our Invest in One Child Campaign to support Opportunity International’s efforts to provide educational access to vulnerable children.

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