Questions for Funders—Nurturing an Ecosystem to Embrace Technological Advances for Jewish Education

July 10, 2017

Source: Jewish Funders Network 


Educational Technology (EdTech) is a burgeoning field that has made significant progress in recent years. Our Jewish Education systems are slowly and steadily adapting to this and we are witnessing the emergence of a nascent Jewish EdTech ecosystem. The Jewish EdTech ecosystem can leverage much of what already exists in the broader sector; however, there are niche requirements specific to Jewish learning that are required to successfully harness the full potential EdTech has to offer. This requires strategic investment - and given the limited funds available, we, as funders need to ask ourselves- how best can we utilize our resources?

While there are many useful frameworks for building an ecosystem, we have employed a framework consisting of the four components detailed below:

  • Content- What do we want people to learn?
  • Access- How will the content be consumed?
  • Distribution- How do we make the content available?
  • Implementation - How do we make sure that it works

There are many different contexts in which learning happens. From parent-child learning at home, day schools, supplementary schools and summer camps, to college, post-college and lifelong learning- that is why a one-size-fits-all approach is not relevant. The challenge in building an ecosystem is making sure the individual parts function as part of an educational continuum. We believe that a learning agenda is required to coordinate this ecosystem development.

We need to ask questions that, when answered, enable us to work more effectively. We need to embed collaboration, coordination, learning, and adaptation sector-wide to maximize results through evidence-based decision-making. Through our learning agenda we can articulate our hypotheses, prioritize the questions we seek to answer and develop a funding pipeline accordingly.

Below are some of the questions we’ve raised. We’d really appreciate feedback about the questions your organizations are asking, and how you’ve addressed these issues.

Practical call to action: As individual funders or foundations, when you make an EdTech grant or Program Related Investment (PRI), we encourage you to use this framework for two purposes, firstly, to assess how your funding contributes to your learning agenda, and potentially to the ecosystem learning agenda. And secondly, as a diligence tool to strengthen the investee or grantee proposal by asking questions like: What are you hoping to achieve with this new content? How will users access and engage with the content? What’s your distribution plan? How robust is your implementation plan? And our favorite question of all; How will we know if we should double down or shut down, i.e. increase our funding and crowd in other funders or exit?

Strategic call to action: In order to foster an ecosystem that will continue to embrace technological advances in the service of Jewish education, we need to collect the depth and breadth of knowledge amongst funders, educators, parents and students. Let’s create the conversation space and unpack our efforts and ambitions. Join us to maximize the deployment of resources - to chart a pragmatic way forward, and to proactively build the Jewish educational opportunities that we envisage for our generation.

Read the entire article at the Jewish Funders Network Blog.

Updated: Jul. 19, 2017