Charles Best is the CEO and founder of DonorsChoose.org, the leading platform for giving to public schools. Charles launched the organization in 2000 out of a Bronx public high school where he taught history for five years. Teachers across America use the site to create projects requesting resources their students need, and donors of all sizes give to the projects that inspire them. To date, teachers at 82% of all the public schools in America have created classroom project requests, and over 3 million supporters have given $800 million to those projects.
As a former educator and the pioneer of crowdfunding, Charles has a wealth of knowledge on the power of connecting donors to classrooms in need, creating movements, scaling an organization, and working with school districts. When DonorsChoose.org was founded, crowdfunding wasn’t yet a word. But as a public school teacher working hard to get the resources his students needed, Charles realized the core principle of crowdfunding: citizen donors around the country would want to help teachers like him, if they could see exactly where their dollars were going.
Connecting the Public to Public Schools
In 2000, while teaching history at a Bronx public school, Charles Best launched DonorsChoose, a nonprofit organization that provides a simple way to address educational inequity. His dream was to make it easy for anyone to help a public school classroom and move us closer to a nation where students in every community have the tools and experiences they need for a great education.
In his presentation, Best will share how crowdfunding connects people and organizations from across the nation to support students. He will cover the best practices in crowdfunding, based on data and input gathered from the National Superintendents' Association and the National School Board Association. Best will also share case studies about collaborations with school foundations and school districts that were successful in maximizing student impact.
Cheryl L. Dorsey is a pioneer in the social entrepreneurship movement, and the President of Echoing Green, a global organization seeding and unleashing next-generation talent to solve the world’s biggest problems.
Prior to leading this social impact organization, Cheryl was a social entrepreneur herself and received an Echoing Green Fellowship in 1992 to help launch The Family Van, a community-based mobile health unit in Boston. She became the first Echoing Green Fellow to head the social venture fund in 2002.
An accomplished leader and entrepreneur, she has served in two presidential administrations as a White House Fellow and Special Assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Labor (1997-98); Special Assistant to the Director of the Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Labor Department (1998-99); and Vice Chair for the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships (2009-2017). Cheryl has served on several boards including the The Bridgespan Group, and, previously, the Harvard Board of Overseers and SEED Foundation. She has a medical degree from Harvard Medical School and her Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard Kennedy School and received her Bachelor’s degree in History and Science magna cum laude with highest honors from Harvard-Radcliffe Colleges.
Cheryl has received numerous awards for her commitment to public service, including the Pfizer Roerig History of Medicine Award, the Robert Kennedy Distinguished Public Service Award, the Manuel C. Carballo Memorial Prize, and Middlebury College Center for Social Entrepreneurship’s Vision Award. She was also featured as one of “America’s Best Leaders” by US News & World Report and the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School in 2009, one of The Nonprofit Times’ “Power and Influence Top 50” in 2010 and 2011, one of “America’s Top 25 Philanthropy Speakers” by the Business of Giving in 2016, and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 2017.
One of Cheryl’s favorite quotes from Robert Schuller sums up her career ideology: What would you attempt to do if you could not fail?
Driving Collective Impact as 21st Century Education Leaders
So many of us today feel like we’re not able to do much about the problems in society. From climate change to injustices around gender, race, citizenship, orientation, and more, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and succumb to problem paralysis. As the president of Echoing Green, Cheryl is an expert in supporting and accelerating leaders tackling the root causes of systemic injustices. With vivid examples and storytelling, Cheryl will share lessons from social entrepreneurship, how collective impact can further the educational equity movement, and what commitment to positive social change looks like in education and beyond.
Sharif El-Mekki is the Chief Executive Officer of The Center for Black Educator Development which exists to ensure there will be equity in the recruiting, training, hiring, and retention of quality educators that reflect the cultural background and share common socio-political interests of the students they serve.
For 11 years, El-Mekki was the proud principal at Mastery Charter School-Shoemaker Campus, a neighborhood public charter that serves 750 students in grades 7-12. After attending an elementary Freedom School as a child, middle school in Iran, and Overbrook High School in Philadelphia, El-Mekki attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) as a Criminal Justice Major. After a brief stint as a social worker and counselor, he became eager to make a community-focused impact. As the son of an educator and activists, El-Mekki had a strong desire to dive into a cause that would address issues relating to social justice, equity and educational opportunities. He learned of an opportunity to become a teacher through an alternative certification program for African American men. After teaching for 7 years, he became an administrator at Turner and Shaw Middle Schools- both located in southwest Philadelphia - before becoming a principal in 2007.
From 2013-2015, he was one of three principal ambassador fellows working on issues of education policy and practice with U.S. Department of Education under Secretary Arne Duncan. In 2014, El-Mekki helped create the Fellowship-Black Male Educators for Social Justice, a group of a few dozen black male educators who met in the evenings to talk and support one another. The group has grown to more than 1,000 and evolved into The Center for Black Educator Development that El-Mekki heads today.
Our Country Desperately Needs More Teachers, But Who Is Responsible for Finding and Training Them?
While teacher shortages often depend on subject and region, there is an increased need for high quality teachers everywhere. Too often influencers look at districts to solve this complex issue alone and ignore the potential impact that those adjacent to districts can have on the recruitment and retention of high quality teachers.
What can people committed to the idea of a quality education for all as a public good do to support the recruitment and retention of highly effective teachers?