Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Philanthropic Startup: Pathways to Education

Pathways to Education is the best example I've seen of social entrepreneurism. 6 years ago, the high school drop out rate in the Regent Park area of Toronto was 56%. Regent Park is one of the city's poorest areas, comprised of 80% new immigrants. There is no in-district high school in Regent Park, and many students could not afford the bus fare to reach class. Some girls in the area also faced the additional challenge of coming from cultures that did not traditionally support higher education for women.

Pathways was founded with the belief that, with enough seed capital, a mentor and support program could be built to change all this. 6 years later, the drop out rate is 5%, and there are over 100 -supportedPathways students in 2006 alone that are entering university and college.

Pathways is a low profile charity, backed by government, VCs, and large corporations alike. The fund-raising gala, held last night at Hart House, was a low key affair that more closely resembled a gathering of friends than the usual, watch-out-for-Cathy-Nugent's-hair- she's turning-around kind of event. There were no gift bags or elaborate to-dos. The women were well-dressed, but they wore Prada for a higher purpose.

Pathways will roll out nationally to other cities this year and next - watch for it.