Jjumba Martin for Imagine Worldwide
For the past two or so years, philanthropic investment firm Omidyar Network has been turning various initiatives into separate entities, part of an effort to rework its strategy. With that in mind, it recently announced the launch of Imaginable Futures, a spin-out from its education initiative. Funding is from Pierre and Pam Omidyar under the umbrella of the Omidyar Group.
“We believe in the power of learning to unleash human potential,” says Amy Klement, managing partner of Imaginable Future.
This is the sixth, and final, spin-out for Omidyar. Some others include last year’s spin-out of its financial inclusion initiative into Flourish, a venture firm aimed at backing entrepreneurs forming impact-oriented financial services enterprises; Luminate, formed from Omidyar’s governance and citizen engagement efforts; and Spero, created from its emerging technology initiatives to focus on “well-being, work & purpose and human connection,” according to its web site.
Targeting early childhood through adult learning, the focus will be on Africa, Latin America and the U.S. Also the plan is to work closely in India with Omidyar Network India.
Imaginable Futures will use a hybrid structure, part philanthropic foundation and part impact investor. Pretty much Omidyar’s stock in trade, the approach, of course, allows for supporting both for-profits and nonprofits/public sector entities. The venture has a portfolio of more than 100 enterprises and $200 million invested. There’s also $150 million for operations and investment over the next four years.
Backing Creative Approaches to Learning
According to Klement, the need for creative, effective approaches to education has never been greater. Some 617 million children and adolescents globally can’t read or do basic math. In the U.S., more than 7 million children under the age of five aren’t ready for prime time when they enter kindergarten. And substandard education cripples the ability of lower-income adults to develop the skills needed to thrive in the current economy.
There will also be an emphasis on early childhood education, according to Klement. “Early childhood learning is one of the best investments you can make,” she says. For example, she points to research that shows that such programs lead to a 20% reduction in the high-school dropout rate.
Wonderschool is an example of one early childhood learning company already in Imaginable’s portfolio. It works with educators to help them start their own childcare services and preschools from their homes. To that end, it provides assistance with everything from licensing and marketing to billing and accounting.
About Omidyar’s larger strategy: The plan is to focus on “re-imagining capitalism, promoting the beneficial use of technology, building bridges in a pluralistic world and fostering individual capabilities and empowerment,” according to a blog post by Mike Kubzansky, Omidyar’s CEO.