The Edcamp Foundation has received a $2 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to expand its participant-driven programs and reach.
Edcamp started in 2010 as a grassroots project organized by teachers for teachers and has become viral across the U.S. and beyond. With this multi-million grant from the Gates Foundation, Edcamp will be able to expand as a fully fledged organization that can broaden its teacher development focused reach.
The grant will allow Edcamp to develop the Edcamp Discovery Grant project through which the organization will offer 115 grants of up to $1,000 to teachers who implement EdCamp-discovered ideas on learning and teaching in their classrooms.
“I think these discovery grants are going to be amazing for teachers, because there are so many times when you want to implement an idea, and you don’t have the funds to do it,” said Ann Leaness, a teacher at Philadelphia’s Science Leadership Academy.
Money will also be invested in the development of Edcamp-in-a-box and for organizing regional summits for the Edcamp organizers’ own skill improvement.
Edcamp started in Philadelphia five years ago by a group of teachers who got together to exchange ideas on teaching challenges, practices and opportunities. Over 700 Edcamp conferences have been held across 25 countries since 2010.
At the Edcamp conferences, the agenda is shaped by the participants and not the organizers, which organizers call ‘unconferences’. According to the official statement by the Edcamp Foundation, Edcamp conferences are:
“[B]uilt on the notion that educators learn best from their peers and will enhance their craft as a result of these dynamic interactions.”
Apart from teachers, Edcamp conferences are also attended by entrepreneurs and tech experts.
“We were thrilled to have this level of support from the Gates Foundation,” Hadley J. Ferguson, Executive Director of the Edcamp Foundation said.
“Not only is this funding a game-changer for what has been a grassroots movement since it began, but it is a testament to the work that thousands of teachers and administrators have been doing during their free time–exchanging ideas and learning from colleagues in an open forum unlike any other professional learning platform.”
According to EdSurge, the organization initially collected $100,000 in seed funding provided by the NewSchools Venture Seed Fund. The fund was aimed at offering financial support to Edcamp organizers who have been organizing the events voluntarily.
Edcamp founders and enthusiasts gathered at the University of Pennsylvania to celebrate the $2 million grant. Philadelphia School Superintendent William R. Hite, Jr. lauded them during the gathering:
“Congratulations, Edcamp, for creating a magnificent platform and vehicle for teacher growth.”
Edcamp’s Executive Director Hadley Ferguson says that the grant is an expression of the Foundation’s interest to bring teachers to the foreground once again. Ferguson stated about the Gates Foundation:
“[T]hey’re trying to recover from this belief that ‘Gates is about teacher bashing,’ and instead make it about teacher empowerment.”