Ex-UK Prime Minister Brown in impact investing project targeting education

Political heavyweight Brown is UN Special Envoy for Global Education

Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown is working on a new impact investing project in the area of education with Sir Ronald Cohen, chair of the Global Steering Group for Social Impact Investment.

Brown, who is United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education and Chair of the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity, announced the news in a blog last week to mark the results of the world’s first social impact bond – which was one of his last decisions in government. He headed the left of centre Labour government from 2007–2010.

Brown said that he supported the social impact bond, designed to tackle reoffending in the English town of Peterborough to “show the world that private investment could be mobilised to tackle even the most complex and intractable social problems”. The SIB, which worked intensively with 2,000 ex-offenders with a range of complex needs including housing, debt and employment, returned 3% to investors.

Brown credited Cohen as the driver of the SIB and announced that they both were working on a new project around education.

He said: “I am now working on a new project with Sir Ronald, who believes we can raise substantial sums for urgently needed educational investments, including for the world’s 30 million displaced and refugee children.

“But the Cohen plan is even bolder and covers the entire field of social problems in urgent need of amelioration.“He foresees a tipping point by 2020, with billions of dollars in new investment in bonds coming from the world’s top 100 institutional investors, 50 foundations, and 50 private companies.”

Social Finance, an organisation founded by Cohen, is developing an Education Outcomes Fund as part of its work for the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity led by Brown.

“I am now working on a new project with Sir Ronald”

An online document outlines how the fund of up to $1bn would pool capital to pay for private education providers for improved education outcomes in low and middle income countries.

The International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity was set up to make the case for investing in education and builds upon the UN Sustainable Development Goal for education.

The Commission is co-convened by Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway, President Michelle Bachelet of Chile, President Joko Widodo of Indonesia, President Peter Mutharika of Malawi and the Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova.

Brown serves as Chair of the Commission. Its members include Jose Manuel Barroso, former President of the European Commission, Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister of Australia and Jack Ma, Founder and Executive Chairman of the Alibaba Group.