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Money attracts more money: How this early childhood education program landed almost $2M

It's been a big month for GreenLight Fund Philadelphia. April 14, 2016 Category: FeaturedFundingMedium

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Editor's note: Public Health Management Corporation contributed $225,000 to Parent-Child Home Program, not $250,000, as stated in an earlier version of this story.
In a space where terminology seems to be one of the biggest barriers to messaging, why should the social impact space pay attention to “venture philanthropy” — yet another phrase that combines a capitalistic practice with its charitable counterpart?

Hold your eye rolls.

Venture philanthropy isn’t new, but it’s definitely on the rise. Here in Philadelphia, the local chapter of GreenLight Fund might be the only organization doing it.

In a nutshell, it’s kind of like raising a round of venture capital but with grants and a leading investor — a funder like GreenLight.

“Our piece is, we’re all about co-investment,” said Executive Director Omar Woodard. “We’ll put our money in, but we’ll put our money in to attract other money.”

That’s what happened earlier this week when GreenLight Fund invested $600,000 over four years in Parent-Child Home Program, a model that focuses on early literacy, parent engagement and school readiness.

Thanks to that investment, Philadelphia Housing Authority has granted the organization $1 million and Public Health Management Corporation has put in $225,000, all over four years. GreenLight is seeking additional funders for PCHP to better implement its programming across the city.

“To make it clear, this is a pre-K readiness and parent engagement model,” Woodard said. “If Mayor [Jim] Kenney wants to do this pre-K thing, that’s fine,  but you can’t have kids coming in to a quality pre-k program who aren’t prepared.”

Essentially, Woodard said, PCHP does home visits where they model out the best practices for early literacy. And it’s worked — children who have gone through this program are outperforming their peers in reading and math by the time they get to third grade.

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First on the list of priorities for PCHP, Woodard said, are non-English speaking populations and high-poverty families in Southwest Philadelphia.

And since GreenLight, which has chapters in a handful of other cities across the country, works with evidence-based models that are proven to work, the likelyhood of PCHP replicating in another GreenLight city is “very high,” according to Woodard.

Just look at how they’ve managed to expand Center for Employment Opportunity, a recidivism reduction program that just got picked up by the state in a big way.

“PCHP is already in the Bay Area pipeline, because they’re already proven to work,” he said. Really though, it all depends on how focused a particular city is on the issue a GreenLight-funded program tackles.

“Clearly, Philadelphia is all in on early childhood education right now, so this makes sense,” Woodard said.

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