The story of one of the most inspiring schools on the planet.

by Rutger Bregman via Twitter

This is the story of one of the most inspiring schools on the planet. It’s sometimes described as the ‘Hogwarts for do-gooders’, and when I visited the school in March of this year, I was absolutely blown away. You’ll find the school on a busy street in west London, in the Kilburn district, opposite a yoga studio and a car garage. At number 253, you’ll see a sign that says: Charity Entrepreneurship (CE).

Let me start with the school’s study guide, because it’s easy to summarize. Charity Entrepreneurship is a school for VERY ambitious and VERY idealistic entrepreneurs. It is incubator for start-ups like there are so many in the world of tech and venture capital. But this is not for the most profitable companies. This is an incubator for the best charities. Every year, the school’s staff conducts rigorous research on a seemingly simple question: how can you help as many people and animals as possible? What are the best investments with the highest return? What organizations should exist but have not been established yet?

That could mean a lot of things. Think of a foundation fighting for a higher tax on tobacco in Mongolia or Lebanon. Or an action group that stands up for farmed fish in polluted ponds in the Philippines. Or an NGO lobbying for a speed limit in countries like Egypt or Malaysia. All these problems have three things in common. They are important, neglected and tractable. They represent a ‘gap in the market’ of philanthropy, which is a market with way more gaps than the markets for smartphones or make-up. Because there’s no business model to fill them In baseball, coaches often talk about your ‘VORP’, which stands for ‘value over replacement player’. Suppose you are an excellent pitcher, but there are ten other great pitchers on the bench. Then your added value is limited, because you’re relatively replacable.

CE encourages its students to go for the highest VORP as possible. To be irreplaceable. To go where no one else is going. To do what no one else is doing, or even dares. Now, I have to say: it’s probably easier to get into Harvard or Oxford than to become a student at CE. Every year, thousands of candidates from all over the world apply. After an extensive process, only a small selection is invited to come to London. They receive a two-month crash course, are matched with a cause and a co-founder, and receive a modest grant. Since its founding in June 2018, the school has incubated more than 20 non-profits that are making a difference for millions of people and animals.

Let me give a couple of examples.

This is @luciacoulter, one of the co-founders of the Lead Exposure Elimination Project (LEEP), an organization that fights against lead poisoning. Lead poisoning is a huge problem, as more than 800 million children have too much lead in their blood. It’s also neglected, because very few charities work on it, and 57 percent of all countries have no legislation against the use of lead in paint. The good news: lead poisoning is also very tractable. We can do a lot. Lucia and her team work in Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Angola, Sierra Leone, Bolivia and Pakistan, and have already convinced Malawi’s government to regulate the lead in paint
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