This month, heads of state and senior officials from all 193 United Nations member states are gathering in New York City to try and make progress on some of the world’s thorniest development challenges — including ensuring quality education for all. Progress on this front is not just a moral imperative; it is also vital to propel countries toward sustainable development. But success will not be easy. It will require significant new investments in local leadership — an element of international development work that has rarely gotten the attention it deserves. ‘Leadership’ in this case doesn’t necessarily imply an individual positioned at the top of a government or business hierarchy. It is rather defined by actions aimed at improving a community’s welfare, and this type of leadership can come from anyone. We have seen firsthand how the presence of a diverse set of engaged leaders at all levels — educators, parents, students, policymakers, advocates, and others — can make or break efforts by a community or country to optimally utilise opportunities for improving its education system. The good news is that educators and education advocates around the world now seem to be recognising the value of informed local leadership. The International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity recently called for greater investment in a “global ecosystem for education” that would help cultivate this kind of leadership even more. The rest of the international community should also heed that call. A global education ecosystem would comprise new partnerships among bilateral and multilateral donors, the philanthropic community, and global nonprofit organisations. This dynamic network would work with local actors to support leadership development and innovation, while creating efficient new channels for those leaders to share knowledge, experiences, and solutions across communities and countries. As it stands, this type of education ecosystem doesn’t exist. Instead, almost all of the $17 billion of foreign aid channeled toward education each year goes directly to local governments or to local operators. Regional or global organisations that could help develop a global learning infrastructure, support leadership development among local stakeholders, and help create effective channels for knowledge and best-practice transfers among communities, receive no meaningful investment. A global education ecosystem would comprise new partnerships among bilateral and multilateral donors, the philanthropic community, and global nonprofit organisations, whose actors and constituents would share knowledge and solutions across the globe That amounts to a wasted opportunity, because the promise of such ecosystems to accelerate overall progress has been proven in other areas — particularly in the public health sector. Over the last 35 years — and driven in part by the global AIDS epidemic — the number of international partnerships and nongovernmental organisations working to promote public health more than quadrupled to over 200. Today, the global public health landscape is populated by numerous NGOs and civil society organisations which — along with many other public-private partnerships, the UN system, and other intergovernmental organisations — comprise a dynamic network that facilitates progress. This mature, if imperfect, ecosystem has almost certainly helped to improve and even save the lives of millions of people around the world. One organisation that is helping to support the public health ecosystem’s continued development is ‘Results for Development’, which leads the ‘Joint Learning Network for Universal Health Coverage’. By establishing and consolidating connections that enable practitioners and policymakers from countries around the world to share their experiences and expertise with their counterparts worldwide, the Joint Learning Network is helping to ensure that we make progress towards improved global healthcare coverage faster than the case would otherwise be. This is precisely the kind of approach that is needed to promote and achieve the international community’s goal of ensuring quality education for all. With remarkable similarities in the causes of the inequities as well as challenges affecting education across communities and countries, knowledge-sharing among local leaders — not to mention effective capacity-building — promises to be as effective as it has been in the health sector. We simply need a global education ecosystem to support such efforts: and we need it as quickly as possible. This month’s UN General Assembly meetings present an important opportunity to kickstart this endeavour. If we increase current multilateral investment in regional and global nonprofit education actors by even a small amount, the world could begin to develop a shared ecosystem to foster local innovation, learning, leadership development, and capacity building. And we would significantly increase our odds of achieving the progress on education — and our collective welfare — which we all seek. Wendy Kopp is the CEO and co-founder of Teach For All. Dzingai Mutumbuka is former Minister of Education for Zimbabwe and Chair of the Association for Education Development in Africa. The article was originally published by Project Syndicate at www.project-syndicate.org, and it has been printed here with permission Published in Daily Times, September 15th 2017.