To the chime of school bells, The Hong Kong Institute of Education announced the launch of an online educational philanthropic platform called EdExchange. The forum, brainchild of former Merrill Lynch banker Samuel Poon, operates by applying stock market principles to education funding and resource allocation.

The platform provides an efficient and effective matching service for teachers and students seeking funding for educational projects, and for donors who are willing to offer their support to their programs.

EdExchange provides a venue in which teachers can 'list' their proposals for their program on the www.edexchange.org website, and donors or 'potential investors' can browse based on project type, school type, or the amount of funding required and choose the specific projects that they wish to support. They can also review the details of the proposal, including budgets, objectives and benefits.

Under the supervision of academic staff, a proposal review committee comprised of students will evaluate all of the school's proposals and determine which ones are viable to be listed on the exchange.

Integral to the program is the idea of transparency and accountability. Like a stock exchange requiring all listed companies to produce regular financial reports to its shareholders, EdExchange requires the recipients of the donations to submit post-funding status reports.

Now Chairman of EdExchange's Governing Board, Poon says, "There are a lot of people who care about Hong Kong, especially our younger generation. We believe quality education will lead to a brighter future. We are prepared to support them financially, but we can't find the right channel. Perhaps we don't know what the current educational needs are. Maybe we a re skeptical about the effectiveness of our donation in a particular program or concerned about how our donations are used. We want accountability from the people who receive our support."

With corporate sponsorship from The Bank of East Asia, Yue Yuen Holdings, Linklaters, Yau Lee Holdings and Merrill Lynch, 100% of funding goes directly to the allotted program.

To date the forum has 41 projects listed from over 30 schools ranging in size and scope, from physical fitness programs to practical educational programs.

In keeping with the stock exchange theme, QualiEd College Secondary School has listed a HK$24,205 Venture Capital program, which will include setting up sales activities at Lunar New Year Fairs. The program will teach students Booth bidding, product design, stock ordering from China, issuing shares for capital raising, accounting management, products promotion, staff recruiting, and activities review concepts.

One of the more attractive benefits of this program is that it aims to be self-funding. If the students realize any profits from their business ventures, 70% will be used to cover operating costs for the subsequent business year and the remaining 30% will be given to students as incentives.

"We would like to encourage more people to invest in Hong Kong's human capital. With EdExchange, we aim to achieve three objectives. Says Poon, "First, provide an efficient and equitable platform for educational fund raising. Second, introduce more effective, market-based principles to resource allocation. And finally, promote accountability and nurture a positive culture in philanthropy."