The University of California-Berkeley Haas School of Business has embarked on a first-of-its-kind partnership with Philanthropy University to provide seven social impact courses from top-notch faculty to the masses—for zero cost. Philanthropy U. is a Berkeley-based nonprofit founded this year by Amr Al-Dabbagh, chairman and CEO of the Saudi Arabia-based Al-Dabbagh Group, a corporate and philanthropic conglomerate. The courses, all online, will provide continuing education for anyone interested in scaling social impact.
“In the social impact world, we have done a very good job of lionizing social entrepreneurs,” says Ben Mangan, executive director and lecturer for the Center for Social Sector Leadership at Berkeley-Haas. Mangan says where there used to be a “very small number of slots that a very talented social entrepreneur” could use for professional and career development such as fellowships, Philanthropy U. will provide fellowship-like education to anyone in the world with a computer and internet access.
“There are arguably tens of millions of people around the world that care deeply about solving problems and are hungry for the tools that would let them do this,” Mangan asserts. “And Philanthropy University will provide those tools.”
According to Mangan, Philanthropy U. was established by the “vision and intelligence” of Al-Dabbagh, who has also served as governor and board chairman for the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority. “He’s (Al-Dabbagh) a really brilliant guy with big vision and saw some of the levers that could be pulled if you built the capacity of the sector trying to make change, instead of just trying to fund individual organizations,” Mangan says.
The connection to Haas came when Laura Tyson, professor and director of the Institute for Business and Social Impact at the school, heard about the idea from conversations with Al-Dabbagh. “She (Tyson) instantly saw the connection between the mission of Berkeley-Haas as a public institution with a certain level of moral imperative to serve the public good and the tools we bring to bear life to this great vision,” Mangan says.
Mangan also credits “real visionary leadership” from Haas to agree to a partnership like this. “I think it’s an example of the type of leadership that emerges from Haas reflecting our defining principles around questioning the status quo, going beyond yourself, and being a student always, because there’s so much that we will learn and be able to contribute to the advancement of forms of education as we enter this partnership,” he says.
COURSES IN LEADERSHIP, STRATEGY, FUNDING, AND SCALING
The courses slated to begin Sept. 29 will be offered through social learning platform NovoEd, and include Global Social Entrepreneurship, How to Scale Social Impact, and Financial Modeling for the Social Sector. They will be taught by Stanford’s Paul Brest, co-founder of Kiva, Jessica Jackley, Al-Dabbagh, and other top thinkers and lecturers in the social impact realm.
According to Mangan, the ultimate objective of the partnership is “to increase the excellence of the work being done on social impact so that people have measurably better lives around the world.”
Mangan sees the partnership as particularly beneficial for social-sector workers who otherwise wouldn’t have the resources to pursue continuing or executive education at a high level. “There is a gap in the social sector in training that is at a high level of excellence, that’s rooted in business principles and rooted in a level of rigor that you might receive if you were going to take a class at a place like Berkeley-Haas,” he explains.
Mangan spent more than a decade working for EARN, a socially-oriented nonprofit he helped co-found, and says he saw the gap firsthand. “It was incredibly difficult to find ongoing training for my staff,” Mangan recalls. “There are resources that are very expensive at the executive education level for the most senior members of a social enterprise or nonprofit. But there is very little consistently excellent training at an affordable price that is available to the vast majority of people who are working and trying to achieve social impact through their full-time jobs.”
And as Mangan points out, more organizations than early-stage or small nonprofits can make use of the courses offered through the partnership. “It’s important to note that ‘nonprofit’ includes the University of California system, a lot of public health systems, and a lot of government workers trying achieve social impact across the world who will benefit from these courses,” he says.
AN EXTENSION OF THE SOCIAL IMPACT TREND
The partnership is a result of a continuing interest in and passion for social impact in business, Mangan claims. “It says a lot about a trend I see where businesses and business leaders don’t see achieving social impact as a secondary or tertiary thing,” Mangan explains, “but instead, are seeking ways for social impact to be a part of the company’s business success.”
Mangan thinks human resources departments of larger companies might also show interest in the partnership offerings. “I actually believe that this will be a very attractive tool for talent development and HR development in departments at companies who have a lot of employees who are interested in gaining tools and where there is a strong cultural push to contribute to your community, but not a lot of great tools to position employees to do that well,” he says.
‘MBA-TYPE QUALITY’ WITH ZERO COST
Another piece to the new program is a social innovation platform for course participants to share social impact intellectual property. Mangan says this type of platform has “never been done at this level or scale.
“It’s going to be a way for those citizens around the world who are trying to gain tools to actually have some community around this and share information about what has worked, what has not worked,” Mangan says. “We have high hopes and a strong belief that that will really generate participation at the individual level outside of the vertical of being in the NGO world or government.”
Participants will receive a certificate upon completion of each individual course. No degree will be awarded for completion of all seven courses, but those finishing every class will receive a Certificate of Completion in Social Sector Leadership from Haas. Mangan says because of the content and expertise of instructors, the courses will have an “MBA-type quality.”
“I do think it speaks to a new type of credential that has the elements of an MBA and positions people to have greater impact,” he adds.
Al-Dabbagh and other unnamed funders have made a “multi-million dollar investment” to fund the project for the next five years. The program has reportedly already seen 11,000 people sign up and Haas would like to see hundreds of thousands enroll.