The Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy

The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University

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SOC 143a: Social Justice and Philanthropy
This course provides students an opportunity to learn about philanthropy and its place in American society. It couples a framing from sociological theory with a uniquely practical experience of simulating a charitable foundation. The course addresses individual, institutional and societal-level factors that affect philanthropic efforts to create social change. Social justice serves as an overarching theme.

This course uses theories from sociology to explore debates around the roles, responsibilities and trends in philanthropy as they relate to issues of social justice. Important concepts from social movement theories such as movement emergence and social networks are explored. Organizational theories are used to understand issues such as resource dependency and isomorphism. Political science and sociology concepts are drawn upon to better understand the ways in which philanthropy can influence policy.

The experiential component of this course provides students the opportunity to explore the theoretical concepts as they engage in their community. They will be expected to organize themselves, their priorities, and their process. They will also decide on selection criteria, evaluate foundations, debate the merits of different qualities and finally come to a decision about which organization(s) merit grant awards. Group dynamics and individual leadership skills are discussed and are central aspects of the experiential portion of the course. Through readings and group activities, students will learn and practice how to negotiate, reach consensus, and execute the plan they design.

HS 260b: Social Justice Philanthropy: Purpose, Practice and Problems
This course provides students a strong grounding in the history, evolution, roles, contributions and myriad complexities associated with philanthropy in the United States. This course focuses in particular upon social justice philanthropy, which, though it has no official definition, directs dollars in order to make society and its social institutions fairer, more inclusive and equitable. Social justice philanthropy typically aspires to attack complex problems at their roots so as to prevent the symptoms usually treated by more traditional charities and foundations. Students will engage in active discussion and in-class learning activities centered around timely readings and cases that illuminate contemporary questions related to philanthropy’s appropriate role, its inherent power and critique its effectiveness in ameliorating social problems and advancing social justice on many fronts.

This course also enables students to make grants to nonprofit organizations in the Boston area by simulating a foundation and completing a typical grantmaking cycle. Students will draw upon their growing understanding about philanthropy as they engage in collaborative real-dollar grantmaking, including choosing grantmaking priorities, writing requests for proposals, reading and evaluating proposals, making site visits and finally, awarding checks to their grantees. Students will rotate leadership roles within the simulated foundations, so as to practice skills in communication, negotiation, conflict resolution, delegation and collaborative decision making.

Knowledge Advancing Social Justice

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