The Sillerman Center sponsors two experiential philanthropy courses, one undergraduate and one graduate both taught by Rebecca Riccio. The prototype, Practicing Philanthropy was piloted in the spring of 2009 as a module at the Heller School for graduate students and is now taught as a full course in the spring semester. The second course, Social Justice and Philanthropy in the Brandeis Sociology department was launched in the fall semester for undergraduates. Both courses have a theoretical and experiential component and students make actual grants to non profit organizations as the final project. Below are detailed descriptions of both courses and links to the syllabi
SOC143: 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: Practicing Philanthropy
This course provides an academic grounding in philanthropic studies from an interdisciplinary perspective. It couples an academic framing with a uniquely practical experience of simulating a new charitable foundation as well as simulating the experience of being an independent philanthropist. The combination of the theoretical grounding paired with the practical experience enhances students' understanding of a complex field and the challenges not often understood, of being on the funding side. It also provides opportunities to explore organizational behavior, group dynamics and leadership skills. Through readings and group activities, students will learn how to negotiate, reach consensus, and execute the plan they design.
This course is a learning lab. Students domestic societal issues and have the opportunity to make grant decisions to create change in an area of interest to them. The criterion developed by students will guide their recommendations for funding to a Foundation who has set aside funds for the purpose of this course.. Grantees receive gifts directly from the Foundation based on that Foundation's own assessment of the decision-making process and resulting selection/recommendations given by students. Course readings provide background information, a perspective on process, grantmaking and evaluation techniques. The process will be documented by the students for use in case studies, teaching materials, and workshops.