The Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy

The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University

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The Sillerman Center sponsors two courses related to philanthropy.

Our undergraduate course is called Social Justice and Philanthropy  (SOC 143a). Each Fall this class meets on Tuesdays from 6:00PM-8:50PM at the Heller School. The instructor is Celeste Lee, Senior Director of Grantmaking, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation

Our graduate-level course is HS 260b: Social Justice Philanthropy: Purpose, Practice and Problems. It is offered at the Heller School and the instructor is Denise Porche, Executive Director of the Island Foundation. 

Both courses provide students a strong grounding in the history, evolution, roles, contributions and myriad complexities associated with philanthropy in the United States.

The courses focus 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 that critique its effectiveness in ameliorating social problems and advancing social justice on many fronts.

The courses also enable 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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