At Philanthropy U, we know that learning can be transformative; and that is why we made it our mission to provide resources & knowledge to social impact organizations across the world.
For some of our learners, their biggest challenge is access. Sometimes that means being priced out of education, due to limited finances. It could be too little time to balance the demands of social impact work with professional development. It might even be a problem of distance, for those living in rural communities.
We know this – and this is why we made a free online learning platform accessible to all with courses that are applicable and right-sized for busy social impact organizations.
And we have not stopped there – and we want to continue.
Based on our activities to date, we have seen how our platform lends itself to capturing the innovative teachings done by academics, international organizations and local changemakers in places all over the world; and when we share them online, with the rest of the sector, the possibilities can be staggering.
Accelerating The Emergence of Social Enterprises
Zooming in to our learners across Asia, we see how Philanthropy University can be a source of inspiration, knowledge and transformation for organizations. We can expose teams to concepts that might not be as regionally well-known, yet.
In India, social entrepreneurship is somewhat of a new term and concept. Our learner Shrikrishna says that, when he graduated from school, he wanted to start an organization that truly made a difference in people’s lives. He knew there were nonprofits but he did not know much about social entrepreneurship.
He had noticed that there was a scarcity of healthy food in Bangalore and that existing distribution systems to get food from rural farms to the city were inefficient. He wanted to create an online marketplace that would directly connect farmers with customers. He began generating interest in the idea and eventually went to Germany to participate in a fellowship, where he was introduced to social entrepreneurship. He returned home, but was still in search of ways to continue learning.
He says there are very few incubators or ecosystems for social enterprises in India, and they typically exist only at local branches for international entities – like Ashoka.
He found Philanthropy University and quickly took 5 courses. He says the topics were easy to access and very relevant to his work.
He says that the biggest benefit for him was the advice he received from other accomplished social entrepreneurs on the platform. He took advice from learners in Europe on how to best design an e-commerce website. He learned how to troubleshoot common partnership problems from learners in Africa.
“Ecosystems are difficult to access in rural locations, and online ecosystems like Philanthropy University brings knowledge and resources [here],” Shrikrishna says.
He considers himself a social enterprise even though the Indian government only formally recognizes NGOs or businesses.
In places where governments may be slow to create a formal, legal recognition, considerable power remains in teaching existing social impact organizations – like the NGOs doing work in communities throughout Asia – about concepts and sustainable approaches to shape their work.
For example, the “The State Of Social Enterprise In Malaysia 2018” report cites a previous study that says 28% of surveyed social enterprises in Malaysia began as a non-profit organization and later adopted commercial business models. This number can grow with exposure to the knowledge, models and skillsets of social entrepreneurship.
Ensuring Extended Access – Where It Matters Most
And as important as it is for these innovative concepts be spread across the world – it is even more critical for them to reach and be accessible to those working in under-resourced communities.
An innovative institution like Albukhary International University (AIU) in Malaysia keeps this at the core of their world. AIU was specifically built with the hope that the brightest students from underprivileged backgrounds would have the opportunity to learn ways to drive change in the world, and in their communities.
Their core modules touch on topics of leadership, social responsibility, scholarship, community involvement, ethical values and professionalism, and last year they launched the Albukhary International University-Yunus Social Business Center (AIU-YSBC) to share learnings that drive further exploration of new concepts in social impact among students. In doing so, AIU seeks to redesign higher education in a way that breeds compassionate graduates, who will enter the workforce with a strong sense of purpose and act as ambassadors of progressive change in their respective communities. Given the sheer demographics of the AIU student population, where 80% are international students, the scale of impact generated through innovative concepts embedded in the curriculum is truly exciting.
Parallel to the AIU-YSBC is the research institute, known as the Albukhary International University Centre of Excellence in Socio-Economic Development and Innovation (ACE-SEDI), where the primary goal of its establishment is to inform policy through research, using the state of Kedah in Malaysia as a use case. AIU’s resolve to serve humanity through social business is evident through its commitment both on the theoretical as well as practical front, and its upcoming partnership with Philanthropy University explores new frontiers in this field.
Philanthropy U and AIU are currently working on an innovative blended learning partnership that will provide AIU students with practical online coursework that’s complemented by in-person teaching and field experience, such as Capstone Projects students develop and pitch for seed funding from impact investors.
Like with any organization, business or academic body, Philanthropy University offers the chance to take those learnings – which might be limited to organizations operating in the local proximity or to students able to travel & attend a formal program – and bring them online so they can reach any social impact organizations operating in a given region – or beyond.
We are excited by the progress being made by our partners and other visionaries across sectors who are taking innovative approaches to extend access to education opportunities – especially those aimed to help change the world for the better.