Stanford Social Innovation Review: New MOOCs for Rising Leaders

Emerging nonprofit leaders often juggle daily demands—from fundraising to staffing to project management—that would tax even the most seasoned manager of a for-profit company. Yet leadership development programs that could increase their effectiveness are often out of reach, either financially or geographically. Two recently launched programs aim to help social sector leaders hone their capabilities without leaving their day jobs. Both programs adapt the MOOC (massive open online course) model to offer instruction to a far-flung student body.

Philanthropy University, a free program that targets nonprofit leaders from around the world, launched in September 2015. Amr Al-Dabbagh, CEO and chairman of Al-Dabbagh Group, a Saudi conglomerate, partnered with the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, to develop the program. Al-Dabbagh has been “looking for levers that will catalyze the greatest amount of social impact,” says Ben Mangan, executive director of the Haas School’s Center for Social Sector Leadership. (The size of Al-Dabbagh’s investment in the program remains private.) Mangan says that for him and others at the Haas School, the chance to help create Philanthropy U “instantly made sense.”

Within one month of its launch, Philanthropy U had attracted more than 200,000 students from 150 countries. Many logged in to classes from sub-Saharan Africa and other regions a long way from Berkeley. The program’s seven courses range from “Essentials of Nonprofit Strategy” to “Fundraising: How to Connect With Donors.” Students who complete all seven courses earn a certificate in social sector leadership from the Haas School.

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