Think Big, Act Small: The Power of Online and Offline Learning

Philanthropy University has a bold vision: to teach anyone willing to learn how to work for social good, deepen his or her impact and change the world. Our online learning environment facilitates just that, through transcontinental discussions, global collaboration, and knowledge transfer across borders. But we cannot stop at the screen – instead, we must remember the value in rolling up our sleeves, stepping out the front door and getting involved with our physical communities.


We were recently reminded of the power of meeting in person at the Global Social Venture Competition (GSVC) Finals in Bangkok, Thailand. The event, founded by our partner, Berkeley-Haas and attended by a handful of our learners, empowers social entrepreneurs to transform ideas into ventures that address the world’s most pressing challenges. Participants receive mentoring, exposure, and in some cases seed funds to put their ideas into action.


This year’s grand prizewinner was Blitab Technology, an Austrian startup that developed the world’s first electronic tablet for the blind, using small bubbles to convert text to Braille. The founder, Kristina Tsvetanova, thought of the idea after helping a blind colleague apply for an online course. Needless to say, the potential implications for this tool and its use by the blind community are transformational.


Beyond the opportunity to make connections with industry experts and obtain feedback in a more natural setting, the collective energy present at the event was electric – the eleven PhilU learners that attended seemed energized, refreshed, and inspired to take their newfound knowledge back to their own communities and companies. And they weren’t the only ones – an entire conference room of attendees joined them, ready to tackle some of the world’s most pressing issues. Take a look at the winners to get a glimpse into the inspiring innovation that came out of this event.  


It is our hope that our learners harness the power of meeting with others face-to-face in your own community. Here are a few ways to start:

  • Invite friends and colleagues to take a Philanthropy University course, then get together each week to discuss what you’ve learned
  • Attend an event or conference to spread the word of social change
  • Organize your own gathering to harness the energy of other change makers toward a project or cause you believe in


Our alumni community extends far beyond the online platform and we know that your actions will, too. Use #PhilU on Twitter or tag @Philanthropy University, An Educational Initiative to tell us what in-person events you’re going to and why, and stay tuned for more PhilU events coming to a city near you.


You never know, you just might inspire someone else to go too.