Although the non-profit sector in America is well developed, I’ve often heard foundation and non-profit executives discuss the challenge of attracting and keeping high-performing staff and volunteers. So imagine how that problem is magnified in the developing world, where NGOs make a critical difference every day in the lives of children and families.
As a businessman, I know the relationship between smart and committed workers and the success of our companies. And as a leader of a foundation that invests in the well-being of children in some of the poorest communities in the world, I’ve come to understand that once you achieve success, replicating it to serve more families can be very difficult. That’s why we’ve created Philanthropy University and why I believe American philanthropists and foundation leaders can help make it even better.
Philanthropy University is a global, free online university offering MOOC courses to anyone, but particularly targeting young men and women in the developing world who want to serve their communities. Some of our students are already working in NGOs. Others are students or people working in other jobs who want to enter the NGO world and make a difference. Some of the top thinkers in non-profit management and philanthropy have come on board to teach courses, as this New York Times article explains.
Here’s how Philanthropy University came into being. I was touring a wonderful community-based program in a slum in Nairobi that our Stars Foundation was supporting. It was having remarkable success, albeit on a small scale, training young boys and girls in basic computer skills and, eventually, teaching them the basics to enter the job market for programmers and IT specialists. I asked the woman who runs the program what it would take to reach far more young people in other parts of the country and she lamented the difficulty in finding the leaders and teachers she would need.
As I spoke to others I came to realize that capacity building for local civil society projects is a universal problem, and so we set about finding a universal solution, which led us to team with Dr. Laura Tyson at the Haas School of Business at UC-Berkeley. Our first enrollment outreach campaign attracted wide attention and more than 400,000 enrolments from all around the world. Now we’re in our second round of offerings, with a third scheduled to rev up on May 24 and another registration opening July 7. Next year we will launch new courses.
We’ve also made Phil U interactive and made it easy for learners to connect and collaborate with each other and to become part of a global change-makers network. If you poke around the “community” pages on the Philanthropy University website, you get a feel for the enthusiasm that learners in every corner of the world are bringing to this project.
But Philanthropy University needs the ideas and enthusiastic support of others, and so I invite your ideas and critique. I am in the United States often and would welcome opportunities to hear in person what your needs and experiences can tell us about where future programming should go. Because neither the private nor public sectors are meeting the needs of millions of people around the world, I believe NGOs supported by foundations and philanthropists offer the best hope for improving our society.