Haas School of Business, Saudi businessman launch free online education program

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A Saudi business mogul has partnered with UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business to launch a free online education program beginning later this month.

The seven-course curriculum of Philanthropy University features classes in fundraising, nonprofit organization and leadership taught by professors and entrepreneurs around the country. The founder of the university, businessman Amr Al-Dabbagh, said in an email that he hopes the program will equip learners with the skills, tools and networks to impact their communities.

“The ability to share intellectual property, ideas and business models through the program is groundbreaking,” said Ben Mangan, executive director and lecturer at Haas’ Center for Social Sector Leadership. “This is a fantastic option for any student who’s interested in social impact.”

Enrollment in the classes is open to anyone, including noncollege students. College students taking the courses do not receive course credit but rather a statement of accomplishment for completing one course and a certificate of completion in social sector leadership from Haas for completing all seven.

The school’s $3 million three-year contract with Philanthropy University will compensate instructors and the business school for overseeing the program, Mangan said. The team will help shape the program’s curricula, source instructors for the courses, publicize the program and build a collaborative platform for students.

Business professionals and instructors from institutions such as Stanford and Cornell universities have recorded lectures in studio for the program’s seven courses, including “Essentials of Nonprofit Strategy,” “How to Scale Social Impact” and “Fundraising: How to Connect with Donors.”

Al-Dabbagh, who runs his family conglomerate of 62 companies and heads a British charity called the Stars Foundation, is teaching a class titled “Leadership: Ten Rules for Impact and Meaning.” Al-Dabbagh said in the email that he believes the corporate world has a significant role to play in contributing to the greater good.

Ariella Sosis, a campus senior at Haas, compared the program to free online classes offered by other schools, such as the University of Pennsylvania. Though she supported the program’s philanthropic aspirations, she said she would not take an extra noncredit class.

Al-Dabbagh has a longstanding working relationship with Laura Tyson, chair of the program’s advisory committee and director of the Haas Institute for Business and Social Impact. Al-Dabbagh said in an email that he chose to collaborate with the business school for its “prestigious network and curriculum development expertise.”

More than 25,000 people around the world have signed up — mostly from outside the Berkeley campus, Mangan said in an email — and Mangan expects those numbers to increase to 100,000 by early 2016. The program expects to add four to six courses every semester for the next five years.

Al-Dabbagh said in an email that he hopes to affect the lives of 100 million people by 2020 by training hundreds of thousands of learners to work for social good.

Contact Frances at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @f_fitzgerald325.