PACS post/June 10, 2016
“Theories of Civil Society, Philanthropy and the Nonprofit Sector,” allows students to award $125,000 to local non profits
“Theories of Civil Society, Philanthropy and the Nonprofit Sector,” concluded this week with a special class unlike any other at Stanford – one where students awarded local non profits $125,000! Grant recipients included Youth Radio, Community Grows, Operation Access, Causa Justa, and the National Center on Youth Law. Representatives from these organizations came to campus to receive their grants, awarded by Stanford class participants including Senior Class President Lucy Svoboda.
Taught by Bruce Sievers, a Lecturer in Political Science and Visiting Scholar at the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, a special feature of this course is the opportunity for the class to apply theoretical knowledge to a real world decision-making process by determining how to allocate $125,000 in actual grant funds to nonprofit organizations.
Class teams developed funding priorities and awarded grants in four fields of nonprofit work: education, environment, international development, and policy/advocacy. In the process of choosing recipients, the class reflected on several key questions critical to effective philanthropy – a skill all young people should learn early in life – What is the basis of private action for the public good? How do non-governmental organizations operate domestically and globally? How should charitable dollars be distributed and what role do nonprofit organizations and philanthropic dollars play in a modern democracy? What are the appropriate criteria to be used to select grant recipients?
This course provided an in-depth understanding of the nonprofit sector, including its historical development, normative and structural elements, and modern agency as a driver of social change. By the end of the course, students gained knowledge of the history and structure of civil society, the tradition of competing value commitments in civil society, the modern nonprofit sector and its relationship to government and for-profit arenas, and key challenges facing nonprofit organizations today nationally and globally.