September 01, 2015

UC Berkeley and Saudi Donor Start New Online 'Philanthropy University'

Amr Al-Dabbagh, a prominent Saudi businessman who runs his family’s Al-Dabbagh Group, a conglomerate of 62 companies, is providing money to support a new online educational program for nonprofit executives, called Philanthropy University, the University of California at Berkeley is announcing today.

Mr. Al-Dabbagh, a former governor and chairman of the board of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, which oversees foreign investment in the country, is teaming up with the university’s Haas School of Business and NovoEd, a technology-education company, to operate the new program.

He is giving the money through Philanthropy U, a nonprofit he started this year to support educational programs for those who work in the nonprofit world. He is also teaching a course in "entrepreneurial leadership" and how nonprofit executives can help their organizations be more successful.

Six other courses will be available free online, covering topics like organizational capacity, nonprofit strategy, and connecting with donors, among other offerings.

Mr. Al-Dabbagh gained nonprofit experience by running the Stars Foundation, a British charity, and as the founding chairman of the Jeddah Economic Forum, an influential Middle Eastern think tank.

He was not available for comment, and university officials decline to say how much he is donating to the program.

Kiva and Hewlett Leaders

Philanthropy University grew out of a yearslong friendship between the Mr. Al-Dabbagh and Laura Tyson, director of the Institute for Business and Social Impact at BerkeleyHaas, who met each other some years ago when Ms. Tyson was dean of the London Business School, said Ben Mangan.

Mr. Mangan, executive director of the Haas school’s Center for Social Sector Leadership, says Mr. Al-Dabbagh was looking for ways to jump-start social change, and he thought one approach was to offer nonprofit leaders opportunities to learn more from experts on philanthropy and business.

In addition to Mr. Al-Dabbagh, the instructors so far include Paul Brest, a Stanford professor and former president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; Jessica Jackley, a co-founder of Kiva; and Erik Simanis, who leads the Frontier Markets Initiative, an effort at Cornell University that seeks ways to help figure out new mass-marketing opportunities to create businesses in poor countries.

People who complete any one of the courses can earn a Statement of Accomplishment, and if they complete all seven, they can earn a Certificate of Completion in Social Sector Leadership. They do not receive university credit, however.

Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly said that Philanthropy U was an offshoot of the Stars Foundation. Philanthropy U is a separate nonprofit.

Send an e-mail to Maria Di Mento.