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Your homework? Give money to charity

North­eastern Uni­ver­sity and the Learning by Giving Foun­da­tion have launched the world’s first mas­sive online open course on phil­an­thropy and informed civic engagement.

Over the next four weeks, some 10,000 stu­dents from more than 70 coun­tries will eval­uate scores of non­profit orga­ni­za­tions and then use the foundation’s money to award grants to the most deserving groups.

Founded by the sister of bil­lion­aire busi­ness mag­nate Warren Buf­fett, the Learning By Giving Foun­da­tion pro­motes phil­an­thropy at the under­grad­uate level with the hope of inspiring stu­dents to become leaders in their communities.

The course will be taught by Rebecca Riccio, founding pro­gram director of North­eastern Students4Giving and a member of the foundation’s aca­d­emic advi­sory com­mittee. NS4G receives $10,000 per year from the foun­da­tion to make grants to non­profit orga­ni­za­tions that address social and eco­nomic chal­lenges such as youth vio­lence, home­less­ness, and com­mu­nity development.

“This online ver­sion of the course is a col­lab­o­ra­tive project for the public good,” Riccio explained, noting that stu­dents and alumni of NS4G will serve as teaching assis­tants. “It is at once fun, intel­lec­tu­ally engaging, and socially beneficial.”

The MOOC, called “Giving With Pur­pose,” has been fea­tured in hun­dreds of pub­li­ca­tions around the world, ranging from The Chron­icle of Phil­an­thropy to the Wall Street Journal. Designed using Google’s Course Builder, it com­prises six 30-​​minute lec­tures and includes inter­views with well-​​known national phil­an­thropists such as Warren Buffet, base­ball legend Cal Ripken Jr., and news anchor Soledad O’Brien.

“We only invited phil­an­thropists who have given a lot of thought to how and why they give, so their per­sonal lessons learned can apply to anyone,” Riccio explained. “Their prac­tical advice will rein­force what I’m teaching in theory.”

The course, which is non-​​accredited, fea­tures two edu­ca­tional tracks. “Givers” nom­i­nate one non­profit orga­ni­za­tion in their com­mu­nity to receive a grant and then apply Riccio’s assess­ment tool to their orga­ni­za­tion and others in the region. “Learners” com­plete course­work and receive a cer­tifi­cate upon com­ple­tion. The non­profit in each region that receives the best eval­u­a­tions will receive a grant.

“I want to teach stu­dents how to give with their heads and their hearts,” Riccio said. “We want the stu­dents to feel pas­sionate about where they are giving while investing in orga­ni­za­tions that can use the money effectively.”

— By Jason Kornwitz

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