PKG Academic Courses

IAP 2023 Course

SP.256 Informed Philanthropy in Theory and Action

Explores the potential and pitfalls of philanthropy as a mechanism for social change, culminating with the class granting $7000 to local community agencies. Students analyze the work of community agencies to address challenges and opportunities facing MIT’s neighboring communities, with particular focus on community representation, equity, and social justice. We will especially consider organizations that emphasize work with historically marginalized communities. The course considers organizations in the health, climate change, and tech sectors. The class culminates with students making a group decision on how the Learning by Giving Foundation (which is partnering with the class) will disperse $7000 to local community agencies. Class sessions frequently include presentations by a local community agency, grant-making foundation, and/or individual philanthropist. The class is designed to cultivate a sense of community among students, encouraging participation and community discussions, often over snacks and deliberative dialogue. Through class discussion and supporting materials, students examine the interaction between philanthropy and social change, including the role of philanthropists past and present in shaping social change. Subject can count toward the 9-unit discovery-focused credit limit for first-year students.

Taught by: A. Hynd and J. Bassett
No textbook information available
Tuesdays and Thursdays, noon-1:00pm in 8-199.

Student Testimonials:

“This class was a great complement to my other coursework in the sense that we were looking at human-focused issues and bringing emotion and heart into our work rather than just solving equations or writing programs. It brought me back to my community and reminded me why I wanted to come to MIT in the first place: to make a tangible impact on someone’s life. Unlike my other classes, I knew my work was going toward more than tests or essays — I felt I, along with my classmates and instructors, was working toward a real positive difference in my community.

“This class provided a great opportunity to give away [real money] in a thoughtful way. It really embodied ‘mens et manus’ as we learned about different forms of philanthropy and how to go about selecting and evaluating organizations and decision processes. It was a very collaborative and social experience as we worked as a team to make our decisions, learning by doing.”

Read more student testimonials in our recent blog post!

Questions? Feel free to reach out to us at pkgcenter@mit.edu, or connect with one of our friendly team members for more information!

Past Courses

SP.250 Transforming Good Intentions into Good Outcomes

Explores hard choices, ethical dilemmas, and the risk of failure in the humanitarian, tech, climate change, and health sectors. Students examine case studies based on challenges faced by MIT alums, faculty, staff, students or community practitioners, and engage in simulations and facilitated discussions. Exposes students to ethical frameworks and standards for social engagement and intervention. Considers the choices faced, stakeholders involved, possible impact, and relevant MIT resources. Students produce a set of guiding questions to ask of themselves and others as they embark on social change work. Subject can count toward the 9-unit discovery-focused credit limit for first-year students. Limited to 20; preference to first-year students.

Taught by: S. Bouchard, A. Hynd
No textbook information available.
Tuesdays, 2-4 pm, in 8-205

Student Testimonials:

“I always left this class thinking about how I can incorporate social change into my future. It has always been a goal of mine, but dedicating time to actually thinking and discussing it was so helpful in determining my priorities for the future. Loved the speakers, teachers, and peers!” 

“This class has served as an excellent complement to my more technical GIRs. I look forward to participating in vibrant discussion and learning about global challenges, specifically how we as MIT community members can help.” 

“A great class to connect with other students and form a close bond with some of the kindest MIT [instructors]! The speakers are very engaging and you learn something new about the world and even yourself every class. This class really helps you take on a different outlook and the final really made me realize what topics are important to me and what I would like to look into in the future!” 

We asked students to describe the class in three words and this is what they said:

SP.251 How to Change the World: Experiences from Social Entrepreneurs (In partnership with SOLVE)

Every week, students meet a new role model who demonstrates what it means to change the world through social entrepreneurship. Students meet individual entrepreneurs, get immersed in the ecosystem that supports them, and visit MIT labs and startups in the Cambridge innovation community. Each session covers an aspect of social entrepreneurship, from identifying opportunities for change to market fit to planning for scale. Through these speakers and field trips, students gain a greater understanding of how technology-based, impactful solutions can address global challenges. Students learn to identify and address social and environmental problems and understand the relevance of this work for their time at MIT. They will see how to bring their ideas to fruition and extend their ties with the Solve community. Subject can count toward the 9-unit discovery-focused credit limit for first year-students. Limited to 25; preference to first-year students.
Taught by: A. Amouyel, H. Hanna, R. Obounou