As safety measures around the COVID-19 pandemic halted all on-campus activity at Penn, Doug Bauer and Greg Goldman— like many instructors around the country— found themselves rapidly adapting the course they co-teach, Philanthropy and the City, to a virtual format. But a sudden pivot to online learning was far from the only memorable part of the semester for the course’s spring 2020 cohort.
As a class already designed to bridge theory and practice, the real-world applications of Philanthropy and the City’s curriculum took on an particularly profound significance, bringing a spotlight on what nonprofits and funders are doing to address the ongoing pandemic—and the urgent work that still needs to be done.
As the semester got underway, all proceeded according to the usual timeline. The spring 2020 cohort chose to focus on the issues of youth arts education, women’s health and wellness, educational equity, recidivism, and homelessness. Then came the COVID-19 epidemic— and the need for a revised process.
Though their target issues were already chosen, Bauer and Goldman gave the teams flexibility to decide if they wanted to shift entirely to a COVID-19 focus or continue with their chosen issues. The youth arts education, educational equity, and homelessness teams stayed with their chosen areas, focusing on organizations that were working to meaningfully address the COVID-19 crisis within their local communities. These groups ultimately identified and funded three organizations: The Village of Arts and Humanities, Public Citizens for Children and Youth, and Prevention Point Philadelphia. Meanwhile, the recidivism and women’s health teams opted to work together in a rapid response mode, combining their resources and impact to support the PHL COVID-19 Fund.
Students found engaging with area nonprofits during the epidemic further emphasized the need for systemic change in order to better orient philanthropy around meeting the needs of underserved and vulnerable populations in Philadelphia—both through and past the COVID-19 situation.
“The COVID-19 crisis is highlighting the gross systemic inequities already present in our society,” says Caitlin Palmer, a student from the spring cohort. “The disproportionate effects of this crisis on our most vulnerable populations cannot be ignored: higher mortality rates in black and brown communities, the failure of our healthcare and education systems, uncontrolled infection rates in prisons, jails, and ICE detention centers, a steadily increasing wealth gap. It is also highlighting how many of these inequities are connected,” she says.
Read more at SP2 News.