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Abstract

The SOTL project was based on the goal of developing learning tools that would help students think and act outside the narrow circles of relatives and friends and develop the potential for broader associations through participating in nonprofit organizations and philanthropy. This was done by having students work in groups to invent a charitable organization based on specific local needs during the course, and by having them reflect on the learning gained through the project work. By the end of the term, as indicated by the group projects, reflective essays and two surveys, the vast majority of the students have progressed considerably towards a better understanding of philanthropy, nonprofit sector, and the importance of social capital. Their perspective on the society has also changed: they have been constantly expressing their willingness to either become philanthropists or be involved with nonprofit sector and voluntary work. Thinking of philanthropy in terms of social entrepreneurship, long-term sustainable social investments and cost-benefit analysis of effective projects has led to the growth of engagement and to the growth of interest in working on project teams. Helping students connect the notions of personal success and career fulfillment with the ideas of social entrepreneurship via philanthropy has encouraged their motivation. The necessity to develop projects in a certain socio-economic setting and the requirement to make their projects transform a crisis-stricken city into a better place to live have promoted their engagement as team members. The most engaging elements of team work were discussion, open communication and brainstorming.

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