From Berkeley Haas Lecturer to Global Instructor for Phil U

Shashi Buluswar is a Senior Fellow and Lecturer in International Development at Berkeley-Haas. He is the founder and CEO of the Institute for Transformative Technologies. Previously, he was a partner at Dalberg Global Development Advisors and McKinsey & Company, and has advised governments, NGO, foundations, and the UN on issues of economic development, human rights, agriculture, climate change, education and post-conflict reconstruction. He is an author, has a Ph.D. in Robotics, and is an athlete, competing for more than a decade on the Indian national rowing team. He has also made a critically acclaimed documentary film. Now, through a new initiative called Philanthropy University powered by Berkeley-Haas, Shashi is teaching global nonprofit leaders and social changemakers how to scale their work for greatest impact.

We asked this very committed leader and popular lecturer about his experience teaching “How to Scale Social Impact” with PhilU. We wanted to get a sense of what inspired him to join as one of the initiative’s first instructors and if teaching on an online platform to thousands of students around the world was different than being in front of 60 at Haas.

“How to Scale Impact” is based on Shashi’s course, “Strategic Approaches to Social Impact” that he enjoys teaching at Berkeley-Haas. He says the MOOC format dramatically increases the ratio of students-reached-to-effort, allowing him to connect with eager learners from around the world who come from such different backgrounds. It also encourages easy inclusion of entrepreneurs and field experts into his course, giving students a variety of perspectives. Finally, the formation of virtual teams among students as they work together to solve global challenges is invaluable: “I’m finding that this is a very inspiring part of the experience for the students, and their learning is significantly enhanced because of this.”

Shashi too has been learning new things while teaching with Phil U, especially around the experience of filming in-field case studies. This has helped him learn and observe things he had only second-hand knowledge about prior to teaching on the platform. Getting exposure to issues first hand is really important to Shashi and he recommends that his students try and get these direct experiences as they work towards earning a Certificate in Social Sector Leadership.

“As you are watching a lecture on Agriculture, try and spend some time on a farm; when you’re viewing the one on Health, try to visit a rural clinic that doesn’t have the resources it needs.”

One of the things that surprised him most about teaching online, is the strong bond students form with him. Apparently after watching Shashi for so many weeks during recorded lectures, students feel they are friends that go way back even when they are meeting him for the first time via video chat or email. Although this familiarity has been surprising about teaching online, Shashi finds it amusing and gratifying, and he is having a blast with this course.

For more about Shashi’s course “How to Scale for Impact” launching October 18th, and other free online courses on social impact from Philanthropy University, go to