Social Entrepreneurship

University of Pennsylvania

Join us and learn how to develop, test, and deploy high-impact solutions to society's toughest challenges.

Social entrepreneurs and social innovators are tackling and diminishing many of the world's problems. They achieve significant positive social impact through the creative and aggressive mobilization of people and other resources:
  • In Africa, a social entrepreneur-built an enterprise delivers 70 million daily protein servings into the region at significantly lower cost and at higher quality than before.  
  • In India, rice husks are burned to generate power enabling families to live, read, and learn after the sun goes down. 
  • In Latin America, makeshift informal housing is converted from fire-trap shanties into safe, concrete-based homes.

This course will cover a select set of topics associated with social innovation and entrepreneurship whether nonprofit or for-profit. By taking this course you will share in our combined 45 years of social entrepreneurship experience, and you will learn how to:

  1. Launch social entrepreneurship projects which have high-potential of significant positive social impact

  2. Direct energy and limited resources to efficiently launching those projects with the most promise

  3. Apply tools and frameworks to testing and scaling your own social enterprise

The 24 most promising social entrepreneurs who successfully complete the University of Pennsylvania's Coursera Course on Social Entrepreneurship will be selected as fellows for the 2016 Global Social Impact House (GSIH). GSIH is a seven-day residential program that provides fellows with the tools, community and training they need to advance their ventures. Workshops are customized and explore advanced concepts in business models, design thinking and personal leadership. The program is also designed to help fellows build meaningful, global connections while living together in a beautiful ecolodge in Costa Rica.

The Center for Social Impact Strategy at the University of Pennsylvania will provide full scholarships to every fellow, including room and board. Fellows are responsible for covering travel and visa-related expenses to and from Costa Rica. 

Program Dates: January 11 - 17, 2016
Program Location: Rancho Margot, Costa Rica
Application Deadline: October 26, 2015


Week 1 - What is Social Enterprise?


  • Introduction & Course Overview
  • Social Enterprise Planning
  • Design Thinking for Social Innovation


  1. Mind Map
  2. Problem/Solution Statement
  3. Logistics Quiz

Week 2 - Deciding Who to Help and How


  • Performance Criteria
  • Segmentation
  • Introduction to Logic Models
  • How to Build a Logic Model


  1. Performance Criteria: Unit of Revenue & Unit of Social Impact
  2. Segmentation: Market Segments
  3. Logic Model

Week 3 - Understanding Your Beneficiaries and their Alternatives


  • Understanding the Beneficiary
  • Operations Realities
  • Operations Requirements
  • Competitive Analysis


  1. Beneficiary Experience Table
  2. Deliverables Table
  3. Competitive Analysis Matrix

Week 4 - Testing Assumptions and Measuring Performance


  • Test of Concept Plausibility
  • Performance Measurement
  • Framing and Scoping
  • Cost Table


  1. Test of Concept Plausibility
  2. Framing and Scoping (Social Impact & Financial Goals)
  3. Cost Table

Week 5 - Organizational Form and Stakeholder Management


  • Perspective on Organizational Form: I
  • Perspective on Organizational Form: II
  • Stakeholder Analysis
  • Sociopolitics
  • Summary & Next Steps


  1. Organizational Form
  2. Stakeholder Analysis

Recommended Background

No prior experience required!

Suggested Readings

Readings will be available on the site on a week by week basis.

You may want to read the following titles before and during the class:

  1. MacMillan & Thompson, The Social Entrepreneur’s PlaybookNote: Book worksheets can be downloaded for free here: The Social Entrepreneur's Playbook (workbook)

  2. Bornstein and Davis, Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs to Know

  3. Dees, J. Gregory, Enterprising Nonprofits: A Toolkit for Social Entrepreneurs

  4. Guo and Bielefeld, Social Entrepreneurship

Course Format

Video Lectures, Readings, Case Examples, Assignments, Peer Grading, and Forum Participation.

Weekly lectures will include 30 to 40 minutes of video plus some assigned readings. Weekly assignments will take approximately 2 to 3 hours. In addition to submitting the assignment, students will be required to grade five assignments submitted by other students each week. In total, students should plan to spend 4 to 6 hours per week on the course. 


How can I ask questions during the course?

Please post all inquiries in the appropriate weekly sub-forum. For more information about how to use the forums, please see the Forum Guidelines.

Will I get a Statement of Accomplishment after completing this class?

No. The issuing of Statement of Accomplishments has been discontinued; however, students will have a record of completed courses in their students records which can be used instead. Only Signature Track students will receive a Verified Certificate endorsed by the University of Pennsylvania. For more information on Verified Certificates, see the Coursera Signature Track information here

Who will grade my assignments?

For each assignment, students will be required to peer-grade five randomly assigned student submissions. Grading rubrics will be provided for each assignment. After peer-grading is complete, your grade will be calculated as the average of the scores that you receive from peer-graders for your submission

Given the large volume of students in the course, it will not be possible for the course staff to grade individual assignments.

What is the time commitment for this course?
The course will include weekly lecture videos, usually about an hour in total length, as well as supplementary reading material on some weeks. In addition to the weekly lectures, students will be required to submit a weekly assignment and five peer reviews of other students’ submissions. The assignments will generally be brief, but may require significant time contribution for students to think deeply about the relevant issues and to provide a comprehensive solution. Though total weekly time commitment will vary, you should plan to spend on average four to six hours on the course per week.

Do I need to have a venture idea in mind for this course?

No. Though there will be opportunities for you to apply your own venture idea if you wish, you are not required to create a venture idea for the class.

Will my work in the class be protected by a Non-Disclosure Agreement or other forms of Intellectual Property Rights?

No. Given the collaborative nature of the class, which emphasizes peer-grading and public forum discussion, students’ work is not secured by intellectual property rights. We encourage students to share ideas openly so as to receive constructive feedback and useful insights from other students. That being said, if you are concerned with the intellectual property rights of a venture that you are currently working on, we recommend that you do not discuss your venture on the Coursera platform.

How should I leverage the global, entrepreneurial peer community in this course?

Actively engage in the forums. Through this course, you gain access to an extremely valuable community of entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds. Take advantage of this community by bouncing ideas off each other, seeking each other's experiences on challenges you are currently facing, and organizing meet-ups with people in your area who are interested in the same beneficiary market.

  • 14 September 2015, 5 weeks
  • 8 September 2014, 6 weeks
Course properties:
  • Free:
  • Paid:
  • Certificate:
  • MOOC:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Email-course:
  • Language: English Gb


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