Course Descriptions – Hybrid Program

Fall On-Campus Courses

Practitioners, leaders and researchers need to engage with the latest cutting-edge research findings in their field. In this class you will develop an understanding of the quantitative methods that underpin social impact research, in an applied lab-based context. Theoretically, we will focus on developing your working statistical knowledge, and practically we will develop your data analysis skills by introducing you to a range of approaches for analyzing and handling large-scale secondary quantitative data that capture social impact. The substantive focus of the course will be on individual-level participation in the Non-profit Sector in activities such as volunteering and charitable giving.

This applied course covers the fundamental elements and approaches to handling and analyzing quantitative survey data. The emphasis is on developing an adequate understanding of basic theoretical statistical principles, descriptive and exploratory methods of analysis, graphical representation, operational procedures and interpretation of statistical results using STATA. The course will cover a wide range of statistical techniques from basic descriptive statistics to more advanced multivariate statistical techniques, such as OLS regression and logistic regression. You will also be introduced to a number of important topics, including theory testing and development; philosophy of science and research judgement; and replication in social impact research.

This course is an introduction to applied social impact research and is designed for those who want to engage with quantitative social impact research, but also those who wish to make their own original research contributions. No prior statistical knowledge or programming skills are required to enroll in the course.

Summer 2018

Week of August 13th

Thinking like a designer can transform the way people and organizations develop products, services, processes, and strategy. This approach, called design thinking, brings together what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable. It also allows people who aren’t trained as designers to use creative tools to address a vast range of challenges. Design thinking is a deeply human process that taps into abilities we all have but get overlooked by more conventional problem-solving practices. It relies on our ability to be intuitive, to recognize patterns, to construct ideas that are emotionally meaningful as well as functional, and to express ourselves through means beyond words or symbols. Design thinking is something you can learn only by doing, so we’ll get out into the world and tackle a design challenge of our own together. We’ll learn how to research by researching, learn how to prototype by prototyping. At the end of the class you should feel confident in your abilities to apply design thinking to any challenge you’re facing and to come up with new ideas and solutions as a result.

Summer 2018

Week of August 20th

Fall Online Courses

Economic analysis and financial accounting are like languages: fluency comes with practice. In-class review of case studies (including in-person discussions with the representatives of diverse agencies and organizations featured in the case studies) will enable students to test and develop their capacity for applying conceptual tools and analytical methods to sometimes messy and always complicated, real-life situations.

The course objective is to develop theoretical understanding, critical judgment, and practical skills for sensitive and effective engagement with financial and economic matters of significance. Students will learn:

  • Different ways of thinking about the economic foundations of social policy,
  • The basic terminology, tools, and methods for analyzing the financial statements of a wide range of organizations, and
  • Accounting procedures for evaluating business, government, and organizational operations, policies, and practices.

This course is at once macro and micro in its orientation. It provides a conceptual basis—derived from mainstream and alternative perspectives—for thinking about the economic dimensions of human development and social policy, and it introduces a set of core competencies for leadership and financial management of organizations, including conventional enterprises, consulting firms, research institutions, governmental agencies, philanthropies, cooperatives, and other third-sector organizations.

Fall 2018

October 22nd – December 14th

This interdisciplinary course is taught in the fall semester. Social entrepreneurs are individuals with innovative vision seeking to accomplish important public purposes through the creative and aggressive mobilization of people and resources. Using academic theory and research on social entrepreneurship as a framework, student innovators learn to design, develop, and lead social change organizations of their own invention. Students turn their passion for changing the world into concrete plans for launching a venture. Over the course of the semester, we will cover a broad array of topics associated with social innovation and entrepreneurship, including defining the problem/opportunity, refining the mission/vision, developing market research and industry analysis, defining a financial and operating structure, assessing results and progress, and scaling an enterprise. This course is neutral on sector. Graduate students in any of Penn’s graduate and professional schools who want to create social value through either nonprofit or for-profit ventures are invited to take the class and develop their ideas. The class will expose students to the process of getting an organization – regardless of sector – off the ground and running.

While this is a class on innovation and entrepreneurship, students do not need to be committed to starting a venture upon graduation. The skills and tools contained in the course have wide applicability in the workplace. Being able to develop a coherent venture plan is great training for anyone who wants to work in government, philanthropy, or the business sector funding or managing existing organizations. The course attempts to convey a picture of what a well-considered and well-executed venture plan looks like with the goal of developing in students an appreciation for clear thinking in the pursuit of the creation of public value.

Students will work throughout the term on a plan for an organization that they devise, with assignments spread out throughout the term. Elements of a venture plan will be drafted through multiple class assignments, and students present formally and informally several times throughout the semester, receiving feedback from faculty, peers, social entrepreneurs and invited guests. At the end of the term, students will assemble all the pieces they have worked on in the class, revise and hone these elements, and then put them into a coherent venture plan for their organization. This class is ideal preparation for the Dell Social Innovation Challenge (, which the instructor founded and which awards funds to launch new student social ventures. Entry into the Challenge is not required.

Fall 2018

August 28th – October 19th

Leaders of organizations must often make difficult decisions that pit the rights of one set of stakeholders against another. Having multiple stakeholders or bottom-lines brings with it challenges when conflicts arise, with the perennial question of whose rights/benefits prevail? What trade-offs need to be made between multiple bottom lines? Does the mission of the organization prevail over the privileges of employees/clients? To what extent can large donors influence the mission of the organization? What is an appropriate social return on investment? This course will introduce the factors that influence moral conduct, the ethical issues that arise when pursuing social goals, and discuss the best ways to promote ethical conduct within such organizations. The course will use specific case studies, real and hypothetical, to analyze a variety of ethical issues that arise [including finance, governance, accountability, fundraising, labor (paid and unpaid), client groups, and service provision] among the multiple stakeholders and balancing multiple bottom-lines. This course is offered in the fall semester and will conclude by discussing ways that organizations can prevent and correct misconduct, develop a spirit of ethical behavior, and institutionalize ethical values in the organization’s culture.

Fall 2018

October 8th – November 9th

The art of listening ethnographically has many benefits. Using a generally anthropological framework to organize sessions, this course attempts to make a case for the productive force (for scholars, policy makers, non-profit leaders and others) of hearing in proactive and nuanced ways. Highlighting the value of acoustemological ways of understanding the world (knowing through hearing), the course asks students to listen in newfangled ways to many of the things they’ve heard before—while also listening out for things that they’ve never previously taken note of. Thinking about how listening carefully greases the wheels for successful interpersonal communication and overall cultural understanding, students will be asked to observe themselves listening in ways that might allow for innovative translations of observable/empirical data into knowledge that can be deployed in service to personal, institutional, and structural change.

Fall 2018

August 28th – September 28th

This course is intended as an introduction to strategic use of social media for social ventures. Many of you already use social media platforms in your personal lives, and have developed an intuitive understanding of how they work, and use them reflexively. If you’re unfamiliar with various social media venues, that’s ok! Many social media platforms will be described briefly in the lectures, but the course is not intended as a how-to for using them. We suggest that, if you’re new to the various social media platforms mentioned, that you jump in and try them out! These platforms are designed for individuals with all levels of technical proficiency, and they’re designed to be inviting. You might find that with only a bit of effort that you become comfortable with them quickly.

We expect that, regardless of your skill level, comfort, and current personal use of social media, you will gain real value from this course. Much of this value relates to conveying an understanding of how to use these tools strategically, and on behalf of a social venture or a social cause that you care about. This sort of use of social media is significantly different than the way you would use it in your personal life. We hope, as you move through this course, you will wonder…

  • What does it mean to craft the voice of an institution?
  • What is it like to speak in the voice of an institution, instead of my own?
  • How could one possibly develop a strategic plan to organically and authentically engage a community?
  • How do you define, find and build community?
  • More than retweets and likes, what is engagement, how do you measure it, and how do you create engagement to spark social change?
Fall 2018

November 12th – December 14th

Spring Online Courses

This experimental fundraising course shares the same theme as its on-campus cousin, but differs in its focus on designing an actual fundraising solicitation.

Module by module, students will piece together their capstone project in the form of an animated, video recorded, pitch deck to help them raise real capital for a nonprofit organization.

Because the pitch deck represents the ultimate litmus test of a nonprofit leader’s capacity to secure philanthropic capital, this course will supply students with the skills, tools, and confidence to raise money.

Spring 2019

January 16th – March 8th

This course considers the origins, motivations for and recent advances in public-private collaborations and contracting arrangements for achieving public and social program goals. The course begins with an examination of the origins and trends in public-private sector partnerships and the influence of important reforms such as the New Public Management on the nature of collaborative arrangements. Particular attention is given—both historically and currently—to outcomes-based performance management, accountability mechanisms and contract incentives and dynamics. The course takes a deeper look at the newest innovations—social impacts bonds or pay for success arrangements—and the evidence on their implementation and effectiveness to date.  Case examples and studies are used to illustrate challenges encountered in implementing public-private partnerships and performance-based contracts and in achieving accountability for outcomes and impacts.

Spring 2019

March 11th – May 14th

Effective governance relies upon consistent and ethical board leadership, yet nonprofit organizations that exemplify truly model governance are few and far between. This half credit course introduces students to broad frameworks of governance but will focus most deeply on the human dimensions of board leadership.  In particular, we will examine real examples and cases of moral and ethical dilemmas faced by nonprofit boards and executive leaders, and the nuanced practices required to achieve effective board governance. This will involve a careful look at several real cases, as well as guest lectures from 3-4 different nonprofit board and CEO leaders. The invited leaders will use their own experiences to guide students through some of the most challenging ethical and managerial situations that can be encountered, with the goal of providing a practical grounding for students who expect to contribute to nonprofit leadership in their careers – either as executive staff or as board members.

Spring 2019

January 16th – February 15th

The twofold purpose of social impact measurement is to assess and improve the impact of nonprofit programs and to offer actionable information for ongoing improvement. Social impact measurement is an essential learning opportunity for grantmaker and grantee. Developing an evaluation plan, instruments, and process that is culturally responsive and equity informed will lead to actionable results and learning that will drive continuous improvement.

This course will offer an overview of leading social impact measurement methodologies and tools.  Recorded lectures will be complemented by synchronous discussions, a review of case studies, and practical exercises designed to teach the design and implementation of a social impact measurement plan.

Spring 2019

February 18th – March 29th

Ascertaining demand from your beneficiaries/customer is one of the most important tasks of a social entrepreneur. This course will enable you to: 1) Describe challenges and opportunities from the perspective of the customer rather than the organization; 2) Define and articulate a value proposition that can help guide marketing and strategic decisions; and 3) Evaluate the alignment of programs, pricing, promotion, and channels to affect consumer behavior and achieve goals.

Spring 2019

April 1 – May 14th

Spring On-Campus Courses

In chemistry, an atom is the smallest unit of matter that has the properties of an element. In the same vein, volunteers are the atoms of voluntary action. Volunteers are the backbone of many human service organizations, environmental organizations, and other nonprofit organizations. Volunteers serve almost every function from stuffing envelopes to sitting on boards of nonprofit organizations. They make many programs such as, education and environmental protection, possible and fill the void created by the fiscally retreating governments as well as newly arising social problems and human needs. Without volunteer participation, the services that are offered by many nonprofit organizations would be unavailable or provided at a higher cost to government, clients, and donors.

The literature as to what constitutes volunteering and what produces committed and effective volunteers is confusing and full of contradictions. Furthermore, only few organizations know how to face the challenges of managing unpaid staff and how to motivate volunteers without offering material benefits. Volunteers are simultaneously non-remunerated employees and independent support with a different agency than paid employees.

This course will combine presentations, group work, discussions, case studies, video clips, and readings to delve into the challenges of volunteering.  Among the topic we will cover are: An introduction: defining volunteerism, who volunteers and how much; why people volunteer (motivations), what they gain from it (benefits) and what makes it difficult (costs); the differences between volunteers and employees; rewards that work for volunteers; volunteerability: the barriers to volunteering and overcoming them; the recent trends of volunteering, such as virtual or episodic volunteering and how they are addressing volunteerability; and the on-going process of managing volunteers (from recruitment and selection to supervision and firing of volunteers).

Students in the course will be expected to bring their own experience as volunteers and/or as volunteer coordinators and share it in class vis-à-vis the knowledge from the literature. Through lively discussions, we will discuss the many variations of “who is a volunteer” and how best to harness volunteers to support the efforts of nonprofit organizations.

Spring 2019

Week of April 22nd

This course addresses a number of foundational issues central to leadership: wealth creation, wealth distribution, innovation, critical thinking, cross-sector collaboration, and ushering in new futures. It starts with the premise that all leadership requires forms of reasoning that transcends the conventional. In the final analysis leadership is about change, about stability, about power, about organizing, about releasing untapped capacity, about giving birth to the possible. Our class deliberations will be on these topics plus the relationship between what-is and what-might-be, the experiences of the followership, and the dynamics within and among groups, particularly in settings where there are significant inequities and power differentials.

Spring 2019

April 27th – May 3rd

SP2 News

Diplomas on the SP2 commencement table.

Faculty & Research, Student Life

2019 Social Policy & Practice Awards

Congratulations to this year’s Social Policy & Practice award winners. The following individuals will be recognized for their outstanding achievements at...

Tatiana Fraga Diez

Student Life

NPL Student Chosen for Steering Committee of World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Community

Tatiana Fraga Diez, a student in the Nonprofit Leadership (NPL) program at Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2),...

Jennifer A. King

Alumni Stories

“I Caught the Teaching Bug”: DSW Alumna Jennifer King Shares Her Unexpected Career Path

As Jennifer A. King, a 2015 alumna of the Doctorate in Clinical Social Work (DSW) program at Penn’s School of Social...

Andrew Fussner

Faculty & Research, Gifts & Giving

SP2 Board Member Gift Leads to Lasting Impact in Case Consultation Training Series

Four years ago, Andrew Fussner, then a lecturer in the Master of Social Work (MSW) program at Penn’s School of...

Discover More