Course Descriptions – Online Program

Fall Courses

Social Impact and International Development will explore impact creation in resource-constrained settings, especially outside of one’s home community. We will meet online on 5 consecutive Thursday evenings starting October 24th. The class will cover 1) adapting solutions as a way of generating ideas, 2) careful stakeholder segmentation, 3) challenges of deliverability and distribution, 4) revenue and developing a unit of transaction, and 5) identifying and reducing uncertainty and risk. Students will produce written and verbal reflections on the tensions of working in a developing context; insider-outsider identities and tradeoffs; and ethics, tensions, and opportunities of working in and out of one’s home community.

0.5 CU

Fall 2021: November 8 to December 19
Synchronous session times: Thursdays, 5:15pm – 6:45pm ET

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?

0.5 CU

Fall 2021: November 8 to December 19
Synchronous session times: Mondays, 5:15pm – 6:30pm ET

This course is designed for interdisciplinary students interested in cultivating flourishing organizations, engaged stakeholders, and inspiring leaders across sectors and especially within nonprofits. Over the past several years, the field of Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS) has proliferated, yielding a compelling body of knowledge on how and when people thrive at work. This course focuses on both the theoretical and practical insights that can be gained from cutting-edge POS research and applied to help practitioners enrich people’s experiences at work and beyond.  Special attention is placed on how this wisdom applies not only across sectors but also specifically to the nonprofit organizational context.

In particular, the learning objectives of the course provide students with:

  • Techniques and real-world experience in using positive leadership concepts to enrich one’s own career, relationships, and life;
  • Ability to identify opportunities to use positive leadership practices in the workplace to enhance stakeholder engagement, individual and organizational performance, and collective impact;
  • Tools for applying positive leadership concepts in nonprofits, as well as all other organizational domains (e.g., business, government, coaching, the family, etc.)

Additionally, the course is built upon a foundation of experiential learning, such that students can expect to experiment and apply course concepts in their own lives throughout the semester. In other words, students will start with themselves as the first site of learning and development. The experiential community is enhanced further with small group peer coaching throughout the course, as well as with highly interactive live class sessions.

At the end of the course, they will feel a strong grounding in: their own positive core of strengths and values, their authentic leadership, their ability to connect with others in meaningful, supportive ways, and their capacity to surface opportunities that inspire constructive change at any level of interaction or organizing.  The final paper will help students to crystallize their unique vision for a successful future and design clear action steps to pursue after the course ends.

1 CU

Fall 2021: October 11 to December 19
Synchronous sessions: Mondays, 7:00pm – 8:30pm ET

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.

1 CU

Fall 2021: October 11th to December 19th
Synchronous session times: Thursdays, 8:30am – 10:00am ET

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.

0.5 CU

Fall 2021: September 1st to October 10th
Synchronous session times: Tuesdays, 7:00pm – 8:30pm ET

Nonprofit organizations are ubiquitous. They impact almost every area of society. From health care to homeless shelters, from education to the environment, nonprofits provide services, promote legislation, protect rights, and produce public and private goods. This class will survey the entire nonprofit sector, to gauge its vast scope and multiplicity. The course will also cover various concepts and theories related to the nonprofit sector. These concepts and theories come from a variety of academic fields, including economics, sociology, political science, psychology, law, and public administration. We will cover the basic voluntary behaviors associated with nonprofit organizations, such as volunteering and charitable giving. We will also cover the basic concepts associated with nonprofit management, like board governance and fiduciary duties.

1 CU

Fall 2021: September 1st to November 7th
Synchronous session times: Wednesdays, 7:00pm – 8:30pm ET

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.

1 CU

Fall 2021: October 11th to December 19th
Synchronous session times: Tuesdays, 8:30pm – 10:30pm ET

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.

1 CU

Fall 2021: September 1st to November 7th
Synchronous session times: Thursdays, 7:00pm – 8:30pm ET

Spring Courses

Over the past decade, a new type of social enterprise has emerged, which aims to deliver goods and services to the huge market of low-income households in developing countries. These social enterprises, known as ‘Base of the Pyramid’ (BoP) ventures, seek to simultaneously achieve profits, scale, and social impact. This new operating model has reframed the way companies, foundations, and NGOs engage billions of poor people.

This course will focus on a sector that has been radically transformed by BoP ventures over the last decade – clean energy. Not only has this sector been catalytic to delivering clean energy access across the developing world, it also directly aims to combat climate change, the existential issue of our age.

Within the BoP energy ecosystem, progress between sub-sectors could not be more different. For example, the clean cooking sector has failed in its mandate to address the problem of open fire cooking. By contrast, the solar lighting sector has scaled massively. This emergent field has attracted a generation of professionals looking to balance profitability and social impact, from social entrepreneurs to impact investors. Yet is the hype justified — is there really a ‘Fortune at the Base of the Pyramid’?

This is a course for those who are interested in becoming social entrepreneurs, particularly in developing countries. It will reveal the nuances of operationalizing these ventures and provide a business toolkit for designing and launching a social venture. The course will equally be topical for those who are simply interested in better understanding the inner workings and implications of this fast-growing and alluring model of alleviating poverty and disease. While renewable energy will serve as a focal point, the course will also grapple with a range of cross-cutting themes, including climate change, gender, culture, public health, and the role of the private sector in development.

0.5 CU

Spring 2021: January 20th to February 28th
Synchronous session times: Wednesdays, 10:00am – 11:15am

There is no shortage of compelling ideas and effective interventions for making the world better, however, very few of these great ideas spread. Aspiring leaders of big social change rarely succeed in engaging others in a meaningful or comprehensive way, their passion and their knowledge reaching hundreds or thousands when millions more could benefit. There are exceptions to this pattern, however, and this course seeks to explain what sets apart the initiatives that become successful large- scale movements. These efforts reliably address three questions in order to have a big impact:

1.How can we secure a genuine commitment from others to join us in the hard work ahead?

  1. How can we set a strategy that gives us leverage and reach, making the the most of our finite resources?
  2. How can we take action, day in and day out, in such a way that we meet our aims for growth and impact, optimizing rapid learning and improvement by everyone in our movement?

Drawing on examples from around the world and across the social sector, this course will walk you through these questions and provide you with a blueprint for spreading ideas, innovations, and programs that work, allowing you to engage the most people possible to change behavior and social outcomes at scale.

0.5 CU

Spring 2021: January 20th to February 28th
Synchronous session times: Tuesdays, 7:30pm to 9:00pm

The first step in engaging beneficiaries, donors, and other customers is to understand what you will do, what you will not do, and why. This “marketing strategy” sets you up to make smart choices each day for how you will engage your stakeholders. In this course we will focus on the strategic vision that leads to engagement and growth.  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.

0.5 CU

Spring 2021: March 29th to May 9th
Synchronous session times: Thursdays, 6:00pm – 7:00pm

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 processes that are culturally responsive and equity informed will lead to actionable results and learning that will drive continuous improvement.

This course offers an overview of leading social impact measurement methodologies and tools in a format that includes asynchronous recorded video lectures, synchronous discussion lectures, readings, and practical assignments designed to teach the design and implementation of a social impact measurement plan.

0.5 CU

Spring 2021: March 29th to May 2nd
Synchronous session times: Mondays, 6:00pm – 7:30pm

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.

1 CU

Spring 2021: March 1st to May 2nd
Synchronous session times: Tuesdays, 8:00pm – 9:30pm

Design Thinking is quickly becoming a fundamental tool for innovation. It is a creative problem-solving methodology that can help people find new, creative solutions to increasingly complex global challenges. This skillset is particularly useful for social innovators working in ambiguous and rapidly changing environments. Design Thinking for Social Innovation teaches students to develop empathy for stakeholders, generate innovative ideas, and prototype and refine those ideas so they can be successfully implemented. The course introduces a deeply human process that taps into abilities we all have but get overlooked by more conventional problem-solving practices. 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. Students will develop product/business/service/experience concepts using techniques such as empathy, problem definition, ideation, concept refinement and prototyping. You will learn design tools and techniques to generate and communicate innovative solutions. At the end of this class you’ll have a new set of skills to apply to any challenge you face and the tools and techniques to infuse your day-to-day work with creativity.

1 CU

Spring 2021: January 20th to March 28th
Synchronous session times: Tuesdays, 6:00pm – 7:15pm

Nonprofit organizations are subject to specific state and federal laws designed to protect their charitable or other societal purpose and to oversee the solicitation and use of public funds. This course will introduce students to state laws and federal tax laws governing nonprofit (tax-exempt) organizations. This course will provide practical guidance to nonprofit professionals seeking to understand these important rules and to guide their nonprofits to compliance.

1 CU

Spring 2021: January 20th to March 21st
Synchronous session times: Thursdays, 7:00pm – 8:00pm

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.

1 CU

Spring 2021: January 20th to March 28th
Synchronous session times: Mondays, 7:30pm – 9:00pm

Today, we stand at an important moment in the history of philanthropy, as U.S. giving reached an all-time high in 2018, with $427 billion invested in the philanthropic marketplace. As charitable giving is on the rise, nonprofit professionals are thinking more strategically about securing charitable gifts that will position their organization to have greater social benefit, whether they represent small grassroots organizations or large institutions.

This course will provide students with the theory and basic knowledge of fundraising that charitable organizations use to raise private philanthropic dollars. The course will begin with an overview of the philanthropic landscape and key trends in philanthropy to contextualize the role of fundraising. Each subsequent module will review different aspects of the theory and body of knowledge that guides the most effective fundraising programs in charitable organizations, including principles of individual giving, major gifts, structural philanthropic vehicles, making the case for support, prospect research, and engaging volunteer leaders in fundraising.

Modules are structured to both impart theory and develop skills to enhance students’ critical analysis of philanthropy. By the conclusion of the course, students will gain the knowledge, tools, and techniques to implement fundraising best practices at their professional organization or in a volunteer capacity to raise funds for social benefit.

1 CU

Spring 2021: March 1st to May 2nd
Synchronous session times: Wednesdays, 7:00pm – 8:30pm

Summer Courses

The United States has a vast nonprofit sector that features 1.3 million organizations. (And that doesn’t include 250,000 religious institutions!). Approximately $1.5 trillion of earned and contributed revenue flows through the so-called third sector.  In 2018, Giving USA reported that $427 billion of those funds came from philanthropy — given by a mix of individuals, foundations and corporations. The use of philanthropic dollars is as diverse as the donors who give those dollars.   But what is the best use of those dollars?  Sustaining high performing nonprofits?   Supporting catalytic action? Nurturing individual excellence in the arts or sciences? This course will explore field of Philanthropy — what it is, how it works, who participates, and its intersection with public policy and government.

0.5 CU

Summer 2021: May 24th to June 30th
Synchronous sessions: Mondays, 5:15pm – 6:45pm ET

There has never been a more important time for nonprofits to contribute to the common good. But nonprofits face a major challenge: With 1% of donors accounting for 49% of donations, in a $420 billion market, the philanthropic pyramid is looking more like the Eiffel Tower.

The answers, of course, lie in major gift strategy and tactics. This course will provide a framework for conceptualizing a major gift strategy as well as tools for designing and making a major gift solicitation. This course’s goal is to ensure that each student has a case for support and a pitch for use in the immediate future.

0.5 CU

Summer 2021: May 24th to June 30th
Synchronous session times: Wednesdays, 5:15pm – 6:45pm ET

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