Course Descriptions – Online Program

Fall Courses

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 2019

November 11th to December 13th

Synchronous session times: TBD

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.

0.5 CU

Fall 2019

October 7th to November 8th

Synchronous session times: TBD

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.

1 CU

Fall 2019

October 21st to December 13th

Synchronous session times: TBD

Social practices, pressures, and paradigms exert enormous influence on our lives, from how we spend our money to how we treat each other. Social norms, in particular, can be a powerful tool for social change, but in order to use them, change agents need to know what they are and how they influence behavior and decisions. In this course, students will learn what social norms are, how to measure them, and how to use them in pursuit of lasting social change. Applications of social norms theory in the nonprofit sector include programmatic efforts to change harmful behaviors, policies that promote behavior change at scale, strengthening effectiveness within an organization, and engaging with donors and other stakeholders. Students will learn from readings, case studies, and guest speakers working on social norms change in many different contexts. Throughout the course, students will plan their own social norms-based intervention or program to apply to their own work.

0.5 CU

Fall 2019

September 16th to October 18th

Synchronous session times: TBD

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 2019

August 26th to October 18th

Synchronous session times: TBD

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 2019

September 3rd to October 4th

Synchronous session times: TBD

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 2019

October 21st to December 13th

Synchronous session times: Wednesdays, time TBD

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 (www.dellchallenge.org), which the instructor founded and which awards funds to launch new student social ventures. Entry into the Challenge is not required.

1 CU

Fall 2019

August 26th to October 18th

Synchronous session times: TBD

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