Course Descriptions – On Campus Program

Fall Courses

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 2019

Thursdays, 4:00pm – 7:00pm

This course is about “doing good and doing well.” It is designed to introduce you to the fundamental issues in accountability and governance and the administration and management in nonprofit organizations. Through research and analysis, you will understand multiple structures of accountability and the various stakeholders in nonprofits, understand the duties and dynamics of boards of directors in conjunction with other mechanisms of governance (e.g. chief executive officers, advisory boards, etc.), and develop an understanding of management techniques and leadership skills for enhancing the effectiveness of nonprofit organizations. You will be asked to think about the challenges of running nonprofit organizations in a comparative context, with cases drawn from both the U.S. and abroad.

The emphasis of this course is on acquiring operational skills. The course is designed for those who may have had years of experience managing other people and programs in the nonprofit sector but who want to develop a more systematic mastery of this challenge, as well as students from other sectors who aspire to a nonprofit leadership role.

Fall 2019

Tuesdays, 11:30am – 2:30pm

Economic analysis and financial accounting are like languages: fluency comes with practice. In-class review of case studies (including, on occasion, 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 employee owned enterprises, community development corporations, community development financial institutions, local currencies, community land trusts, resource trusts, and other third-sector organizations. The course is open to students across the University. All graduate students who take this course must register under NPLD 790. All undergraduate students must register under NPLD 590.

Fall 2019

Tuesdays, 5:30pm – 8:30pm

This experiential, highly interactive seminar is for those eager to serve in managerial/leadership positions of human systems that create/maintain the organizational and fiscal viability of public, non-profit or private enterprises, including their partnerships. Candidates in all Penn graduate programs are welcome, whether one’s ambition is to generate sustainable livelihoods, renewable energy, wealth, clean water, viable environments, robotics, or quality services in fields such as education, health care, AI, or criminal justice. Course participants are members of decision-making groups that run a computer-based, data-driven, future-creating, socio-economic simulation while synchronously studying the intra- and inter-group dynamics inherent in all leadership actions.

The educational methodology of NPLD 791 is based on discovery-learning processes about the critical inter-dependencies among several phenomena, such as:

  • strategy formulation-execution and organizational practices that unleash latent possibilities
  • wealth creation and the dynamics of competition/collaboration within and among groups
  • robust economic metrics and intra/inter-group decision-making sophistication
  • leadership of market-financial-political ecosystems and quality group-based followership
  • the efficacy of work-based activities and system conflict management capabilities
  • building new forms of private, public, non-profit ventures and developing human capital

This course combines intellectual and experiential learning about the business of organizing and an organization’s businesses. It is based on cutting-edge sociological, economic, psychological, managerial and anthropological thinking about wealth-creation/circulation, the power of combining left-brain and right-brain reasoning, the harnessing of energies trapped by classic organizational conflicts and accessing the abundance located in contexts of seeming scarcity.

The faculty

  • provides the intellectual architecture for this learning adventure
  • builds and manages the structures for all the experiential events
  • facilitates the discovery processes of participants
  • links the lessons of scholarship to challenges experienced in every-day work-places
  • offers group and system-wide feedback about the universal lessons located in the unique dynamics, co-manufactured by course participants in their simulated world

Participants must be present for every minute of the course and be fully involved in all activities. To apply for a permit to take this course, contact Adam Roth-Saks via email at

Fall 2019

Friday, November 1st, 6:00pm – 11:00pm
Saturday, November 2nd, 9:00am – 11:00pm
Sunday, November 3rd, 9:00am – 6:00pm
Friday, November 8th, 6:00pm -11:00pm
Saturday, November 9th, 9:00am – 11:00pm
Sunday, November 10th, 9:00am – 6:00pm
Wednesday, November 13th, 5:30pm – 8:30pm

This fall semester course will review the everyday tools that nonprofit managers and development officers need to raise funds from individuals and other sources of private philanthropy. Last year, Americans gave approximately $300 million to charitable organizations and 83% of it was from individual giving. The fundraising profession has created a body of knowledge in the past twenty years that can guide effective fundraising programs so that charitable organizations can support their mission. The class sessions will review the theory and practical techniques that development professionals use everyday in large and small organizations, including annual giving, major gifts, planned giving, cultivation of donors, making your case for support, the Seven Faces of Philanthropy, special events, and prospect research. There will also be discussions of philanthropic trends and current giving patterns. For those who are interested in nonprofit leadership and positions of influence, these will be critical tools to understand.

Fall 2019

Mondays, 5:00pm – 8:00pm

This half credit course will provide the tools and framework for helping to understand the role that marketing and brand building can play in the non-profit sector. As such, we will create a shared understanding of the key concepts that help define branding and the classic elements of marketing that will serve as a foundation for discussion and analysis throughout the semester. We will identify the fundamental differences that non-profit organizations face in building their brands and how those challenges differ from traditional/for profit brand building. We will identify tools and frameworks that brands/organizations can use to help design and implement marketing strategy. We will utilize current and relevant case studies that help demonstrate the core concepts of this course.

Fall 2019

Wednesdays: September 4th, September 18th, October 2nd, October 23rd, October 30th, and November 13th, 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Half credit

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.

Fall 2019

Wednesdays: September 11th, September 25th, October 16th, November 6th, November 20th, and December 4th, 5:00pm – 8:00pm
Half credit

The first part of the course will offer a broad perspective on development, aid, and the role of NGOs. The latter half of the course will focus on issues in NGO management: problem analysis, solution design, fundraising, staffing (expatriate and local), monitoring and evaluation (including randomized controlled trials). The course is aimed at students with none to moderate experience in international development, but students with extensive work experience with NGOs or development work are encouraged to join.

Fall 2019

Mondays, 10:00am – 12:50pm

Studying the behavior of groups and the actions/inactions of people within groups provides a doorway to deeper understanding of our selves, our families, our friends, our colleagues, our organizations, and our communities. This half credit course is designed for Penn Graduate students eager to generate constructive group processes when chairing a committee, managing a work group, teaching in a classroom, conducting a support/therapy group or facilitating strategy formulation. It is easy to look back and see what went right or wrong in a group or when observing what others are doing. But tuning into and gaining a comprehensive grasp of these processes when they are happening and learning how to take constructive actions in the here and now when it can have a meaningful impact requires a high level of cognitive capability combined with a special form of relational artistry. This weekend course is an amalgam of experiential activities and energizing ways to internalize the rich concepts developed during a hundred years of research. Participants are required to be fully present and fully engaged for the whole weekend, read the equivalent of a book’s worth of material, and write an 8-page (double spaced) paper.

Fall 2019
Option 1

Friday, September 13th OR Saturday, September 14th, 9:00am – 6:00pm
Friday, September 20th, 6:00pm – 11:00pm
Saturday, September 21st, 9:00am – 11:00pm
Sunday, September 22nd, 9:00am – 6:00pm

Option 2

Friday, September 13th OR Saturday, September 14th, 9:00am – 6:00pm
Friday, September 27th, 6:00pm – 11:00pm
Saturday, September 28th, 9:00am – 11:00pm
Sunday, September 29th, 9:00am – 6:00pm

Option 3

Friday, November 15th OR Saturday, November 16th, 9:00am – 6:00pm
Friday, November 22nd, 6:00pm – 11:00pm
Saturday, November 23rd, 9:00am – 11:00pm
Sunday, November 24th, 9:00am – 6:00pm

Half credit

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. However, developing an evaluation plan, instruments, and process that is culturally responsive with an equity lens and also aligned with nonprofit’s capacity is critical.

This course will offer an overview of leading social impact measurement methodologies and tools and field exercise experience. During the field exercise, student teams will develop an evaluation plan and associated instruments for a local nonprofit using one or more of the methodologies. Teams will present their evaluation plans and offer recommendations for implementation. Lectures will be complemented by class time devoted to field exercise team meetings and off-site field work.

Fall 2019

Mondays, 9:00am – 11:50am

This intensely experiential course, offered in the fall semester, is designed for those providing group and institutional leadership at any level of a human enterprise, managing work groups, serving on special task forces, chairing committees, teaching in classrooms, conducting support groups, facilitating groups in clinical settings, etc. Students will focus on two topics:

  1. An in-depth understanding of group dynamics while they are in action
  2. The organizational relationships between groups with power, groups that experience themselves as powerless, and those caught in the middle

With group and inter-group relations, it is easy to see what went right or wrong in hindsight, or when observing from a distance, but tuning into these dynamics when caught up in them and taking constructive actions when it can have a meaningful impact requires complex cognitive and emotional processing and the use of multiple logics simultaneously. This educational format also explores the mysteries of counter-intuitive principles, such as “to grow, cut back,” and “to strengthen self, augment other,” are examined.  The experiential events that are at the center of this leaning occur over two weekends in the fall semester (Friday evening through to Sunday evening).

Fall 2019

Thursday, October 3rd, 7:30pm – 10:30pm
Friday, October 4th, 9:00am – 11:00pm
Saturday, October 5th, 9:00am – 11:00pm
Sunday, October 6th, 9:00am – 6:00pm

Please contact Adam Roth-Saks for more information about registering for this course.

Spring Courses

This is a class focused on understanding the many forms and functions of innovation for the benefit of society. At a time when fresh solutions to public problems are increasingly coming not just from government, the nonprofit and for-profit sectors, but from collaborations across the three, we will focus in this class on understanding how to diagnose needs and then design effective interventions. We will explore how social entrepreneurs develop their ideas, define intended impact, market their solutions, understand competition, and collaborate with other actors. At the end of the course, students should have mastered a set of conceptual tools that will allow them to be effective problem solvers in diverse settings throughout their careers.

Spring 2020

Thursdays, 2:00pm – 5:00pm

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.

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 team projects where students assess and consult with local nonprofit organizations. These team projects culminate in students presenting to their actual nonprofit organizations their recommendations for enhanced strategy and practices.

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

  1. Techniques and real-world experience in using positive leadership concepts to enrich one’s own career, relationships, and life;
  2. Ability to identify opportunities to use positive leadership practices in the workplace to enhance stakeholder engagement, individual and organizational performance, and collective impact;
  3. Tools for applying positive leadership concepts in nonprofits, as well as all other organizational domains (e.g., business, government, coaching, the family, etc.);
  4. Research and consulting experience with a local non-profit organization.
Spring 2020

January 25th, January 26th, February 22nd, February 23rd, March 21st, March 22nd, April 18th, April 19th, 9:00am – 4:00pm

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.

Spring 2020

Wednesday, January 22nd (online), 1:00pm – 3:00pm (lecture)
Tuesday, January 28th (online), 1:00pm – 4:00pm (lab)
Wednesday, January 29th (online), 1:00pm – 3:00pm (lecture)
Tuesday, February 4th (online), 1:00pm – 4:00pm (lab)
Wednesday, February 5th (online), 1:00pm – 3:00pm (lecture)
Tuesday, February 11th (on campus), 10:00am – 12pm (lecture) & 1:00pm – 4:00pm (lab)
Wednesday, February 12th (on campus), 10:00am – 12:00pm (lecture) & 1:00pm – 4:00pm (lab)
Tuesday, February 18th (on campus), 10:00am – 12:00pm (lecture) & 1:00pm – 4:00pm (lab)
Wednesday, February 19th (on campus), 10:00am – 12:00pm (lecture) & 1:00pm – 4:00pm (lab)
Tuesday, February 25th (online), 1:00pm – 3:00pm (lecture)
Wednesday, February 26th (online), 1:00pm – 4:00pm (lab)
Tuesday, March 3rd (online), 1:00pm – 3:00pm (lecture)
Wednesday, March 4th (online), 1:00pm – 4:00pm (lab)
Tuesday, April 7th (on campus), 10:00am – 12:00pm (lecture) & 1:00pm – 4:00pm (lab)
Wednesday, April 8th (on campus), 10:00am – 12pm (lecture) & 1:00pm – 4:00pm (lab)

This half credit course will provide a basic understanding of the law that applies to nonprofit organizations, with an emphasis on the law affecting 501(c)(3) public charities. It will focus on ways to obtain and maintain federal tax exempt status, including issues of private inurement and private benefit, limits on advocacy, lobbying and electioneering, unrelated business income tax, and excess benefits taxes. It will show how legal structure and governance procedures affect the answer to the question “Whose Organization Is It?” Students will review bylaws of multiple organizations to see how differences in structure reflect the great diversity of nonprofits and why “one size does not fit all” within the sector. They will learn how to avoid bad legal drafting that can create problems for dysfunctional organizations.

The course will explain fiduciary duty of officers and directors, explore the extent of potential personal liability, and review necessary insurance and indemnification. It will review Form 990 publicly available tax returns of multiple nonprofits to see why a tax return may be a nonprofit’s most important public relations document. It will also review the basics of charitable giving through a mock meeting of university development officers, outline the concepts of planned giving, and discuss the requirements for charitable solicitation registration at the state level. It will explain the legal requirements for maintaining endowments and discuss a series of ethical issues that can face nonprofit executives and their lawyers.

Students will receive one year of free access to Don Kramer’s Nonprofit Issues® website, and will emerge with a better understanding of the key legal issues facing the nonprofit sector that regularly make the news.

Spring 2020

Thursdays: January 16th, January 30th, February 13th, February 27th, March 12th, and March 26th, 5:30pm – 8:30pm
Half Credit

Americans gave more than $400 billion to nonprofit organizations last year, the highest total ever recorded.  Now, more than ever, it is crucial that nonprofit leaders master the art and science of raising philanthropic capital.  Participants in this innovative class will:

  • acquire an understanding of the nonprofit funding landscape;
  • learn proven and creative strategies to secure investments;
  • gain the experience of giving and motivating charitable commitments; and
  • receive peer evaluation and professional consulting feedback.

This experiential and interactive learning half credit course will provide students an opportunity to evaluate a nonprofit organization endeavoring to attract voluntary support, and coach students to think through and develop the ideas, skills, and tools required to participate personally in today’s philanthropic market.

Spring 2020

Fridays: February 21st, March 27th, and April 24th, 9:00am – 3:00pm
Half Credit

The half credit course will offer a broad and pragmatic perspective on social impact at the Bottom of the Pyramid. The early part of the course will focus on general characteristics, challenges, and opportunities of resource-poor settings and high-uncertainty environments. The bulk of the course will focus on tools and frameworks designed to operationalize such Social Impact initiatives. The course is aimed at students with no to moderate experience in entrepreneurship/international development. Students with extensive work experience in for-profits, nonprofits, NGOs, or development work are most welcome.

Spring 2020

Dates: April 3rd, 4th, & 5th

This half credit class will provide students with the ability to use the financial tools of cash flow, budgeting, and forecasting models to assist in strategic thinking as it relates to a nonprofit organization. In addition the class will provide tools that can be used to follow implementation of such strategies including: personal cash flow; basic financial statements; supplemental schedules; and cash flow, budgeting, and forecasting.

Spring 2020

Fridays: January 17th, January 24th, January 31st, and February 7th, 1:00pm – 4:00pm
Mondays: January 27th, February 3rd, and February 10th, 1:00pm – 4:00pm
Half Credit

NPLD 585 is a 5-day, off-site, intensive service-learning course in social innovation.  Students will learn how innovation and entrepreneurship play a central role in public problem solving. The course will explore how social entrepreneurs co-develop new ideas with key stakeholders, articulate problems and solutions, define intended impact, understand competition, and collaborate with other actors. At the end of the course, students will have mastered a set of conceptual tools and strategies that will allow them to be effective problem solvers in diverse settings throughout their careers. The course has five core objectives:

  1. To introduce students to the concepts and practices of social entrepreneurship;
  2. To introduce students to the components of a successful social enterprise;
  3. To train students to view the world from a perspective of social innovation;
  4. To encourage and empower students to develop their own innovative solutions to different social problems around the world.
  5. To introduce students to real social issues and social innovations in a real-world setting.

More information.

Spring 2020

Fridays: April 8th and April 22nd, 5:00pm – 8:00pm
Travel dates: May 26th – June 1st

Design and Incorporation of High Impact Not-For-Profits is designed for those who have a practitioner’s interest in the design, governance, leadership, and management of high impact not-for-profit organizations.  This course is taught through learning best practice theory, applying this theory to a simulation experience, and providing students the opportunity to apply their new knowledge and experience in an interview with a current not-for-profit leader. Students, through the combination of theory and practice, are provided with the essential competencies and tools to design and incorporate a not-for-profit, conduct in-depth analysis of a not-for-profit’s effectiveness including, but not limited to, governance, leadership, social impact, financial sustainability, and systems and policy influence.

Through the mock simulation process of designing, incorporating, and governing students will leave with a “best practice” not-for-profit manual that includes articles of incorporation, bylaws, governance deliverables, strategic business plan, organizational scorecard, 3-5 year budget, development plan and public policy strategy.

The knowledge and tools, gained through readings and the mock simulation experience, will be applied, in the form of a thorough analysis, to the governance, leadership, strategic and/or business model, financial sustainability, social impact, marketing and communication, and public policy influence of an existing organization.

Spring 2020

Tuesdays, 6:00pm – 9:00pm

NPLD 750 examines the relationship between business and society using the prevalent framework of corporate social responsibility (CSR) with a focus on corporate philanthropy. The large question that we focus on is “What is the responsibility of business to society, if any?” We examine how it is conceptualized, its practice, the societal partnerships forged, and its impact. Businesses performing philanthropic activity often use their platform of CSR activities to engage with society, directly, via a corporate foundation, or through partnerships with nonprofit organizations. Although such philanthropic activities are not directly related to profit-making ventures, they may boost their reputation, be used in marketing their products, talent recruitment, increase employee engagement and commitment, and thus contribute to the profit indirectly. Many businesses undertake their CSR related philanthropic activities using strategic partnerships with nonprofits or public sector organizations to meet their goals. This provides opportunities to nonprofit and public sector leaders in achieving social and sustainable change.

Spring 2019

Travel dates May 22nd – May 31st

Over the past decade, a new type of social enterprise has emerged, which aims to deliver goods and services to the huge, relatively untapped 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 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.

Spring 2019

Travel Dates: March 4th – 10th
Pre-travel Dates TBD

This experiential course is designed for people preparing to manage work groups, to provide leadership at any level of a human enterprise, to conduct support groups, to catalyze class-room learning, to serve on task forces, to chair executive committees, to facilitate therapy groups, etc. Participants are invited to develop an in-depth understanding of group dynamics while they are occurring. They are also invited to discover and practice the science and crafts of “right-brain,” analogic, paradoxical reasoning about group behavior, along with the classic “left-brain,” digital, casual logic. It is easy to see what is happening in groups when we are observing from a distance or when we look back on past events. But it takes special cognitive capabilities and relational artistry to grasp these processes while they are occurring, at the times when it is possible to take constructive actions in the here and now. This course is based on a century of robust research on group behavior. It also offers new ways to understand the actions of workmates, colleagues, families, communities, friends, organizations, and our selves.

This weekend course is an amalgam of experiential activities, observations, reading, collegial discussions, and occasional presentations. Participants are required to be fully present and fully engaged for every single minute of the course. They also are expected to internalize the insights in a major book and to write a group-based paper on the major lessons learned.

This half credit course is a stand-alone course and also serves as a prerequisite for NPLD 787 Organizational Politics.

NPLD 782 runs from 6 pm Friday until 6 pm on Sunday, with participants returning to their homes from 11 pm to 9 am on the Friday and Saturday evenings.

Punctual attendance at ALL events is a non-negotiable requirement. No cell phones, I-Pads, computers, or electronic gadgets of any kind are permitted. NO EXCEPTIONS!

Prior to taking this course, all participants are required to do a day-long primer. This is a no-credit, no-cost workshop designed to give all potential participants an opportunity to develop common language, learn foundational concepts, and discern whether you are intellectually and emotionally ready to take such a course. Confirmed enrollment in NPLD 782 is contingent upon successful completion of – and full attendance at – the primer.

Spring 2020
Section 1

Primer Friday, January 24th or Saturday, January 25th, 9:00am – 6:00pm
Friday, January 31st, 6:00pm – 11:00pm
Saturday, February 1st, 9:00am – 11:00pm
Sunday, February 2nd, 9:00am – 6:00pm

Section 2

An additional set of primers and NPLD 782 sections will be offered in late March for those students who are interested in completing this course in this academic year and potentially enrolling in NPLD 787 in the 2020-21 academic year.

Primer Friday, March 20th or Saturday, March 21st, 9:00am – 6:00pm
Friday, March 27th, 6:00pm – 11:00pm
Saturday, March 28th, 9:00am – 11:00pm
Sunday, March 29th, 9:00am – 6:00pm

NPLD 787 is a brand new course design that incorporates elements of previous courses, including NPLD 785, NPLD 791, and SWRK 766.  The course spans two weekends from 6 pm on Friday to 6 pm on Sunday.  Students may be permitted to return to their homes to sleep on some nights, but should otherwise plan for a fully immersive course with no outside contact possible. Previously offered courses, including NPLD 785, NPLD 791, and SWRK 766, will not be offered during the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 academic years.

This experiential, highly interactive course is for those preparing to serve in managerial/ leadership positions, charged with creating/maintaining the organizational and fiscal viability of public, non-profit or private enterprises. Candidates in all graduate programs are welcome.

Students must apply for this course and, before receiving a permit to enroll, are required to have successfully completed NPLD 782, the course on group dynamics.

The educational methodology of NPLD 787 is based on discovery-learning processes about the critical inter-dependencies among phenomena such as:

  • strategy formulation-execution and organizational practices that unleash latent possibilities
  • wealth creation and the dynamics of competition/collaboration within and among groups
  • robust economic metrics and intra/inter-group decision-making sophistication
  • leadership of market-financial-political ecosystems and quality group-based followership
  • the efficacy of work-based activities and system conflict management capabilities
  • building new forms of private, public, non-profit ventures and developing human capital
  • dealing with being in positions of power, powerlessness and middleness

This course combines intellectual, experiential, and emotional learning about the business of organizing and the organizing of productive enterprises. It is based on cutting-edge sociological, economic, psychological, managerial, and anthropological thinking about wealth-creation/circulation, the power of combining left-brain and right-brain reasoning, the harnessing of energies trapped by classic organizational conflicts, and accessing the abundance located in contexts of seeming scarcity.

NPLD 787 is also an intensely experiential course that gives participants multiple opportunities to experience the dynamics of power, powerlessness, and being in the middle of the power struggles found in most organizations. Typically, partici­pants are randomly assigned to one of three levels: Shapers (Elites), Integrators (Middles), and Producers (Outs). Each person’s birth status determines all the conditions of life from then on – and the work that the groups will engage in ranges from the physical to the intellectual. However, no course is typical. It is redesigned for every single course.

This educational format challenges participants to explore the mysteries of several counter-intuitive principles, such as “to grow, cut back,” and “to strengthen self, augment other,” “to produce change, preserve the status quo.” As an aside, if you are rigidly committed to the notion that all conflict is bad/destructive and will strive at all times to avoid, suppress, or deflect conflict, there is NO POINT in taking this course.

In addition to learning about key business, government, and NGO principles, there are also many issues associated with the human side of organizations that the course explores. This course may begin as a power lab and then morph into something unexpected that explores the cross-sector tensions and opportunities, or may it begin as an exploration of cross sector tensions and then morph into a power lab. In either case, the learning will also include (1) managing the ups and downs of being in powerful, powerless, and caught in the middle situations, (2) leadership and followership, (3) dealing with complex intergroup dynamics, (4) balancing political processes that result from intergroup relations, (5) wrestling with questions about what wealth means, (6) learning how to think in ecological terms.

Punctual attendance at ALL events is a requirement. No cell phones, computers, I-Pads, or electronic gadgets of any kind are permitted.  NO exceptions! If you are unable or are unwilling to absorb and follow the above, this course is not for you, because dealing with the unfamiliar is a basic part of the learning. There are two required books and one substantial paper.

NPLD 787 (1.0 credit) will be held during the following consecutive weekends:

6:00 pm Friday February 21 – 6:00 pm Sunday February 23

6:00 pm Friday February 28 – 6:00 pm Sunday March 1

6:00 pm – 9:00 pm Wednesday March 18

After the weekends, you will read 2-3 books and write 1-2 papers based on your experience and the content of the books. There is also a post-course debriefing which includes the Wednesday March 18 closing and other small group interactions, to be mutually arranged after the weekends.

This spring semester course will focus on how urban communities are shaped by the nonprofit sector and the billions of philanthropic dollars that fuel their work.  By bridging theory and practice, the class explores what dynamics are at play to deliver vital services or programs in health care, education, the arts, community development, and other issues.  The course will also focus on these important questions:

  • Whose responsibility is the public good? How is that responsibility shared by the public, private, and nonprofit sectors?
  • Given the responsibility for the public good, which individuals and groups make the decisions about how to serve the public good?

Students will consider these questions in an interdisciplinary context that will bring a historical and philosophical perspective to the examination of the values and institutions that characterize contemporary philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. All NPL students who take this course must register under NPLD 797.

Spring 2019

Wednesdays, 5:30pm – 8:30pm

Summer Courses

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 and learn how to communicate our ideas by pitching to a group of experts. 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 2019

Saturday & Sunday, June 15th – 16th, 9:00am – 5:00pm
Friday & Saturday, June 21st – 22nd, 9:00am – 5:00pm
Saturday, June 23rd, 9:00am – 3:00pm

SOCIAL, PUBLIC and LAW POLICY is designed for students to strengthen and develop their skills to formulate, shape, and influence public policy. Students will strengthen and develop their skills in policy formulation and implementation. The social, economic, legal, ethical, and political environments, which influence public policy, planning, evaluation, and funding will be explored. Participants will (a) analyze the structural, social, and policy issues that have galvanized advocacy efforts and (b) explore the roles that the government, private sector, and consumers and advocacy groups play in setting policy agendas and examine the intended and unintended effects of these policies.

With an increasing competitive market, the overall social sector is changing the landscape for private, nonprofit and government organizations nationally and globally. The public, as well as leaders in government, social investors and philanthropists are demanding new social models that are cost effective, financially self-sustainable, adaptive to feedback and metrics, with clear outcome accountability measures, and the potential for large-scale impact, policy influence, and systems change.

Summer 2019

Summer Session I: Mondays & Wednesdays, 5:00pm – 8:30pm

As mobile computing technologies become increasingly functional and affordable, donor and grassroots organizations find ways to justify and massively fund their use in social sector work. This reading- and discussion-based class will be driven by concern that technological resources be used maximally to promote social initiatives’ efficiency, effectiveness, cultural appropriateness, and sustainability. We will use organizational and sociotechnical frameworks to understand how resource-constrained social organizations translate potentially performance-improving technologies into actual performance improvements for stronger mission achievement. No technology influences social outcomes in a vacuum – we will study how implementation environments, and distribution and adoption strategies, influence technologies’ uptake and mission-advancement.

We will examine

  • The impact on society of key information and communication technologies such as the phone;
  • Sociotechnical and principal-agent variables that influence organizational abilities to derive value from technology interventions;
  • The social sector workplace as a sociotechnical system that mediates human-computer interaction in global social impact work;
  • Case studies such as mobile health projects and other complex interventions that feature a weak and noisy theory of change.
  • The principles and methods of user-centered design for technology that is usable, useful.
  • Feminist technology in the context of resource-constrained, social sector work
  • The challenges of moving from a successful controlled pilot to a scaled intervention.
Summer 2019

Summer Session II: Mondays, Wednesdays, & Fridays, July 10th – July 31st, 8:30am – 10:30am

Half credit

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.

Summer 2019

Friday, July 12th, 3:00pm – 6:00pm
Saturday, July 13th, 9:00am – 12:00pm
Sunday, July 14th, 9:00am – 12:00pm
Friday, July 19th, 3:00pm – 6:00pm
Saturday, July 20th, 9:00am – 12:00pm
Sunday, July 21st, 9:00am – 12:00pm

Half credit

Past Courses

Over the past decade, researchers have identified some of the key skills that people need to succeed in their work and in their lives. These are skills that anyone can develop with practice. In this class, the instructor will teach three of the key skills: resilience (the ability to thrive in difficult times), creativity (the ability to come up with innovative solutions to problems), and productivity (the ability to make the best use of your time and find life balance). During the first session, you will learn the key skills. Over the course of the summer, students will practice these skills to see and document significant improvement in important areas of their daily lives. Finally, at the end of June, we will evaluate our progress and talk about how to sustain these gains in our personal and professional lives. This course is not a traditional lecture course. While we will review the best scientific research on the skills for effective change makers, the main part of the course is devoted to practicing these skills. In other words, this is a highly experiential, interactive, and dynamic course!

Great leaders are storytellers. They are able to engage and entertain their communities, and tell a compelling narrative about how the world works. They use language powerfully and communicate in ways that uplift and inspire others. In this class, we will explore the power of telling great stories, and learn how to do it most effectively when promoting your campaigns to make the world a better place. We will also look at the skills of framing language in ways that will win over an audience. Finally, we will look at other key skills of effective communication, including the best strategies for persuasion, negotiation, and conflict resolution.

SP2 News

Ezekiel Dixon-Roman at his book launch and discussion in fall 2017.

Faculty & Research

New Institute in Critical Quantitative, Computational, & Mixed Methodologies

This month, Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2) Associate Professor Ezekiel Dixon-Román, PhD, and others announced the launch...

Richard Gelles Receives SSWR Award

Faculty & Research

Richard Gelles Receives SSWR Social Policy Researcher Award

Richard J. Gelles, PhD, former dean of Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2), was honored for his distinguished...

Jeff Oppenheimer at ALS Association Dinner

Student Life

NPL Student Shares Advocacy Story at Annual ALS Dinner

“I bear witness to the strength of people who can’t move a muscle,” said Jeff Oppenheimer, addressing a gathering of...

Ram Cnaan of The University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice

Faculty & Research

SP2 Professor Selected as Best Reviewer

Professor Ram Cnaan, MSW, PhD, director for the Program for Religion and Social Policy Research, was recently chosen as Best...

Discover More