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Course Details

Course Number: 90-845

Social Enterprise Incubator

Units: 12

Social innovation ventures are organizations that directly address a social need through their products and services and derive their financially sustainability through market-based activities rather than indirectly through socially responsible business practices such as corporate philanthropy, equitable wages, or environmentally friendly operations or through the “unrelated business” activities done by nonprofits. Like any entrepreneurial activity, social ventures require creative ideas, meticulous planning, focused execution, and the flexibility to withstand unanticipated challenges and competitive responses. However, unlike a typical business startup, they consider positive social impacts to be at least as important as financial returns. As a result, social ventures can be distinctly different from “pure” business start-ups in a variety of ways including measures of performance, sources of investment capital, organizational form, and the ongoing attraction of talent and support.

This course is for students interested in learning how to start a social innovation venture. While some participants may ultimately become social entrepreneurs, the course content is applicable to a wide variety of contexts in the public, private, and social sectors. For example, future policy mavens, corporate bigwigs, nonprofit moguls, and “do good” investors will all find something to take away from topics covered during the semester.

Through a variety of lectures, group exercises, directed working sessions, guest appearances by subject matter experts, readings, and case studies, students will be guided through an intensive, three-phased venture development process:

• Phase #1: Assessing individual strengths, conceiving potential social venture concepts, and developing a compelling “pitch” to elicit necessary support

• Phase #2: Testing the feasibility, impact, and market potential of a social venture to
justify additional analysis, prototyping, and effort

• Phase #3: Developing a comprehensive social venture plan that details operational,
organizational, and financial considerations as well as social impact objectives to
optimally position a social venture prior to launch

Guided by the practices of some of the world’s leading start-up incubators, this course will provide students with a structured, flexible, supported, and fast-cycle environment to take social ventures from “ideas to implementation”. As a result, the course will be structured at various times like a graduate seminar or a studio class that might be found at a design school, as well as a traditional “lecture-and-listen” format.

Participants will not be competing with each other. Instead, the goal is for all students to produce exceptional, practical outcomes resulting from both individual and collective contributions. There will be ample opportunity for students to distinguish themselves through thoughtful participation, reflections on assigned readings and experiences, and the completion of various assignments contributing to a complete social venture plan.
Since starting almost anything requires substantial effort and the need for financially sustainable solutions addressing the world’s (region’s, nation’s,…) most vexing problems is substantial, the primary mantra for this course will be “go big or go home” (and have fun at the same time), both financially and in the degree of potential social impact delivered by proposed ventures.