Courses in Social Innovation

Below is a sample of some of the courses offered at Carnegie Mellon in the field of social innovation.

90-827: Economics of Development, 12 units

Instructor: Mark Wessel

The course considers the characteristics of economic growth and conditions in the developing countries today, and the determinants of levels of output, consumption, capital formation and income distribution. Attention is focused on simple growth models as well as on dynamic dual economy models of development. The sources of economic growth are surveyed along with the role of investment, population, labor productivity and education.

Particular attention is given to the role of agriculture in development and to the potential contribution of foreign investment. The role of the expansion of domestic markets in industrialization is also considered. Policies designed to accelerate development are reviewed and assessed.

90-843: Branding and Marketing Strategies for Entrepreneurial Nonprofits and Social Enterprises, 12 units

Instructor: Jerr Boschee

In this course, students will receive both a theoretical and practical introduction to entrepreneurship in the nonprofit world, with a special emphasis on strategic planning, branding, marketing and stakeholder engagement. The course is open to any graduate student from any department at Carnegie Mellon University and also to final year undergraduates.
Among other subjects, the course will cover:

  • Basic principles, including the differences between strategic and tactical marketing
  • How to hone an organization's strategic focus (the "organized abandonment" process)
  • How to develop a strategic framework (driving forces, basic business model, vision and mission statements, core values, long-term social and financial goals, critical success factors, environmental threats and opportunities, differentiation strategies)
  • How to create a memorable brand
  • How to identify and mobilize stakeholders to support your brand
  • How to craft powerful messages that win share of mind and build awareness, understanding and credibility
  • How to forge strategic partnerships
  • How to develop tactical marketing plans for each program, product and service (the "marketing mix" - packaging, pricing, distribution channels and marketing communications)
  • How to measure the success of your marketing plans, strategies and tactics - and make course corrections

90-845: Social Enterprise Incubator, 12 units

Instructor: Jerr Boschee

This is a course for students interested in learning how to start a for-profit or nonprofit social enterprise. A "social enterprise" is defined as a business that directly addresses a social need through its products and services rather than indirectly through socially responsible business practices such as corporate philanthropy, equitable wages and environmentally friendly operations – or through the "unrelated business" activities mounted by nonprofits. The class is open to any graduate student from any department at Carnegie Mellon University and also to final year undergraduates.
Each student will be guided through an intensive, three-stage business development process:

  • Stage One: Students will brainstorm possible business ideas and conduct feasibility studies to determine their viability
  • Stage Two: Once feasibility has been demonstrated, each student will create a strategic framework for his or her business (driving forces, basic business model, vision and mission statements, core values, long-term social and financial goals, critical success factors, environmental threats and opportunities, differentiation strategies)
  • Stage Three: The final step will be to develop a business plan (including, but not limited to, an analysis of the industry, the competition, and the market; a branding strategy and marketing plan; an organizational structure and operations plan; cash flow projections and financing strategies; and an outline of risks and contingency plans)

90-855: Technology for Developing Countries, 12 units

Instructor: Joseph Mertz

This course studies meaningful ways to use advanced technologies to support developing communities worldwide. It focuses on communities that include the poorest 4 billion people: people who today lack access to modern technologies and infrastructure.

The course will cover three broad areas relating to technology and development:

  • What are the economic and social contexts in developing communities?
  • How is technology currently be used for sustainable development?
  • What new technology research is needed?

Because of the nature of the subject, this course will be broad and interdisciplinary. It will cover the basics of technology, economics, and policy, and expect students to explore specific areas of interest in depth on their own. Each student will carry out a project of the student¹s design, and participate in a whole-class project.

90-874: Entrepreneurship, 6 units

Instructor: Babs Carryer

This course provides an overview of the entrepreneurial process, from evaluating the opportunity/idea through development. It also examines issues of importance including startup strategies, raising funds, assessing risks, legal aspects, marketing ideas, and managing resources and growth. This course allows students to foster a spirit of entrepreneurship and provides a background for startup ventures.

90-858: Microfinance and Development, 6 units

Instructor: Alison Yonas

Microfinance is the provision of financial services including credit, savings, and insurance to the entrepreneurial poor. During the past 20 years, there has been dramatic growth in the development resources directed at microfinance and in the number of participants in the industry. Microfinance has achieved prominence because of its sustainability, scale, and continued success, even in the face of macroeconomic upheaval and natural disasters. This course will examine microfinance from a developmental, operational, and even psychological perspective. It will examine key issues in the history, design, management, and evaluation of microfinance programs.

Topics likely to be addressed include:

  • The Context for Microfinance (informal sector and the financial needs of poor house-holds, origins of microenterprise development, developmental significance of micro-enterprises, gender issues and microenterprise, evolution since the 1970's)
  • Methodologies and Technologies (case studies of leading microfinance institutions, analysis of the major lending methodologies, sources of financing, tools for measuring financial and managerial performance and economic and social impact)
  • The Psychology of Microfinance and Entrepreneurship (empowerment of people who then help themselves, movement of the poor from bystanders to agents of change, partnership rather than patronage)

Students will gain skills applicable to:

  • Developing financial products and services that address the needs of poor clients
  • Financing, administering, and technically supporting programs that offer such services
  • Evaluating the financial and social impact of these programs on households and communities