Social Entrepreneurship

Join us and learn how to develop, test, and deploy high-impact solutions to society's toughest challenges.

About The Course

Social entrepreneurs and social innovators are tackling and diminishing many of the world's problems. They achieve significant positive social impact through the creative and aggressive mobilization of people and other resources.

In Africa, a social entrepreneur built an enterprise which delivers 70 million daily protein servings into the region at significantly lower cost and at higher quality than before.  In India, rice husks are being burned to generate power enabling families to live, read, and learn after the sun goes down. In Latin America makeshift informal housing is being converted from fire-trap shanties into safe, concrete-based homes.

This course will cover a select set of topics associated with social innovation and entrepreneurship whether nonprofit or for-profit. Students will be able to choose their level of engagement by selecting either the open track, or the signature track. Students in the open track will master a set of strategy and planning tools essential for social innovation success. Students in the signature track will work throughout the term on a plan for an organization that they wish to create and will receive feedback from the course team.

By taking this course you will share in our combined 45 years of social entrepreneurship experience, and you will learn how to:

  1. Launch social entrepreneurship projects which have high-potential of significant positive social impact,
  2. Direct energy and limited resources to efficiently launching those projects with the most promise,
  3. Apply tools and frameworks to testing and scaling your own social enterprise.
As mentioned above, there are two tracks in this course. The first is the Open Track (listed on the course homepage as "Join for Free") in which you do assignments given to you by the instructors based on cases and problems in the world. The work you do on these assignments will be assessed by other students in the course.

The second track is the Signature Track in which you bring your own project to the course and the assignments you complete are related to the project you are pursuing. In this track your assignments will be assessed by teaching assistants (TA's) at Wharton / Penn at the end of the course. Signature Track students will be peer assessed in the same manner as the Open Track on a weekly basis, and are required to submit the full weekly assignment. However, Open Track students need only assess the Open Track assignment which they themselves have submitted.


Students in the signature track who complete the course at a high level will be eligible to apply for a full scholarship to the Penn Social Impact House. At a retreat in Vieques, Puerto Rico, 20 of the best emerging social entrepreneurs from around the world will gather in a live-work environment for one week under the guidance of leading experts and practitioners to work on the development of their ideas (http://www.penn.socialimpacthouse.com/).

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can I ask questions during the course? 
    Please post all inquiries in the appropriate weekly sub-forum. [LINK] 

  • Will I get a Statement of Accomplishment after completing this class?
    Yes. Students who successfully complete the class will receive a Statement of Accomplishment signed by the instructor. However, only Signature Track students will receive a Verified Certificate. University of Pennsylvania credit. 

  • What resources will I need for this class?
    There are no required readings materials for the course, and the workbook that you will is available to download for free. For a list of recommended materials, see the "Suggested Readings" section. 

  • Who will grade my assignments?
    Your assignments will not be graded. However, should you choose to submit your assignments for feedback, we propose the following guidelines:

    Open Track: Participants may volunteer to form groups of up to 7 in the most appropriate sub-forum (ie. energy, education, health, water, etc.). Note that this is not a course requirement. In order to facilitate an efficient and collegial peer assessment process, we suggest that group members agree with one another to assess submitted work of each team member on a weekly basis in exchange for the assessment of their own submission. Our recommended assessment template can be found in the "Grading and Logistics" tab of the navigation bar. 

    Signature Track: In addition to the voluntary peer assessment articulated for the Open Track above, participants must combine all course assignments into a Venture Plan and submit it to our team by 5pm EST on October 31st. Our team will review and provide feedback on submitted Venture Plans between November 15th-30th. Those interested in competing for the Penn Social Impact House Scholarship must submit a 2-minute or less video pitch of their idea by 5pm EST on October 31st.

  • What is the time commitment for this course?
    As much as you want it to be. The online nature of the course renders it very flexible, so that you may take it at your own pace. Since this course is intended to help you evaluate a social venture idea from beginning to end, how much time you put in depends partially on the nature and development stage of your idea. 

  • Do I need to have a venture idea in mind before beginning this course?
    No. Week One of the course will help you identify problems that you may wish to develop solutions for.

  • How should I leverage the global, entrepreneurial peer community in this course?
    Actively engage in the forums. Through this course, you gain access to an extremely valuable community of entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds. (At the time of launch, registered students spanned across 183 countries.) Take advantage of this community by bouncing ideas off each other, seeking each other's experiences on challenges you are currently facing, and organizing meet-ups with people in your area who are interested in the same beneficiary market. 

Recommended Background

No prior experience required!