Sharing Advice Free Enterprise Staff  | January 3, 2017

5 Invaluable Online Classes For Aspiring Social Entrepreneurs

Continually sharpening your business acumen is a wise choice for any entrepreneur, and social impact entrepreneurs are no exception. Thankfully, the Internet has made it relatively quick and easy to enroll in classes that expand your entrepreneurial skills and knowledge base on the go, helping you be the change you want to see in the world, at your own pace and on your own time.

There’s no shortage of inspiring online courses on critical social entrepreneurial concepts available, but who has time to sift through them all? No worries — we’ve done the work for you. Here are five excellent online courses every social entrepreneur should consider taking when setting out to make a profit while making a difference. They cover everything from honing your business idea to securing your first paying customers and beyond.

1. Unite For Sight Social Entrepreneurship Course

This free, self-paced certificate program — offered by Unite For Sight, a New Haven, Connecticut-based nonprofit eye care organization founded by a Yale University student in 2000 — offers the basics of social entrepreneurship in nine short modules.

Topics covered include the defining characteristics of social entrepreneurs, the role of innovation and “outside-of-the-box” thinking in social entrepreneurship, and how to measure the success of a social venture by assessing its impact.

2. Identifying Social Entrepreneurship Opportunities

In this $49, five-week Coursera massive open online course (MOOC) — offered by the Denmark’s Copenhagen Business School and taught by professor Kai Hockerts of the Centre for Corporate Social responsibility — participants learn how to identify the specific social problem they’d like to help solve and how to create a profitable business that successfully addresses the problem.

Students work together in teams to thoroughly research the social issues they aim to tackle. The bulk of the class, which highlights the importance of both profit and social purpose, is taught through a blend of video lectures and reading assignments.

3. Social Impact Strategy: Tools for Entrepreneurs and Innovators

Also offered via Coursera, this $49, four-week University of Pennsylvania course takes students a step further than in the class listed above, walking them through turning their passion for changing the world into concrete, actionable business plans for launching a venture designed to achieve a social goal.

Through a mix of video lectures and reading assignments from professor Peter Frumkin of UPenn’s School of Social Policy and Practice, students move through the four critical stages of launching a social enterprise. These include: defining your goals, designing your business, piloting your venture, and scaling it. Students will also develop and test innovative solutions, assess risks, size up the competition, and explore ways to spread impact through financially sustainable means.

4. Social Entrepreneurship: A Crash Course

If your busy schedule doesn’t have room for a course that chews up four to six hours a week for multiple weeks (like most of the ones above), this $15 Udemy video crash course might be a better fit for you. The “insanely useful” class is taught by Jessica Lax, director of Ashoka Canada, co-founder of School For Change, and formerly of the Collaborative for Innovation Social Enterprise Development.

In just over one hour, you’ll be exposed to five of the most useful tools today’s top social entrepreneurs use, as well as the basics of social entrepreneurship jargon, which is more complicated than you might think. In the process, which includes a reading through a compelling case study, you’ll also unravel the following concepts: earned revenue, impact capital, impact measurement, and human-centered social business design.

5. Social Entrepreneurship: How To Launch a Lean Startup You Love

Unlike the classes above, this $15 three-and-a-half-hour Udemy video course primarily zeroes in on securing your social enterprise’s first paying customers, or, in other words, how to put the profit in your purpose.

Taught by serial social entrepreneur Kevin Starke, co-founder of Build a Profitable Social Venture, you’ll also learn strategies for brainstorming solutions that will resonate with your target audience, scripts to gain traction with potential investors and customers, and specific, actionable tips on how to run a successful — and specifically lean — social venture over the long term.