The Business of Social Innovation - FAQs


What is the Business of Social Innovation online certificate? 
The Business of Social Innovation online certificate is an innovative new set of four courses designed to help you on your journey to become a social entrepreneur: a changemaker able to see social problems as opportunities to create innovative, viable organizations to address them. Upon completion, you will emerge with knowledge and skills to design sustainable solutions to social problems and viable business models to implement them.

This is the first time a program of this kind has been offered. Using convenient online courses, experienced faculty, and guest speakers, the program brings together diverse groups of students, from within the university and from the community, to learn the fundamental skills for creating change through entrepreneurship.

Our faculty include experienced social entrepreneurs, social impact research faculty, and social intrapreneurs. Guest speakers have included social change designers from, biomimicry experts, and successful social entrepreneurs.

Students in the Oregon University System can earn an academic certificate or opt to just take courses as electives.

Why did PSU’s Impact Entrepreneurs develop this program?
Our aspiration is to contribute to more joy and less suffering in the world by partnering with individuals like you and creating more changemakers.

Impact Entrepreneurs has delivered social entrepreneurship courses and incubation programs to students and professionals in Portland and around the world.  The courses have been developed in consultation with leading researchers, practitioners and experts including Ashoka U and As a designated Ashoka U Changemaker Campus, PSU has been internationally recognized for its leadership in teaching and enabling social entrepreneurship.

We have worked with hundreds of individuals through programs, interviews, and design sessions to refine our courses and create an experience that can deepen your skill base, strengthen your qualities as a leader of change, and help you approach challenges in new, more effective ways. 

Do I have to be a business student to take the courses in this program?
No, we encourage everyone to take this course. Changemaking is everyone’s business. Lasting solutions are created when people come together, regardless of age or academic background, and put their minds, passions, and skills to work to create change.

Do I need to have a background in business to take the courses in this program?
No, we will teach you the fundamental business skills and entrepreneurial methods. A teaching assistant will be available to provide additional tutoring if you need some extra help at any time.

I have already learned a lot about business. What do these courses bring that I don’t already know?
Your business skills will come in handy, but addressing social problems through business requires using business skills in a different way and thinking about the business model completely differently.

How many hours per week will the courses in this program take?
These are four-credit courses. Each course is 10 weeks except the in-person practicum. You should expect to spend as much time as you would for a regular four-credit course, typically 10-12 clock hours per week, but how you spend that time each week can vary. A typical week will include 4-8 hours for reading, lectures, live webinars, and online discussions. In addition, you will have assignments that will take 2-6 hours/week (double for accelerated course). You can choose when to do these activities, but they must be completed on an ongoing basis. Assignments will often require you to schedule interviews and meetings on your own time. Your instructors will be actively engaged throughout the courses and provide you with significant feedback to help you develop entrepreneurial skills and concepts.

How many courses are in the program and what are they about?
The program consists of four courses that can be completed within 12 months.

Design Thinking for Social Innovation – Fall 
Apply design thinking and lean entrepreneurship best practices to identify social change opportunities and drive social innovation in pursuit of solutions to the world’s greatest challenges.

Money Matters – Winter 
Learn the business model and legal fundamentals of social ventures, the best funding sources and strategies, and how to forecast and manage for financial success.

Storytelling and Impact Measurement – Spring 
Develop and share your personal story and that of your proposed organization using marketing strategies, the latest social media tools, and cutting-edge impact measurement frameworks.

Field Study Practicum –  Summer in Portland or abroad 
Using the knowledge and experiences gained in the prior three courses, you will be ready to finish the design of a new social venture and join a Portland (July) or international (August) field study to work and live alongside some of the world’s most innovative social entrepreneurs.

Do I have to take the courses in a specific sequence?
It is up to you, but of you have the flexibility, we recommend starting the program with the winter (January) Design Thinking for Social Innovation course. You may be able to place out of a course if you have had an equivalent experience. Examples include a previous international study abroad course with Impact Entrepreneurs or membership in the Social Innovation Incubator.

What is the shortest amount of time to complete the courses in the entire program?
The entire program is designed to be completed within 12 months. 

How long do I have to complete the course?
You have two years to complete all of the courses in the planned certificate.

Where does the Practicum Field Study take place?
We have offered courses in Oregon, India, Cambodia, and Nicaragua. Locations may differ from year to year.


Why is there an application for undergrads?
Two reasons: we expect high demand for this course, and this is a 400-level course requiring permission for undergrads to register.


How much does it cost?

Tuition varies depending on whether you are a student seeking a degree at PSU, a student not seeking a degree at PSU, a graduate or undergraduate, and whether you are an Oregon resident or taking the course from out-of-state or out-of-country. Please contact Impact Entrepreneurs or PSU Student Financial Services for more information. 

Are there discounts? 
If you choose non-credit registration and register more than 30 days prior to the start of the course, a 10% discount will be given. PSU staff can receive an employee discount by following the regular course discount process. Professionals are eligible for need-based scholarships up to $400 off tuition. Email for a scholarship application.