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This content is taken from the University of Basel's online course, Entrepreneurship in Nonprofits. Join the course to learn more.

How this course works

This course introduces you to new concepts in the field of management for nonprofits and social businesses. Especially, it supplies you with the economic tools that are needed to apply entrepreneurship in nonprofits. In five weeks, you learn about organizational theories, the concepts of social enterprise and social innovation, financing social initiatives, and different models of impact measurement.

Your course team

Your lead educator, Georg von Schnurbein, will guide you through this course.

Course contributors and mentors

A lot of people contributed to this course. You will get academic insights from Michael Meyer (Vienna University of Business and Economics), Elisabeth Searing (University of New York, Albany), Jürgen Howaldt (University of Duisburg-Essen), and Dennis Young (professor emeritus at University of Georgia). Additionally, you will receive impressions on the state of social entrepreneurship in different countries by Debbie Haski-Leventhal (Maquarie University, Australia), Minhaz Anwar (betterstories.org, Bangladesh), and Victor Valenzuela (Araucania Hub for Social Innovation Chile). Finally, Cintia Jaime from SapoCycle gives you an insight on her personal experiences as social entrepreneur and Pascal Biedermann tells the story about how the turned an old factory site into a vital community center.

When you work through the course, you will also meet Nicholas Arnold. He will be active in certain weeks of this course as a mentor. You might also want to follow him to keep track of how this course evolves.

Course topics

You will explore the subject matter of social entrepreneurship in five weeks. Every week focuses on one topic.

  • In the first week you learn about organizational theories and entrepreneurship.
  • In the following week you discuss the difference between nonprofit and social enterprise and gain insights into the state of social entrepreneurship in different countries.
  • The third week introduces the concept of social innovation.
  • In the fourth week you explore the challenges of nonprofit finance.
  • In the last course week you finally learn how you can measure the effectiveness of your project and get acquainted with different models of impact measurement.

This is the course in a nutshell. Now let us explore in more detail what questions and issues will be addressed during those five weeks.

Week 1: Organizational theories and entrepreneurship

In the first week, we introduce you to the challenges nonprofits are facing today. You learn about important theories such as path dependency, resource dependency, or institutional isomorphism to understand organizations in a long-term perspective and to make informed decisions. Towards the end of the week, you will meet Professor Michael Meier from Vienna University, an expert in the academic field of nonprofit-management. In the interview with Georg von Schnurbein, he talks about the major discourses of organizational theories today and their importance for the development nonprofits.

Week 2: Social entrepreneurship

In the second week, the focus lies on the following questions: What is a social enterprise? What is the difference between nonprofit and social entreprise? What is the state of social entrepreneurship in different countries? What skills do you need to become a successful entrepreneur? What are the current trends for nonprofits? Through articles, insights into practice, and a case study you first explore and discuss the term social enterprise and the varying perspectives on what a social enterprise is. Then, in the second part of the week, you can listen to startup activist Minhaz Anwar from betterstoriesfoundation in Bangladesh, associate professor Debbie Haski-Leventhal of Macquarie University in Australia, and Victor Valenzuela, co-founder of Araucania Hub for Social Innovation in Chile. In conversation with Georg von Schnurbein Anwar, Haski-Leventhal, and Valenzuela give an insight into the state of social entrepreneurship in their country. They talk about topics such as Bangladesh’s large social enterprises, Australia’s and India’s fast growing markets for social enterprises, the promoters and funders of social entrepreneurship, the importance of international networks, and the problems social enterprises try to solve in their respective country.

Week 3: Introduction to social innovation

What types of innovation are existing and how can we differentiate between them? In the third week, the focus lies on the concept of social innovation. Throughout the week, you will become familiar with theoretical reflections on the concepts of innovation and invention and Tim Brown’s three types of innovation depending on the users/clients and the offers/markets. We discuss practical examples of technological and social innovation such as electric cars, carpooling, or public transportation and the current state of social innovation research and the scientific understanding of social innovation. In the second part of the week, you meet Pascal Biedermann, an inspiring musician and social entrepreneur from Basel, Switzerland. Together with a small group of people, he developed the so-called Gundeldingerfeld, an old industrial fallow that was turned into a lively new district with versatile usage options. You will have the chance to discuss social innovation with your fellow learners and develop your own social innovation model.

Week 4: New financing models

This week introduces you to the challenges of nonprofit finance. You will learn about financial management and budgeting as well as financial reporting and impact investing in nonprofits. We will discuss categories of financial sources such as state funding, private donations, own revenues and present criteria for financial planning such as governance/ethics, competence, efficiency, volatilities, and interdependencies. We will have a look at the relevant concepts and indicators for practical use that help you plan, manage, and control your financial resources. In the second part of the week, you can explore alternative funding methods and sources. We will have a closer look at the core ideas of impact investing as well as discuss different types of new models of financing impact. To sum up the week, we ask you to put what you have learned into practice and analyze and plan your financial resources for a new initiative in your organization or a new social enterprise.

Week 5: Impact measurement

Are we making a difference? In the last week of this course, you will be acquainted with the so-called logic framework, an important concept for planning and understanding social change, and you will investigate different methods of impact measurement. You develop your own logic framework for your social initiative or project and learn about the theory of change, a logical approach to solve a social problem supported by evidence from measurement models. In the final steps of this course we address the following questions: Why impact measurement? What is the benefit? We discuss basic concepts and methods and show you how to use and develop indicators to get information about the potentials of outcome and impact because outcome and impact can usually not be measured directly. You can discuss the pros and cons of impact measurement and critically assess the issue of impact measurement and sharpen your opinion on this subject. To conclude the course, lead educator Georg von Schnurbein will highlight cross linkages between the different chapters and draw up a holistic perspective on entrepreneurship in nonprofits.

Altogether, this MOOC explores new avenues to entrepreneurial thinking in nonprofits. A further exploration is possible in the certificate course on global social entrepreneurship at the University of Basel. You find more information on our certificate course on global social entrepreneurship following this link.

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You can get extra benefits by upgrading this course, including:

Unlimited access to the course: go at your own pace with unlimited access to the course for as long as it exists on FutureLearn.

A Certificate of Achievement or Statement of Participation: to help you demonstrate your learning we’ll send you a Certificate of Achievement or Statement of Participation when you become eligible.

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This article is from the free online course:

Entrepreneurship in Nonprofits

University of Basel