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How this course works

How is this course set up and structured? In this article, Georg von Schnurbein summarizes the issues and learning outcomes.

This course introduces you to new concepts in the field of management for nonprofits and social businesses. In particular, it provides you with the economic tools that are needed to apply entrepreneurship in nonprofits. In five weeks, you will learn about organizational theories, the concepts of social enterprise and social innovation, how to finance 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, Debbie Haski-Leventhal (Maquarie University, Australia), Minhaz Anwar (, Bangladesh), and Victor Valenzuela Araucania Hub for Social Innovation will talk about the state of social entrepreneurship in different countries. Finally, Cintia Jaime from SapoCycle gives you an insight into her personal experience as a social entrepreneur and Pascal Biedermann tells the story of how he and his team 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 differences 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 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 that nonprofits face 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 his interview with Georg von Schnurbein, he talks about the major discourses of organizational theories today and their importance for the development of 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 nonprofits and social enterprises? 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 respective countries. 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 countries.

Week 3: Introduction to social innovation

What types of innovation exist 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 familiarize yourself 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 will discuss practical examples of technological and social innovation such as electric cars, carpooling, or public transportation, as well as the current state of social innovation research and the scientific understanding of social innovation. In the second part of the week, you will 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, and own revenues, and we will present criteria for financial planning such as governance/ethics, competence, efficiency, volatilities, and interdependencies. We will take 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 will be able to explore alternative funding methods and sources. We will take a closer look at the core ideas of impact investing and discuss different types of new models of financing impact. To sum up the week, we will 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 become 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 will develop your own logic framework for your social initiative or project and learn about the theory of change, a logical approach to solving a social problem supported by evidence from measurement models. In the final steps of this course, we will address the following questions: Why impact measurement? What is the benefit? We will 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 will be able to discuss the pros and cons of impact measurement and sharpen your opinion 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. Further exploration is possible in the certificate course on global social entrepreneurship at the University of Basel. You can find more information on our certificate course on global social entrepreneurship following this link.

Get extra benefits, upgrade your course

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.

Access to tests: ensure you’ve mastered the material with access to tests on the course.

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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Entrepreneurship in Nonprofits

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