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Creating a Pathway for Social Entrepreneurship

December 4, 2018 at 3:47PM
Creating a Pathway for Social Entrepreneurship

Turning an idea into an innovative company is no small feat. When that company is driven by the desire to make a social impact, it can be hard to stand apart from the crowd and build a venture that is sustainable and scalable, whether it’s a for profit or a not-for profit business. 

Enter the Business Design for Social Impact online certificate from Open Campus. This project-based, fully online program enables  professionals to workshop an idea for a venture or internal company initiative. Through the completion of four, six-week courses, students learn equity-centered, design-led approaches to building a business focused on making a social impact. We asked the program’s creators, Cynthia Lawson, Associate Professor of Integrated Design at Parsons School of Design and Michele Kahane, SPE Associate Dean of Educational Innovation and Social Engagement, to tell us more about what students can expect in the program and why this certificate is needed today.


What was the catalyst for creating the Business Design for Social Impact program? 

The New School has been supporting entrepreneurial education for a long time and across our different degree granting programs. We have developed a unique curriculum, which blends entrepreneurship with design for social impact and sustainability. With support from the Kauffman Foundation, we are delighted that we are now able to offer this curriculum to a wider audience through this online certificate. We share the Foundation’s goal of inclusivity, and we are excited that an online noncredit education will reach even more students who are interested in leading changemaking in their communities.


Why is this certificate important now?

Entrepreneurial mindsets and skills are in high demand in the new economy. At the same time, there is demand for new solutions that enhance environmental sustainability and that meet human needs like better health, sanitation, education, and financial security. Whether you are currently employed or seeking to start a venture, this certificate will help you tackle complex problems creatively and add critical skills to your toolbox. 



What is an example of a company integrating issues of power and privilege into the mission of their venture?

One of the companies that was seeded a few years ago with support from The New School is Drive Change, which uses the food truck industry to broaden access to opportunity, reduce recidivism, and increase job-readiness for young adults coming out of adult jail in New York City. Their story, mission, structure, and programming ensure a diversity of voices in the organization, which in turns amplifies the impact they can have on their target audience. 


Should students already have a business idea in mind before they take this certificate?

Yes, we strongly encourage students to bring an idea they want to develop into the certificate. Course assignments are designed to support you as you develop your idea into a launchable venture, or new product, service, program, or initiative. 


How will students collaborate in their courses, since the program is entirely online?

It’s a great opportunity to enroll in this course as a team, if you already have one. If not, each course has been produced with the highest commitment to dynamic online teaching and learning, and will provide opportunities to connect across your peers. At a most basic level, you will have an opportunity to receive feedback online from peers in the course. Some assignments will require that students find a “buddy” in the course when possible. Generally, we have heard from students in prior courses that they find this kind of pairing up, even when working on very different ideas, is extremely helpful to advance their own ventures. 


Why is Open Campus the perfect destination for this certificate?

This certificate models what’s at the core of The New School and Open Campus – socially-engaged learning that uses the power and creativity of design to work towards a more just and sustainable future for people from all walks of life. This certificate is multi-disciplinary by design, and builds on The New School and Parsons’ 100+ years of bringing together design, social sciences, and management.



Learn more and enroll in the program here




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