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Industry Snapshot: Business Design for Social Impact

April 10, 2019 at 12:05PM
Industry Snapshot: Business Design for Social Impact

Consumers today tend to look for companies that are honest, responsible and dedicated to addressing and driving change for important social justice issues. Leaders, innovators and designers are now given the opportunity to make an impact well-beyond profit margins in their business ventures.


Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is no longer optional, more and more, the public demands that the companies they support should stand for something, manage in authenticity, and practice what they preach. As leaders in business must now recognize, it’s increasingly imminent that the mindsets of newer generations are shifting. As consumer attitudes reflect a growing global awareness, business practices must begin to shift as well to make an impact. 

From small nonprofit companies to larger organizations, businesses of varying sizes are adapting to the current marketplace and giving back in a variety of ways. Whether these organizations are based on donation models, awareness building, or best practices to benefit the community, possibilities to make an impact are growing. In addition, social innovation can expect to increase as opportunities for investment from the government and philanthropists further support the mission for establishing and supporting social impact ventures. 


At the core of successful social enterprises are teams of individuals focused on discovering desirable, and equitable, solutions for the benefit of the public. Effective leaders will often turn to design thinking methodologies to answer the complex problems the world is facing. Acquiring skills in design thinking, social justice, business design, team management, and leadership often marks the first stage of cause-driven business development.

Skills to Acquire:

  • Design Thinking

  • Social Justice

  • Business Design

  • Team Management

  • Leadership

Build these skills and understand the best approaches for creating equitable and socially conscious initiatives with our online Business Design for Social Impact certificate. Students will emerge from the program with future-forward business skills such as business model creation, organizational leadership, and the ability to pitch socially-relevant ventures to investors. 

The certificate builds upon students’ knowledge by taking them from their desired business concepts to an established and thought-out venture, navigating from the prototyping phases all the way through to the creation of tested proof of concepts. 

The program consists of 4 individual online courses. Students are advised to complete the program in the following sequence:

  • Introduction to Design, Social Impact, and Entrepreneurship 

  • Designing Impact: From Idea to Proof of Concept 

  • Business Models and Strategy for Social Impact

  • Launch and Scale Your Social Impact Venture

Learn more about the Business Design for Social Impact certificate from the program’s creators, Cynthia Lawson and Michele Kahane, and discover what students can expect in the program and why this certificate is necessary today. 

Highlights of the program include exposure to real-world ventures via virtual class trips. Cynthia brings students to the NYC artisan bakery, Sweet Generation, to learn more about its mission. Founded by Amy Chasan, Sweet Generation has become much more than a bakery as every cupcake and pastry purchase supports their growing internship program for at-risk youth. Each season, Sweet Generation RISE employs and trains a number of interns between the ages of 16 and 24 who have limited access to employment opportunities. The internship program provides a creative space for teens and young adults, preparing them for job-readiness and encouraging social-emotional development. 


Career opportunities in this realm are defined by the development of business, design, and leadership skills. Uncover potential career pathways to begin your journey toward a socially impactful enterprise.

Potential Occupations & Job Titles: 

  • Entrepreneurs

  • Innovation officers

  • General and Operational Managers

  • Supervisors

  • Customer Service Representative

  • Marketing and PR directors

  • Business Operations Specialists

  • Accountants

Opportunities for work in this sphere are abundant if you know just where to look. prides itself on its listings for non-profit, volunteer, and full-time positions dedicated to job-seekers striving to make a difference. Their blog, Idealist Careers, offers an online collection of inspiring and useful content revolving around social-impact. For freelance work, Wethos offers an array of opportunities for professionals with purpose, committed to finding work for individuals that aligns with their values. 


Learn more about socially impactful business careers to find your fit and get started in this growing field:

  • Stay informed on current events and business affairs by checking out Huffington Post’s Social Justice and This New World pages, and NPR’s Business section.

  • Discover how brand purpose is the future for majority of marketing leaders

  • Get inspired! These 100 female entrepreneurs are making a difference and changing the world.

  • Hoping to launch a socially impactful business? Consider these 5 tips before you get started.

Written by Casey O'Connell for Open Campus.

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