Courses in Social Innovation

Below is a sample of some of the courses offered at Carnegie Mellon in the field of social innovation and entrepreneurship:

90-811: Foundations of Social Innovation and Enterprise, 6 units

Instructor: Tim Zak
This course provides an introduction to the field for budding social innovators, future funders and enablers of their efforts, and anyone else interested in learning more about the novel ways that some of the world's most pressing problems are being addressed. The context for social innovation and the "power shifts" driving the field will be presented. The introduction of human-centered design and solution prototyping concepts will allow participants to begin formulating their own ideas to solve big problems. Fundamentals in introduction plan modeling and refinement, along with an overview of both traditional and emerging capitalization strategies such as microfinance, competition prizes, venture capital, and government funding, will shape implementation plans. Particular emphasis throughout the course will be on highlighting specific examples of innovative products, services, environments, organizations, and modes of interaction aimed at changing the lives of the least fortunate. Finally, there will be discussion on the future of the field with attention focused on the efforts of global corporations and other enterprises to adapt social innovations to address the needs of consumers in established global markets.

90-827: Economics of Development, 12 units

Instructor: Mark Wessel
The course considers the characteristics of economic growth and conditions in the developing countries today, and the determinants of levels of output, consumption, capital formation and income distribution. Attention is focused on simple growth models as well as on dynamic dual economy models of development. The sources of economic growth are surveyed along with the role of investment, population, labor productivity and education.  Particular attention is given to the role of agriculture in development and to the potential contribution of foreign investment. The role of the expansion of domestic markets in industrialization is also considered. Policies designed to accelerate development are reviewed and assessed.

90-845: Social Innovation Incubator, 12 units

Instructor: Tim Zak
This course is for students interested in learning how to start a social innovation venture. While some participants may ultimately become social entrepreneurs, the course content is applicable to a wide variety of contexts in the public, private, and social sectors.
Through a variety of lectures, group exercises, directed working sessions, guest appearances by subject matter experts, readings, and case studies, students will be guided through an intensive, three-phased venture development process:

  • Phase #1: Assessing individual strengths, conceiving potential social venture concepts, and developing a compelling “pitch” to elicit necessary support
  • Phase #2: Testing the feasibility, impact, and market potential of a social venture to justify additional analysis, prototyping, and effort
  • Phase #3: Developing a comprehensive social venture plan that details operational, organizational, and financial considerations as well as social impact objectives to optimally position a social venture prior to launch

Guided by the practices of some of the world’s leading start-up incubators, this course will provide students with a structured, flexible, supported, and fast-cycle environment to take social ventures from “ideas to implementation”.

94-812: Technology for International Development, 12 units

Instructor: Joseph Mertz
This course looks at meaningful ways that information and communication technologies, especially the Internet and mobile phones, are being used to support development in the world’s poorest communities. How can technology be used to address the challenges of healthcare, education, good governance, environmental sustainability, disaster management, and economic development? And how is technology misapplied?  Technology for development has received increased interest in academia, industry (emerging markets), government (a shortcut to development), social enterprise (enabler of micro-credit, micro-finance, micro-insurance), and beyond. This has created a rich literature and interesting debates that draw on insights from a large number of fields. This course brings together technology and policy students to investigate jointly how technology can play a positive role in international development.

94-831: Design and Policy for Humanitarian Impact, 12 units

Instructor: Kristin Hughes (School of Design) and Tim Zak
In this combined lecture and lab-based course, students gain a sense of the history of social innovation in design, and the current and future role public policy has in shaping and defining conditions for change. This “systems thinking” approach, when applied to challenges at a societal and cultural scale, recognize the relationship between global and local concerns, the need to inform through verifiable data and evidence, and the role that crafters of public policy and design can have in promoting positive social change.  During the course students look at (1) the role of design and proven practices, frameworks, and methodologies that identify “root cause” problems and (2) understand roles, skills and evaluation methods that crafters of public policy and design need to advance social innovation. In the final 6-weeks of the course, students use a design framework and proven methodologies to conceptualize a solution to a specific social problem.

95-822: Technology Consulting in the Community, 12 units

Instructor: Joseph Mertz
In this course, students develop consulting and management skills while collaborating on site with a community leader of a non-profit community organization. Students learn process consulting, project management, communication, relationship management, problem identification, and analysis.

The class meets twice a week for instruction and discussion. In addition, each student is partnered with a leader in a community organization who they work with one-on-one 3 hours a week on-site.

The goals of the consulting partnership are:

  1. To expand the capacity of the community organization to use, plan for, and manage technology.
  2. In a way that is sustainable.
  3. And leads to a new vision for how technology can support the organizations mission.

Other relevant courses at the Heinz College include:

  • 90-880 The Strategy and Management of Technological Innovation
  • 91-809 Organizational Change: Transition and Transformation
  • 93-711 Entrepreneurship in Creative Enterprises
  • 94-810 Introduction to Supply Chain Management and Systems
  • 94-811 Strategy Development
  • 94-823 Measurement and Analysis of Social Media Initiatives
  • 94-840 Lean Entrepreneurship
  • 95-732 Interactive Marketing
  • 95-782 Global e-Business Strategy
  • 95-794 Tech Startup: Tools and Techniques
  • 95-859 Innovation and Technology

Other relevant courses at Carnegie Mellon include:

Carnegie Institute of Technology

  • 19-648 Special Topics: International Climate Adaptation & Infrastructure Innovation
  • 19-683 Innovation Policy and Processes
  • 19-648 Engineering and Technology Innovation Management in Practice
  • 19-696 Sustainable Development and Innovation
  • 39-600 Integrated Product Development

College of Fine Arts

  • 51-787 Introduction to DeXign the Future
  • 51-792 Designing and Leading a Business
  • 51-796 Design Ethos and Action

Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences

  • 88-771 Entrepreneurship, Regulation, and Technological Change

Mellon College of Science

  • 09-710 Introduction to Green Chemistry

School of Computer Science

  • 15-602 Special Topic: Innovating for Underserved Communities: Field Research Basics
  • 15-603 Special Topics: Seminar on Innovating for Underserved Communities

Tepper School of Business, Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

  • 45-805 Entrepreneurship for High Growth Companies
  • 45-806 Entrepreneurial Alternatives
  • 45-807 Commercialization and Innovation: Strategy
  • 45-824 Venture Capital & Private Equity
  • 45-905 Funding Early Stage Ventures
  • 45-907 Commercialization and Innovation: Workshop
  • 45-908 Marketing for Entrepreneurs
  • 45-909 Designing and Leading a Business