Featured Courses

This page highlights Harvard courses related to SICI’s work, including social innovation, systems change, and entrepreneurship. Courses are grouped by the term in which they are offered.


Power and Influence for Positive Impact

January and March 2023, offered via Harvard Business School Online

Professor Julie Battilana

Power and Influence for Positive Impact is a field guide for individuals at any stage of their career to understand how power really works and develop their own power to gain influence and make an impact—within professional relationships, organizations, or more broadly in society. This course explores the fundamentals of power and the importance of relationships and networks as a source of power for all. Participants will learn how to read power dynamics in organizations and society, influence others, lead change, avoid the pitfalls of power, and hold the powerful accountable.

Fall 2022

MLD-340: Power and Influence for Positive Impact

Term: Fall 2022, Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School (2057)

Professor Julie Battilana

Designed for individuals at any stage of their career, this course is meant to debunk the fallacies that we have about power and to explore the fundamentals of power in interpersonal relationships, in organizations, and in society. In doing so, it will lift the veil on power, revealing to you what it really is, and how it works, ultimately unleashing your potential to build and use power to effect change at home, at work, and in society. It is meant for those who want to make things happen, despite the obstacles that might stand in your way. This course is also intended to prepare you to use power responsibly, resist its corruptive perils, and exercise it to make the world a better place. As such, it will equip you to leverage power and influence not for personal gain, but to challenge the status quo in order to address some of the most pressing social and environmental problems of our time, from fighting racism to reducing economic inequalities, saving the planet, and protecting democracy.

The course introduces conceptual models, tactical approaches, and assessment tools to help you develop your own influence style and understand political dynamics as they unfold around you. By focusing on specific expressions of power and influence, this course will give you the opportunity to observe effective—and ineffective—uses of power in different contexts and stages of a person’s career. The subject matter will challenge you to define for yourself what constitutes the ethical exercise of power and influence in your life.

Also offered by the Harvard Business School as 2057. The course will be held this fall across the Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School campuses on Tuesday evenings from 4:45PM – 6:45PM. This course is jointly sponsored by both schools and will be open to students from each, as well as a set number of cross registrants and auditors from the other schools. By opening the classroom in such a way, the course will mirror the necessary collaboration across sectors that organizations and industries must adopt in order to address the multidimensional crises we face today and successfully effect change.

MLD-820M: Strategies for Social Impact

Term: Fall 1 2022, Harvard Kennedy School

Professor Matthew Lee

This course is for those interested in leading or advising organizations focused on social and environmental impact. Using frameworks currently in use in the social sector, we will study several of the core challenges faced by impact-driven organizations and their leaders: How can your individual organization make real progress on a complex, wicked problems? What does it take to identify and align external stakeholders and supporters around your intended impact? Can impact really be measured, and if so, how? What internal levers can be used to improve efficiency and effectiveness?

This course will be participation-based and will include case discussions, in-class exercises, and guest speakers. We will draw on examples and lessons from non-profit organizations, social enterprises, for-profit impact-first companies such as benefit corporations, and public sector organizations. Throughout the course, students will be challenged to consider the strengths and weaknesses of these different strategies and ways of organizing to pursue social impact at scale.

MLD-830: Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Private and Social Sectors

Term: Fall 2022, Harvard Kennedy School

Professor Richard Cavanagh

This course introduces the theory and practice of entrepreneurial management in the private and social sectors. Provides students with a set of strategic and management frameworks to analyze entrepreneurial ventures, and to begin to visualize, define, structure, and lead enterprises of their own. Through case studies of entrepreneurial ventures and readings, students learn about practical innovation, market research, talent acquisition, intellectual property and financing alternatives. This course focuses on both private and social (not-for-profit) enterprises, including cross-sectoral joint ventures and hybrid models, and examines a wide spectrum of funding models.

DPI -312: Sparking Social Change: Analytic Frameworks to Guide Social Innovators

Term: Fall 2022, Harvard Kennedy School

Professor Sanderijn Cels

This course focuses on the strategic challenges that social change agents are confronted with. Using the Harvard Case Method, we discuss individual cases, drawn from real life, to learn lessons about strategy for our own practices.

What strategic challenges do social change agents face? How do they deal with these? Which frameworks help systematically analyze strategic challenges and opportunities? And how can you use these frameworks yourself? These questions are central to “Sparking Social Change.”

We examine the work of a variety of international change agents, including how they define the problem that they are working on; which outcomes they envision; what the logic is behind their activities; which platforms they select to drive the change process; and how they deal with guardians of the status quo. They operate from a range of positions and platforms, and they do so with different degrees of success. While some cases focus on famous individuals, most zoom in on people to whom we may relate more easily— ordinary people who have nonetheless made an extraordinary impact.

We use analytical frameworks that help systematically assess strategic challenges and opportunities— not just the ones in the cases, but also the ones that you may be confronted with if you would try to spark social change yourself.

1602: Transforming Education through Social Entrepreneurship

Term: Fall 2022, Harvard Business School

Professor John Jong-Hyun Kim

This course is designed for students who want to understand the central role that education plays in our economy and society and who may want to play an active role (e.g., as an entrepreneur, board member, etc.) in shaping the future workforce, bringing about a more equitable society, and improving the trajectories of our nation’s youth.

The cases feature social entrepreneurs leveraging entrepreneurial and managerial practices to deliver pattern-breaking change in K-12, Higher Ed, and education-focused non-profits. The course covers adaptive and personalized learning, disruptive innovations such as AI and machine learning, achieving system-level change amidst competing goals, and deepening understanding of the complexities and constraints of the sector to ferret out what works. Cases are set in various markets including the U.S., China, and India. Nearly all of the sessions include visits from case protagonists.

The course also tackles career questions for students who wonder how to make a difference in the education sector while pursuing a career in other industries.

1585: Social Entrepreneurship and Systems Change

Term: Fall Q1 2022, Harvard Business School

Professor Brian Trelstad

Social entrepreneurs don’t just build organizations, they change systems. This course looks at social entrepreneurship through the lens of traditional entrepreneurship, but asks how people motivated by disrupting entrenched and often inequitable systems differ from traditional entrepreneurs: from their mindset and character, to their capacity for systems thinking and empathetic product design, to how they navigate diverse sources of capital to build either for-profit, nonprofit, or hybrid organizations. The course also looks at how systems change requires entrepreneurs to think beyond their own organizations to collaborate within their field and to motivate collective action, and to combine direct impact with the indirect effects of changing culture and shaping policy.

The course asks a set of core questions: Who are social entrepreneurs and what makes them tick? How do they make the right strategic choices to scale their organizations to create meaningful, lasting change? From team building to capital raising to measuring effectiveness, what are the building blocks of effective social enterprises? And at a time when there is increasing skepticism of business and philanthropy, why are social enterprises still the best positioned to be catalysts for meaningful social change?

The course features a diverse group set of protagonists in diverse contexts (issues, geographies, stages, organizational forms), but also asks students go deep on a single social entrepreneur of their choosing over the course of the semester, culminating with an integrative final assignment that through a peer review process leads to the development of a new case study for the following year’s class.

Spring 2023

SUP-425M: Innovation and Justice: Developing New School and Community Strategies that Strengthen Children

Term: January, Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Graduate School of Education

Professor Richard Weissbourd

How can we develop more effective interventions for at-risk children? This module will address this question with a focus on children in poverty and children suffering social and emotional risks. Students’ primary work will be to develop a proposal for an intervention that they will then present to Boston and Cambridge city leaders and city leaders from other nearby towns. Students may select an intervention designed to improve students’ academic performance, to reduce children’s social or emotional risks, or to promote social, emotional or moral development. The module will consider not only whether these initiatives ameliorate deficits and troubles, but whether they nurture strengths and resiliency; new models of resiliency will also be examined.

Attention will be given to the different sources and different expression of risk and resilience across race, class, and culture. For each of the interventions, we will explore several questions: How convinced are we–based on the available evidence–that the intervention will, in fact, be effective? In what sense is the intervention effective? For example, what kinds of children are helped by these interventions, how much are they helped, and who is left behind? What is the “theory of change,” and what are the major ingredients of the intervention? What are the factors, including political factors, that determine whether a city leader supports an intervention? How can interventions best be sustained over time? What determines whether interventions can be effectively scaled up? Classes will consist of discussion, lectures, and guest speakers involved in interventions but will also be devoted to students presenting their proposals at various stages. Prerequisite: Prior knowledge and background in theories of risk and resilience and experience with program development and interventions is helpful.

IGA-671M: Policy and Social Innovations for the Changing Arctic

Term: January 2023, Harvard Kennedy School

Professor Halla Logadottir

Climate change is transforming the Arctic region. The region is warming at least twice as fast as the global average, and as the ice retreats on the top of our planet, it is unleashing challenges with local, regional, and global implications across multiple policy domains, including environment, economic development, security, culture, and human rights. Impacts are disproportionately affecting indigenous communities that have lived in the Arctic for thousands of years. Through the lens of the rapidly changing Arctic region, this module will give students an overarching understanding of these local and global challenges, as well as tools and experience in developing their own policy and social innovations to address complex issues in a sustainable way. It will also provide students with skills to communicate new policy ideas effectively to a global audience. A part of the learning experience takes place in collaboration with students from the Arctic and with experts in the field acting as mentors. The course includes an Arctic Innovation Lab where students pitch their ideas to leaders in the field. Selected students will have the opportunity to publish their work in collaboration with a leading Arctic news outlet.

While the course has an Arctic focus, the tools employed and the experience of engaging with senior policymakers will build skills relevant to addressing complex policy challenges globally.

MLD-617M: Effective Implementation: Learning from Effective Implementers

Term: Spring 2 2023, Harvard Kennedy School

Professors Brittany Butler and Francis Hartmann

Producing tangible and measurable results is an important part of work in the public sector. Yet there are many more good ideas about producing results than there are good ideas implemented. This happens for many reasons, among them that no one really stayed with the idea to “make it happen.” This course consists of a case-informed conversation about traits of persons who have been demonstrably effective at translating ideas into action. The objective of the course is to have each of us become more effective in the public service and public policy arena. Each class will address at least one trait that seems to be related to effective implementation, for example: success (knowing what it is); relentlessness (sustained attention); collaboration and bringing out the best in others; setbacks, defeats, and failure; fear, courage, and confidence; help (when does one need it, and what does it look like?); and resilience.

MLD-836M: Social Entrepreneurship/Social Enterprise Deep Dive: How to Operationalize & Scale for Social Impact

Term: Spring 2 2023, Harvard Kennedy School

Professors Jim Bildner and Stephanie Khurana

Kiva, One Acre Fund, Sanergy, Sirum, Muso, Kinvolved, Report for America, and Education Superhighway all have achieved enormous impact in the world and all started out as early stage social enterprises led by a visionary. MLD-836M is a deep dive for those seriously interested in driving impact at scale through non-profit and for-profit social enterprises. Building on the lessons learned from decades of investing in early stage social enterprises working on some of societies’ most complicated issues, this intensive course will help future leaders of programs, start-ups and mature organizations understand the operational challenges around executing at scale in an every changing, resource constrained and complicated world.

With a combination of lectures, workshops and live case studies, students will be asked to develop operating plans and scale models that meet the challenge of the problems they are trying to address. The course is hyper focused on the mastery of five critical skills necessary to lead and execute the mission of sustainable social enterprises: 1) deeply understanding the nature of the problem being addressed and the ecosystem surrounding it; 2) creating the right type of organization that can address these challenges including organizational design, talent development, board engagement, and relevant strategic public/private partnerships; 3) understanding the existing infrastructure and distribution channels that surround the problem and your proposed solution; 4)identifying relevant sources of funding for the solution; and 5) and how to use data to measure and evaluate impact in order to be able to iterate in real time and achieve long term sustainability and drive momentum to scale. A critical component of the course will be a set of closely related curricular panels featuring leaders in the sector who can provide real time context and relevancy and speak firsthand to the challenges they faced as they mastered each of these five critical skills.

This course is a rigorous course for those with serious intent to make a difference in the lives of others and will involve intensive workshops and other co-curricular activities to provide context and insights. This course is a great follow on course for those that have taken an introductory course on social change, strategy, non-profit management or social movement building or already have good foundational knowledge.

MLD-831: Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Private and Social Sectors (Business Plan Workshop)

Term: Spring 2023, Harvard Kennedy School

Professor Richard Cavanagh

In this seminar/workshop students apply the theory of entrepreneurial management in the private and social sectors by creating business plans and presentations for new social enterprises. Through case studies of entrepreneurial ventures and readings, students learn about practical innovation, market research, talent acquisition, intellectual property and financing alternatives.  In particular this spring seminar is designed for students who are prepared to (1) create a business plan for a social venture, or (2) perfect one they have already developed.  Student-created ventures may be in the private or social (not-for-profit) sector, or cross-sectoral joint or hybrid ventures. Students are expected to hone their business plans with an eye towards pitching to funders or strategic partners.

MLD-620M: The Data Smart City: Driving Innovation with Technology

Term: Spring 2 2023, Harvard Kennedy School

Professor Stephen Goldsmith

The UN estimates that two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in urban areas by 2050. As more and more residents flock to cities around the world, public leaders will need innovation in order to improve performance and increase responsiveness to changing material and social conditions. The innovations can include changes in existing processes for delivering public goods and services, or for the introduction of new products and services, or for mobilizing and deploying resources to deal with public problems.

This course seeks to equip students who wish to be innovators with the knowledge and skills necessary to imagine and implement innovative solutions to public problems. It will focus on driving innovative change through the application of new technologies including data analytics, social media and the internet of things. We will look at how cities can become innovative jurisdictions that unleash their potential for public value creation.

1641: Data for Impact

Term: Spring 2023, Harvard Business School

Professors Benjamin N. Roth and Natalia Rigol

How should managers measure, and increase, the social impact of their projects and businesses? How should donors assess the impact of potential beneficiary organizations? Unlike profits, metrics of societal impact cannot be inferred from accounting statements. Yet measurement is a critical prerequisite to management. Fortunately, tools from data science and econometrics have been developed to navigate the nuances of assessing impact.

Data for Impact (DFI) is intended to train students to become informed and discriminating consumers of evidence so as to enable the more effective management of impact. The course aims to develop data literacy even amongst managers who never plan to implement statistical analyses themselves. DFI will be of core interest to students with aspirations in social entrepreneurship, socially responsible business, impact investing, and effective philanthropy. But, while class discussions will center on social impact, the methods utilized in class extend to any question of causal inference, including questions about whether a particular endeavor increases a firm’s profits, raises customer engagement, etc. It will therefore also be of interest to any manager that aspires to commission and evaluate data analysis as a part of their workflow.