Managing Social Enterprise

Managing Social Enterprise

Course Number 1582

Associate Professor Alnoor Ebrahim
Winter; Q3Q4; 3 credits
20 sessions


This course examines how to create, develop and scale high-performing social enterprises - be they nonprofit, for-profit, or hybrid organizations. Unlike the business world where most stakeholders agree on the definition of success and are driven by market forces, managers of social enterprises must have the ability to navigate conflicting goals, fragmented capital markets, and complex performance measures. Yet these challenges make the role of disciplined management even more critical. Students will focus on the managerial and leadership skills necessary for building organizations and ecosystems that address societal problems.

Course Content and Organization

MSE is organized around three core themes. Students will explore how to:

a)Create a mission and strategy that integrates business models with social change models;
b) Develop performance management systems to measure and generate social returns for society;
c) Scale impact through multiple strategies including growth, collaboration, and policy influence.

In addition to these core themes, the course includes modules on capital markets and governance that examine leadership and management challenges from the perspective of investors, grantmakers, and board members. MSE draws on cases from diverse industries - such as health, education, environment, youth services, and poverty alleviation - as a basis for identifying general management lessons that cut across industries. A number of the cases have been successfully taught in Social Enterprise programs for executives and board members.

The course also includes a series of "Leading Edge" conversations with social sector leaders at various stages of their careers, from startup social entrepreneurs to leaders of established nonprofit organizations. These conversations offer an opportunity to engage in contemporary debates, discuss career paths, and anticipate future directions.

Target Audience

The learning model for MSE emphasizes the use of diverse knowledge for addressing complex social problems. As a result, the course is designed to bring together students with a range of expertise and experience - from aspiring general managers, entrepreneurs, or investors with no prior experience in the social sector, to those with substantial background in fields such as education, health, global development, or public policy. No prior experience is required, only a commitment to cross-disciplinary and cross-sector learning. MSE will accept a limited number of cross-registrants in order to enrich the collective knowledge base and experience in the classroom.

This course is part of a portfolio of courses relevant to Social Enterprise. For a full listing, see the Social Enterprise Initiative website.