Social Innovation certificate graduates first students

Nine students received the first Business of Social Innovation online certificate from the Impact Entrepreneurs program in the School of Business Administration in September.

The certificate, which launched last year, is a four-part, mostly online program open to Portland State students and community members.

The mostly online course design enables students who aren’t located in the Portland metropolitan area to be involved in the program. Students from as far as Venezuela participated in the program’s pilot year.

“Our goal is to unleash the promise of business for social impact,” said Jacen Greene, social innovation program manager. “I think it’s a great opportunity to learn applied skills and pursue your passion.”

Cindy Cooper, co-founder of Impact Entrepreneurs, said, “The students actually get to choose the social issue that they find interesting—that maybe they’re really already passionate about. Or they get to discover a social issue that they want to work on.”

From there, students search for solutions to their chosen areas of study and design social change organizations to address them.

Cooper said the program was designed to include diverse groups of students.

“We believe that these kinds of complex social and environmental problems benefit when we have diverse and interested people coming together to talk about them,” Cooper said.

The certificate consists of three courses: Design Thinking for Social Innovation, Money Matters for Social Innovation and Storytelling and Impact Measurement. Additionally, the program includes a field study practicum.

Students choose from two options available for the field study. During summer term, students can participate in a Portland field study. During winter term, students have the option of participating in an international field study, which will take place in Cambodia this December and India next year.

The social innovation certificate program is available for graduate students, members of the community, and undergraduates with special permission.

Of the nine students to graduate from the program, “it was an almost even split between students and community members,” Greene said.

Participants can complete the program in one year, but are allowed up to two years for completion. The Impact Entrepreneurs program is working toward changing the courses to allow students to take them out of order, with permission from the instructor, to give more flexibility for scheduling.

Previously, the courses built off lessons from the previous course, but these changes will require alterations to the curriculum to accommodate for the varying order in which people take them.

“PSU is a leader in starting this online certificate in social innovation and social entrepreneurship,” Provost Sona Andrews said. “It fits so well with PSU’s creative approach to delivering programs.”

Registration for the second year of the program begins in December and courses will start during the winter 2015 term.

Registration for the Cambodia field study, which goes from Dec. 11­–23, is open now.
A Social Innovation Incubator is also offered by the Impact Entrepreneurs program, which helps students start socially beneficial ventures.

Each year, Impact Entrepreneurs also holds an Elevating Impact Summit. The summit brings in professional speakers to teach inventive ways to approach change and celebrates social entrepreneurship and innovation. The 2013 summit brought 330 registered attendees, 27 speakers and 23 community partners.