• Length:
    5 Weeks
  • Effort:
    2–4 hours per week
  • Price:

    Add a Verified Certificate for $49 USD

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  • Course Type:
    Instructor-led on a course schedule


No formal prerequisites. A basic awareness of business concepts is useful, and a project that you are working on is beneficial if not required.

About this course

Skip About this course

People in every corner of the world are innovating to solve social and environmental problems in their communities. In the past decade, new programs like MIT Solve have emerged to support those social entrepreneurs and drive partnerships to accelerate their impact. However, many startups find it difficult to develop business plans that clearly communicate their work and impact — vital factors in securing funding and other growth opportunities.

This five-week course helps early-stage social impact startups define three key aspects of their business:

  • Impact Opportunity: What is the scale of the problem you are working on? How many people are impacted? and What impact might you make?

  • Customer Discovery: What specific group will your solution serve, and how will it impact their lives? How can you better understand this group?

  • Theory of Change: How can you be sure that your work addresses the problem you’re solving? How is your approach unique?

  • Planning for Scale: How can you reach more people to scale your positive impact? Where will you gain the funding needed to expand?

Each week, we will dive into case studies from leading social entrepreneurs and both nonprofit and for-profit enterprises around the world. Building off these studies, we will help you design your own social business model and impact plan. Upon completing this course, you will have:

  • Designed unique responses to five core business model and impact questions. These answers can be used to scale your impact moving forward and to submit an application to MIT Solve’s open innovation platform

  • Produced a pitch video summarizing your work for potential partners and users (Optional)

  • Made new connections to other social innovators who are solving important problems in your region and beyond

You may be a good candidate for this course if any of the following criteria apply to you:

  • You are considering applying to Solve’s Global Challenges in 2021 or another social impact innovation program and are seeking advice to create and complete the application

  • You are solving an important social or environmental problem and need help to describe and develop your work

  • You are starting on an idea or solution to a social or environmental problem and need training or skills development to design and share your goals

What is Solve?

Solve is an initiative of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a mission to solve world challenges. Solve is a marketplace for social impact innovation. Through open innovation Challenges, Solve finds incredible tech-based social entrepreneurs all around the world. Solve then brings together MIT’s innovation ecosystem and a community of Members to fund and support these entrepreneurs to help them drive lasting, transformational impact. Join Solve on this journey at solve.mit.edu.

What you'll learn

Skip What you'll learn
  • How to describe key aspects of a social impact startup, such as impact opportunity, theory of change, and plans to scale

  • How to analyze the social ventures of your peers and predecessors and apply that analysis to your own work

  • Gain confidence in your ability to identify and address social and environmental challenges

  • Course assignments can be used as part of applications to social entrepreneurship programs such as MIT Solve

Meet your instructors

Anjali Sastry
Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Frequently asked questions

I’m applying to Solve’s Challenges - will taking this course give my submission an advantage? Solve’s judges and reviewers will not consider whether an applicant participated in the course. However, we hope that the content and exercises will strengthen your application to our Global Challenges.

I’m applying to Solve’s Challenges - will paying for verification give my submission an advantage? No. Verification will give you access to graded tests and staff evaluation on your written assignments, with the potential to earn a verified certificate from edX showing an understanding of this content. No staff involved in grading coursework will be involved in reviewing Challenge submissions.

I’m not yet working on an idea/I’m just starting to work on my idea/I’m not sure I’d call myself an entrepreneur, am I allowed to take this course? Yes - we welcome learners at all stages of experience.

Who can take this course?

Unfortunately, learners from one or more of the following countries or regions will not be able to register for this course: Iran, Cuba and the Crimea region of Ukraine. While edX has sought licenses from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to offer our courses to learners in these countries and regions, the licenses we have received are not broad enough to allow us to offer this course in all locations. edX truly regrets that U.S. sanctions prevent us from offering all of our courses to everyone, no matter where they live.