Jian Li Zheng

The Acumen Classroom: Six online courses address nuts and bolts of social entrepreneurship

Acumen’s mission is to change the way the world tackles poverty by investing in companies, leaders and ideas.

We know that tackling problems of global poverty will take all of us, and we wanted to address the dearth of leadership training in the social sector. That’s why we created +Acumen, an online academy for aspiring social change leaders to learn from and connect with each other. We believe that innovation can come from anyone, and our diverse learners include students as well as professionals from nonprofits, government and the private sector. By signing up for a course, you’re joining a global community of 60,000-plus like-minded individuals from more than 167 countries.

Our vision is that five, 10 or 20 years down the road, not just Acumen, but everyone will be working on a completely different curve, one that’s smarter in solving problems of poverty. Because of this, our courses emphasize tangible financial and operational skills, such as human-centered design and social impact analysis, as well as leadership training and what we call “moral imagination.”

+Acumen’s blended learning approach has students participate in groups offline so they can support and learn from each other, making it a much more dynamic experience. We provide online virtual communities for others to connect, and also allow extra time at the end of a course to submit the assignments to receive a statement of accomplishment from +Acumen.

Feedback around the impact of the courses has been very positive. Participants have shared that courses are personally transformative and also applicable to their work. Organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund, World Vision and Teach for America have all applied our tools.

Through our courses, we’re creating an ecosystem where thousands of social innovators can connect across a global network and ignite their potential to create meaningful change. The world needs you to lead. This is your invitation.

Truth, Trust, Tribes & Trial: Marketing with Dignity at the Base of the Pyramid

Understanding how to market new social innovations to BoP customers can make or break a new venture. In this course, Acumen adviser Mary Pat Ryan and bestselling author Seth Godin have partnered with Acumen to offer specific frameworks to consider, developed from lessons Acumen’s learned along the way.

What You’ll Learn

  • A framework for critical thinking around the Four Ts – Truth, Trust, Tribes & Trial.

Course Signup Deadline: Oct. 7
Course Length: Oct. 8-Nov. 18
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Design Kit: The Course for Human-Centered Design

Human-centered design (HCD) is a creative problem-solving approach that starts with people and ends with innovative solutions tailored to meet their needs. Join this course to learn how to better understand the people you’re trying to design for and how the concepts of HCD can help you create more innovative, effective and sustainable solutions for social change. This course has been created to reach those who are brand new or just beginning to experiment with HCD.

What You’ll Learn
This seven-week course will:

  • Introduce you to the human-centered design approach and enable you to be more intentional about facing and solving your current challenges
  • Teach you to identify patterns and opportunities for concept development
  • Give you hands-on experience speaking to, prototyping for and testing solutions with the people for whom you are designing

Course Partner: Ideo.org
Course Signup Deadline: Oct. 13
Course Length: Oct. 14-Dec. 2
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Board Strategy for Social Enterprise: Best Practices to Maximize Your Impact

Together with Accion Venture Lab, we’ve developed this course for social enterprises or nonprofits that are just starting out and are in the early-stages of forming a board for their companies. We believe that having a functioning board early on can be a key driver for an enterprise’s success over the long term. The course is built on a framework Accion Venture Lab has developed in addition to various resources curated by +Acumen.

What You’ll Learn
By the end of this five-module course, you will:

  • Understand best practices in creating and leveraging the board of a social enterprise and how that is applicable to diverse situations and organizations
  • Understand what board meeting materials look like, what to include in them and the processes necessary to ensure that the health of your board is maintained

Course Partner: Accion
Course Signup Deadline: Oct. 21
Course Length: Oct. 22-Nov. 25

Adaptive Leadership

Adaptive Leadership is a practical leadership framework developed by professors at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. The course is designed to help individuals and organizations manage through consequential change in times of uncertainty when there are no clear answers. It teaches leaders to identify and tackle systemic change through a process of confronting the status quo and identifying technical and adaptive challenges.

What You’ll Learn
As part of the course, you will bring a current challenge you are up against. You will work to make progress by:

  • Discovering a sense of your own leadership capacity and building more effective skills for impacting change
  • Understanding the differences between the technical and adaptive elements of your challenge
  • Practicing a courageous conversation in preparation for addressing your challenge

Course Partner: Cambridge Leadership Associates
Course Signup Deadline: Nov. 3
Course Length: Nov. 4-Dec. 2
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Making Sense of Social Impact: Acumen’s Building Blocks for Impact

Together with Acumen’s Impact Team, we’ve developed this introductory course to help you understand how Acumen analyzes impact in our portfolio and how you can apply the same building blocks to any socially-focused company or organization of interest.

What You’ll Learn
By the end of this four-module course, you will:

  • Understand what Acumen means by social impact and how Acumen assesses it
  • Be able to apply that framework to an organization/initiative that you personally care about – your “Impact Challenge”

Course Signup Deadline: Nov. 10
Course Length: Nov. 11-Dec. 15
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Financial Sustainability: The Numbers Side of Social Enterprise

This course will show you how to think about and build a basic financial model from the ground up, starting from a single “business unit” – a stand-alone profit center is replicated when you scale. This approach helps ensure that your product or service can be realistically commercialized, and that the business model is built for scalability from the start.

What You’ll Learn
By the end of this four-module course, you will understand how to:

  • Estimate the reach and size of your business unit
  • Estimate the cost structure of the business unit, as well as the home-office-level operations and associated costs that come with scaling
  • Calculate the necessary price point and gross margin for a profitable and scalable enterprise

Course Partner: Erik Simanis
Course Signup Deadline: Nov. 17
Course Length: Nov. 18-Dec. 22
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Jian Li Zheng is an innovation associate who works to build strategic partnerships and scale the reach of +Acumen courses.

Social Enterprise, Uncategorized
business development