Executive Program in Social Impact Strategy

An intensive program designed to support people with big ideas. The Executive Program in Social Impact Strategy is an 8-month online certification from the School of Social Policy and Practice at the University of Pennsylvania for leaders and innovators working to make an impact.

Students in our Executive Program come from all sectors, including non-profits, for-profits, government agencies, and community organizations. Our students are working to grow their social enterprise, bring tested approaches to their initiatives, learn more about the social impact landscape, and expand their network. Plus, for students who want to continue their studies, their Certificate in Social Impact Strategy makes them eligible to complete the Master of Science (MS) in Nonprofit Leadership (NPL) in an accelerated format

The Executive Program in Social Impact Strategy is offered in two formats. Students can choose either a Blended or Online track that follows the same curriculum, provides a cohort-based learning experience, and access to the CSIS Teaching Team. Each program has their own application that can be found using the links provided below.

  • The Blended format is online, mostly asynchronous with a synchronous virtual orientation in January and a required in-person 3-day convening in March 2025 at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • The Online format is online, asynchronous with synchronous virtual orientations before the the start of each cohort. Plus, an additional required online social innovation class, and optional monthly virtual meet-ups. We are now recruiting for cohorts to begin in September 2024, January 2025, and May 2025 with September 2025 on the horizon.

Learn more about our full listing of upcoming programs on our News Page.

Key Details

Thinking of applying?
Applications for 2024-2025 cohorts will be opening soon
Program Duration
8 months
SIS Blended Early Tuition Enrollment Deadline
November 25, 2024
SIS Online Early Tuition Enrollment Deadline
August 15, 2024 | November 25, 2024 | April 1, 2025 | July 25, 2025
SIS Blended Program Start Date
January 15, 2025
SIS Online Program Start Dates
September 12, 2024 | January 16, 2025 | May 15, 2025 | September 11, 2025
SIS Blended Tuition Rate
SIS Online Tuition Rate
Convening at the University of Pennsylvania (Blended Program Only)
March 12-14, 2025
Monthly Virtual Community Days (Online Program Only)
Dates TBD

Get Tools You Can Use Immediately

Our 8-month curriculum is designed to help you put your learning into practice right away, educating students in more than 50 strategic tools, frameworks & resources that you can use to build and scale your ideas. Each assignment is designed to advance your own social impact ideas and initiatives — apply what you learn to your work right away.

Earn Ivy League Credentials

Upon completing this program, you’ll receive a certificate from the School of Social Policy and Practice (SP2) at the University of Pennsylvania. While this is a non-credit program, the curriculum was developed by and alongside the rest of our curriculum at the SP2. If you successfully complete your certificate, you’ll also have the opportunity to continue your studies as a master’s student with advanced standing in Nonprofit Leadership at Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice.

Join a Supportive Global Community

Launching and scaling solutions can feel lonely sometimes. You’re not going it alone — the Penn community is made up of global thought leaders and world changers who are ready to support your impact idea. Connect with your teaching team and classmates from across the globe for optional weekly interactive group discussions.

Learn from Wherever You Are

Complete the Executive Program from wherever you are in the world. Most of this program is taught asynchronously, online. All you need is a good internet connection and the ability to stream video in order to access our educational materials, teaching team, and an incredible group or world-changing classmates.

Visit a vibrant campus

We will welcome the SIS Blended cohort on campus at the University of Pennsylvania in March 2025 for three full days of immersive learning and community-building. We will delve into human-centered techniques for advancing an organizational mission and cultivating an intervention.

Keep your Day Job and Learn at Your Pace

Whether your impact idea is directly related to your job or you’re building it on the side, you can complete this program at the same time. New course material is released weekly. You’ll attend class on your own schedule, fitting 4-6 hours of coursework into your weekly calendar as you see fit. The core curriculum is recorded and remains available, once released, throughout the program, so you can learn when it’s right for you, and return to it at your convenience. Weekly submission deadlines keep you on track to earning your certificate.

How 8 Months of Learning Unfold


Set intentions, meet classmates and the teaching team, and get comfortable with the learning platform.

Social Impact Strategy

In this core class, you’ll gain access to the tools and training you need to articulate your mission, understand and convene stakeholders, and develop a strategy to build a successful social enterprise or initiative.

Convening at the University of Pennsylvania (Blended Only)

Cultivate empathetic and human-centered practices to develop new ideas. Make connections with fellow classmates. Fully online students will complete an additional course on Social Innovation Design – a central part to the executive program experience.

Community & Collaboration

In this core class, you’ll learn techniques for understanding communities, mapping the abundant resources we have around us and cultivating partnerships.

Marketing for Social Impact

In this core class, you’ll understand how to identify what clients and customers need– and build a marketing platform to share your idea successfully.

Business Models for Social Enterprise

In this core class, you’ll gain the knowledge to build something that lasts via an innovative funding model.

Program Electives

To complete your certificate requirements, choose and complete two electives. Upon completing all certificate requirements, students will then have the opportunity to access any additional elective content that you choose. In past years, electives options have included: Impact Management, Research Design, Digital Media for Social Movements, Data Science for Social Innovation, Ethical Decision-Making in Social Organizations, Volunteer Management, and Unleashing Large Scale Social Movements


Once you complete your coursework, and it is certified by the teaching team, you will have earned a Certificate of Completion. Although the CSIS Executive Program in Social Impact Strategy is a non-credit program, students who enter the Nonprofit Leadership Master’s  (NPL) program after completing the executive program are eligible to complete the NPL program in an accelerated format.

Program Instructors

Program Team

Ariel Schwartz
Managing Director
Carl Sveen
Program Manager
Mandisa Thomas
Program Coordinator

Executive Program Information Sessions

2025 Information Sessions

Sign up for our info sessions! We look forward to meeting you.

General Info Session 1: July 30 at 4pm EST
General Info Session 2: August 20 at 4pm EST
Masterclass (Sample Class): September 17 at 4pm EST
Alumni Panel: October 15 at 4pm EST
General Info Session 3: November 12 at 4pm EST

Past Information Session Recordings  

2024 SIS Information Session: General Information Session #1

2024 SIS Information Session: Masterclass 

2024 SIS Information Session: Alumni Panel

2024 Information Session: Choosing a CSIS Program for Arts & Culture Leaders 

2024 Information Session: Choosing a CSIS Program for Education Leaders 

2024 Information Session: Choosing a CSIS Program for CSIS Directors of Corporate Social Responsibility and Social Impact 

2022 SIS Information Session: Alumni Panel 

2021 SIS Information Session: Alumni Panel 

Download a Program Viewbook

See the program in action and read about the Executive Program’s faculty, curriculum, and how alumni have put their learnings to use. Once you submit your download request, you will be automatically signed up to receive email alerts about the 2025 Executive Program in Social Impact Strategy. 


Frequently Asked Questions

How will my application be evaluated?

We want to hear your story, your goals for society, and what you want to accomplish in your career. We are looking to learn about you, what you’re passionate about, what you want to learn and why. We hope that the application process might serve as a reflective practice for you to step back and articulate what you’re hoping to accomplish.


The essays are short but extremely important. This is where we learn your goals for the world and the program, and the best way we can assess whether you are at a stage in your venture or career to benefit from participating. We encourage concise, detailed responses.


In the first essay, tell us about the social impact issue area or initiative that you are most passionate about contributing to, and why. Each week of the Executive Program is designed for students to articulate some aspect of this issue, even if they are still ideating. We need to see that you can try ideas out, on paper, concisely and with specifics. You don’t have to pretend that everything is already figured out — actually, we hope you won’t. Instead, share your assumptions about this issue and the things you need to learn in order to take the next step in this work.


In the second essay, help us understand why you think this program is right for you. What aspects do you most look forward to? What do you hope to accomplish professionally or organizationally in the 8 months of the Executive Program? Why is 2023 the right time for you to undertake our program?

In the third essay, describe your prior actions to support a social mission. Volunteer work, sitting on a board, acting as an engaged funder, working in an organization that did good work either as its main business or on the side…there are many ways to help make the world a better place.

If you have questions about admissions, please don’t hesitate to reach out at admissions@csis.upenn.edu so we can discuss.

Are financial aid or scholarships available?

No. Our program is designed to have the lowest tuition possible without losing the integrity of the educational experience. We’re proud to say it is the most affordable comparable executive program that we are aware of. Since the program tuition is already being offered at a discounted rate relative to similar programs, we’re unfortunately unable to offer scholarships. We can, however, offer students who would like additional time to complete their payment the option of an interest-free payment plan over the course of 3 months. Some students have received partial or full tuition from their employers or a donor. Feel free to use this template to calculate the program cost for you and to share with your employer if it is useful in your funding applications.  


What is the refund policy for the Executive Program?

The $950 tuition deposit is not refundable. Refunds on balances paid will be made consistent with the School of Social Policy and Practice OpenSP2* refund policy.


Refund requests must occur within 14 days of the start of the class or program (the first materials-release date, for on-demand classes or programs, or the orientation date, for structured programs). Programs that include live class sessions require cancellation and refund requests to be made at least 14 days in advance of the course start date.


The school may provide a transfer option to individuals who cancel beyond the limits of this policy, at the discretion of the program leader.


Refund requests will be honored only if less than 25% of course materials have been engaged with (based on course data analytics).


*OpenSP2 is a division of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2) which reserves the right to change, alter, adjust this policy. OpenSP2 reserves the right to cancel any program for low enrollment or other extenuating circumstances at any time, before the start of the program. If SP2 cancels a program, all participants will receive a full refund. Please also note programs offered on 3rd party platforms (edX or Coursera) are subject to the policies of that platform.


Official communications may be sent to admissions@csis.upenn.edu.


Are there any prerequisites to apply?

There are no educational prerequisites to apply for this program — we are looking for leaders across all industries with a variety of perspectives. Applicants should be comfortable learning in the English language, and have the capacity to stream video weekly.  

If you have questions, or if you think you might need a learning accommodation, please don’t hesitate to reach out at admissions@csis.upenn.edu so we can discuss your questions.

What courses will I take during the program?

You will complete a total of six online courses and attend an in-person convening at the University of Pennsylvania in the SIS Blended program or complete an additional course in social innovation design in the SIS Online program. Required courses include: Social Impact Strategy, Business Models for Social Enterprise, Community and Collaboration, and Marketing for Social Impact. Students select two additional electives from among that year’s choices. In the past, we have offered: Impact Management, Research Design, Digital Media for Social Movements, Data Science for Social Innovation, Ethical Decision-Making in Social Organizations, Volunteer Management, and Unleashing Large Scale Social Movements. Download the viewbook for course descriptions.

What opportunities do you provide alumni?

Alumni are a critical part of the CSIS family, and they receive lifelong access to the CSIS community. We have a private LinkedIn and Facebook group dedicated to conversations online for anyone in our network to share resources and support one another. We also host a free alumni summit in Philadelphia to bring our diverse community together and offer one another a deep sense of community and connection.

What if I started my certificate already, and my cohort is finished but I'm not?

You can join an SIS online (SIS-O) cohort beginning within 12 months of your scheduled cohort completion date. This will put you in a new cohort and have all the resources of a cohort to complete your requirements. If it’s beyond 12 months of your scheduled completion date, and/or you can’t restart learning within the year, you must pay 1) the balance on tuition rate we are charging during the new cohort, and 2) an additional $1500 administrative fee. This will put you in a new cohort and have all the resources of a cohort to complete your requirements. So, if you paid $5000 and we are charging $6000 in your new cohort year, you will need to pay $1000 + $1500 in order to gain access to the new materials

SIS- Online Application

via the Penn Online Learning Platform

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