Executive Education

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 University of Pennsylvania for leaders and innovators working to make an impact.

Students in our Executive Program come from all industries, including non-profits, for-profits, government agencies, and community organizations. Our students are working to grow their social enterprise, bring tested approaches to their companies, learn more about the social impact landscape, and expand their network. Plus, when students successfully graduate from the Executive Program, they will have completed the equivalent 40% of the master’s degree in Nonprofit Leadership (NPL) from the University of Pennsylvania. We offer a rigorous, master’s-level executive program, and if you continue your studies at NPL, you will have accelerated standing .

Request Program Viewbook

Applications for the 2021 cohort are now closed. Once you request a program viewbook, you will be automatically signed up to receive email alerts when applications open for the 2022 cohort.

Key Details

Program Duration
January 20, 2021 – August 22, 2021
Virtual Convening
March 16-18, 2021
Regular Decision Tuition
Regular Decision Application Deadline
November 18, 2020

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 when applications open for the 2022 cohort.

Get Tools You Can Use Immediately

Our 8-month curriculum is designed to help you put your learning into practice right away, giving you access to tools, frameworks & resources that you can use in building and scaling your ideas.

Earn Ivy League Credentials

Upon completing this program, you’ll receive a certificate from the University of Pennsylvania. You’ll also have the opportunity to continue your studies after graduation, as you’ll be 40% of the way towards completing a master’s degree 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 every time zone across the globe each week for optional interactive group discussions.Connect with your teaching team and classmates from every time zone across the globe each week for optional interactive group discussions.

Learn from Wherever You Are

Complete the Executive Program from wherever you are in the world. We will even convene virtually in March for an intensive three days of connection, learning, and community-building, which will take place online among your community of colleagues.

Keep Your Day Job and Get New Perspectives

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. You’ll attend class on your own schedule, fitting 4-8 hours of coursework into your weekly calendar as you see fit.

Complete Your Work at Your Pace

New material is released weekly, the core curriculum recorded, and remains available, once released, throughout the program. So you can learn when it’s right for you, and return to material later in the program. Submission deadlines keep you on track to earning your certificate.

Program Instructors

Program Team

Rosemary Clark-Parsons
Program Manager
Allison Russell
Postdoctoral Fellow
Kaveh Sadeghian
Creative Director
Vaughn Sayers
Program Coordinator
Ariel Schwartz
Managing Director

How 8 months of learning unfold


Walk through 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, build a team, and develop a strategy to build a successful social enterprise or initiative.

Virtual Convening

Hear from Penn faculty, develop your idea, and make connections with fellow classmates.

Community & Collaboration

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

Marketing for Social Impact

In this short class, you’ll understand how to identify what beneficiaries 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

Take as many electives as you want to learn tactics and tools relevant to your needs. Electives include: Impact Management, Nonprofit Governance; Nonprofit Fundraising; Ethics and Social Impact; Data Science for Social Innovation; Social Media Strategies; Unleashing Large-Scale Social Movements; and Digital Media for Social Movements.


Once you complete your coursework, you’ll gain a Certificate of Completion. Although this is a non-credit program, students who enter the Nonprofit Leadership Master’s  (NPL) program after completing the CSIS executive program must complete only 6 NPL credit units out of the 10 credit unit requirements to earn their NPL degree.

2020 has been quite the year for all of us. In many ways our everyday lives have been completely disrupted, giving us new challenges that can seem insurmountable from day to day. That’s why now, more than ever, the world needs dedicated changemakers like you.

CSIS is committed to helping you advance your personal and professional goals in 2021. The Executive Program in Social Impact Strategy offers a flexible and affordable distance-learning opportunity that gives you the tools you need to start your new venture, pivot in your career, or advance the mission of your current organization – all while connecting with a global community of like-minded people who are as passionate and committed as you are.

To help support you in joining and completing the Executive Program in Social Impact Strategy, we are excited to offer the following opportunities for the 2021 cohort:

  • You can opt into a no-interest payment plan. In addition to price reductions, we are also offering an option for an extended payment plan. Our payment plans are no-interest and reflect our commitment to accommodating your unique needs.
  • You will have access to independent learning resources. Our program is designed to be completed flexibly and to fit your busy schedule. In addition to our core and elective courses, we will also give you access to other learning resources, such as webinars and workshops, staff picks, and more.
  • We offer a low-risk pathway to a master’s degree. Thinking about a master’s degree but unsure if you’re ready to commit right now? The Executive Program in Social Impact Strategy can count as credit toward an MS in Nonprofit Leadership. In fact, if you successfully complete your Certificate and are accepted into the MS in Nonprofit Leadership, your completed certificate will count toward 40% of your degree – amounting to huge time and cost savings for you.
  • You will have opportunities to engage virtually and in person, in real time. We are committed to connecting with you and providing you with opportunities to connect with each other. We offer weekly chances to connect, plus an online Convening where you will be able to network in real time. Additionally, we will offer all alumni future opportunities to engage with us on campus and in-person when it is safe to do so. We promise that you won’t feel like you’re doing this certificate alone; in fact, you’ll be joining a diverse and active global community.
  • We’re really good at online education. We don’t normally like to brag but…we’ve been doing online and distance education for a long time, and our staff have expertise in making the virtual experience effective, engaging, and fun. We believe in arriving as you are. Bring your dog and kids, wear your PJs, take snack breaks when you need them – we love to see it, and we are excited to learn with you!

It’s been a tough year. Why do we feel compelled to implement the above changes? Well, #Because2020. This year has reminded us, more than ever, that we need individuals pursuing the difficult and arduous work of social change– and we’re eager to continue supporting those individuals, especially in these trying times.

We hope you will join us. The world needs you now more than ever.

Executive Program Webinars

Thank you for your interest in the Executive Program in Social Impact Strategy. There are currently no scheduled webinars. Learn more by viewing our recorded informational webinars below!

Recorded Webinars

2021 Executive Program: Information Session

2021 Executive Program: Alumni Panel

2021 Executive Program: Master Class

Frequently Asked Questions

How will my application be evaluated?

We want to hear your story, your hopes and dreams 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. Whether you’re looking to grow your current organization, want to transition into more social impact work, or you’re trying to have the time and space to reboot and consider what’s next, be honest about where you’re at in your journey. 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. 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?

Our program is designed to have the lowest tuition possible without losing the integrity of the educational experience. We’re proud to say it’s one of the most affordable executive programs available today. Since the program tuition is already being offered at a discounted rate relative to other similar programs, we’re unfortunately unable to offer any 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 3.5 months. Previous students have gotten partial or full tuition covered from their employers as well, and we also encourage students to crowdfund if possible. If you have questions about finances, please don’t hesitate to reach out at admissions@csis.upenn.edu so we can discuss.

What is the refund policy for the Executive Program?

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

OpenSP2 supports requests for refunds to non-credit programs in writing only to the appropriate program leadership, please see the specific program page for contact information. On-demand programs require that refunds requests occur within 14 days of the start of the program, and only if less than 25% of course materials have been engaged with (based on course data analytics). Programs which run on a calendar basis with live class sessions require cancellation and refund requests to be made at least 14 days in advance of the course start date. OpenSP2 may provide a transfer option to individuals who cancel beyond the limits of this policy, that decision is at the discretion of the program leader. Individual programs and programs from affiliated PennSP2 centers each set final program cancellation and refund policies; participants should check program policies before registration and payment. OpenSP2 is a division of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy & Practice which receives 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?

No, there are no educational prerequisites to apply for this program — we are looking for leaders across all industries with a variety of perspectives.

If you have questions, 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. 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: Ethical Decision Making in Organizations, Data Science for Social Innovation, Nonprofit Governance, Nonprofit Fundraising, Introduction to Social Media Strategies and Impact Management. 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 Facebook group dedicated to conversations online for anyone in our network to share resources and support one another, as well as an online Global Network connecting our entire alumni community. Most years, we also host a free summit in Philadelphia to bring our diverse community together and offer one another a deep sense of community and connection.

See the Program in Action
Download Program Viewbook
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via the Penn Online Learning Platform