Opportunities to train your staff or grantees in CSIS programs. 

Ariel Schwartz
October 16, 2023
Programs & Research, Resources + Recommendations, Social Impact Fundamentals

The Center for Social Impact Strategy is a research and action center based in the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy & Practice. CSIS provides training and tools to visionary individuals who seek to have a social impact around the world. We are committed to understanding and sharing the distinctive strategies adopted by changemakers as they creatively generate new ideas and scale their organizations for social impact. We support a thriving global community of world changers who support each other’s growth and success for effective and healthy social impact initiatives. Our programs invite social impact practitioners from the nonprofit, corporate, and government sectors all over the world to join an incredible cohort of changemakers. Successful participants come from a range of impact areas, including education, environment and sustainability, arts and culture, workforce development, etc. and feature many job titles including nonprofit or social enterprise founder, executive director, board member, volunteer, program manager, Director of Social Impact, corporate social responsibility professional, and others wanting to grow into mission-driven leadership roles and implement useful strategy tools to advance their social missions and improve their organizational health.

CSIS has lots of options for mission-driven initiatives — please first read about our public offerings. Below, we describe three primary pathways of additional support: to help large organizations train multiple members in our public programs; to help organizations with strategic planning; and curriculum development to help organizations share information about important strategy topics with members of their organization. 

If you are interested in anything mentioned below, please email to set up a 1:1 call or to schedule a presentation by a member of our team to your organization, team, or grantees. If you would prefer a written proposal, we can accommodate that need too.

Opportunities for training your employees or grantees in our existing public offerings. 

We have noticed over the years many instances in which some organizations or collective have funded two or more representatives to participate in our executive programs. These scenarios are outlined in this section. You can read the stories of some of these examples on our alumni highlights: Anthony and Yannick, DSM and Jonathan and Paige, Jobs for the Future.

1) Multiple members from the same organization have taken our program simultaneously, to allow them to jointly work on an important social impact initiative. This has happened most regularly at large, for-profit corporations that are explicitly and intentionally devoting real resources into a strategic initiative that they hope will have a positive impact. We find this successful because this builds champions into organizations’ new initiatives. Both students are on the same page as each other, and find it easier to align multiple teams to structure, collaborate on, and communicate decisions. We believe that sending pairs or more vastly increases the likelihood that new or struggling initiatives get continued attention and are set up for long-term success. 

This happens less often for nonprofit initiatives, which we believe would benefit similarly, but we have found typically lack the funds and time capacity to send multiple members simultaneously. This is an enormous opportunity for nonprofit funders to capacitate their grantees. 

2) Multiple members of the same organization take our program year after year. In this scenario, nonprofits and for-profits alike have found it valuable that their staff have strategic management education that we offer. Over time, an organization that builds our curriculum into their organizational culture will have share language and common framework for co-building a healthy organization whose interventions reflect the evolving needs of their dynamic stakeholders. 

3) Many of our students have used their organization’s tuition assistance program or professional development funds to join our classes. For applicants with access to such funds, we find that our programs offer a very compelling case to employers, because our program offers at an extremely competitive price a long-form, rigorous education in social impact strategy, an outstanding extended professional network, and the opportunity for weekly win-wins because all assignments are structured so that students do their homework about their social impact projects. So if students are responsible for social impact initiatives in their home organizations, they will be advancing those initiatives by participating in their school work. Rather than allowing employees time away to pursue their studies, their studies are structured to be immediately applicable and useful for their employers and whatever groups are invested in their social impact work.   

Benefits of CSIS Curriculum

CSIS offers master’s-level curriculum that offers enormous and immediate benefits beyond opportunities for continued study.  Immediate benefits include application of strategic tools, building shared language, cultivating community, and developing self-in-society.

Applying strategy tools.

CSIS helps world changers to collaboratively develop innovative services, communicate them to stakeholders, and implement them in ways that reflect community values and continuous improvement. Participants apply tested strategic frameworks to their projects, and test and strengthen their theory of change, portfolio of interventions, and stakeholder engagement. Coursework invites deliberate and tactical exploration of social impact goals and interventions. Topics include defining mission and value, impact measurement and management, organizational health, risk, competition and collaboration; and design thinking. Our strategy curriculum is designed to help leaders to develop more effective, meaningful solutions, and improve organizational performance, by practicing asset-based, collaborative, and human-centered strategic approaches.  

Building shared language.

Students appreciate the articulation of social impact goals and strategies in a way that is sector-inclusive. Especially for students siloed in traditional for-profit companies, charitable organizations, or technical areas, common language and shared knowledge of key strategy tools helps them communicate with stakeholders and understand perspectives from other initiatives, sectors, and communities. This bridge-building language development is also fantastic for those facing new demands from stakeholders such as members, clients, funders, investors, and board members, who expect better communication of unit economics and impact than ever before. 

Cultivating community.

Students working on specific projects or in organizational silos often point to intellectual and emotional support for their ongoing work, and confidence to cultivate germinating ideas. Accessing colleagues through a structured program invites cross-pollination of ideas, unplanned encounters, surprising new collaborations, and better decisions more representative of the priorities of a broader range of stakeholders. This leads to deepened relationships among colleagues, meaningful connections for newcomers, and organizational improvements including more effective approaches to social impact, new business models, and more meaningful approaches to impact measurement and management.

Developing self-in-society.

Our curriculum cultivates leaders situated at the intersection of personal passions, identity, or values and actions that lead to public value and a thriving society. We offer a robust set of leadership workshops that facilitate setting intentions, clarifying purpose, collaborating responsibly, enacting a personal vision for the future, and reflecting on the impact we create in the world. 

“In my current role, I design and facilitate peer learning opportunities and the frameworks presented allowed me to think more creatively about how to develop technical assistance strategies that are more creative and equity-centered while thinking not just about what people learn, but how they do so.” — Paige K, 2023 (SIS) Alum


“Becoming an alum of the Center for Social Impact Strategy has been pivotal in my career. Through the programs at CSIS, I have been able to gain strategies to improve organizations, start an organization, and apply techniques in a variety of projects.” — Prisma G, 2018 (SIS) and 2023 (DMSI) Alum

Custom options

We also offer more customized options in the area of strategic planning for social impact initiatives in any sector; workshops; retreats; and other custom executive education: 

1. Strategic Planning 

For private clients, CSIS designs strategic planning and organizational learning experiences with topics that are most relevant for your initiative at this moment in time. Topics we are great at include strategy, impact management, converting risk and uncertainty into opportunities for creativity and innovation, and self- and leadership development. These go best when we focus on one tool (such as a logic model, or balanced scorecard) or one question (how might we introduce more opportunities for creativity in our organization?) for an entire 45-90 minute session, so we can share briefly about the framework and then facilitate a conversation about how your initiative might implement that tool. Workshop duration could be as short as 45 minutes, a half or full day, a multi-day retreat (see “Residential Programs” below for an example of how we structure those), or over a period of months (see “Executive Certificate Programs” below). 

2. Curriculum Development and Learning Management 

CSIS also develops and delivers social impact strategy curriculum and the delivery pathways to manage learning: 

Cultivating new learning material could include professionally-recorded lecture videos, up-to-date reading lists, discussion questions, practitioner-oriented assignments, and assessments such as quizzes. 

We could also develop an initiative’s learning management system (LMS), on Penn Canvas if you don’t already have an LMS, and if you already have an active LMS, organizing your online learning resources. This latter option could include leading an asset search within your initiative, organizing your existing and new learning content onto the LMS, and cultivating policies and processes for staff access and acknowledgement of completion.

Formats could include: 

  • Live facilitation, in person (on campus, in a residential location, or in your venue) or on Zoom — great for decision-making and retreats 
  • Asynchronous learning (professionally-recorded video lecture, quizzes, assignments, and/or discussions on a learning management system) — great for ensuring everyone at your initiative is on the same page about how to use key strategic planning, decision-making, and evaluation tools. 
  • Any combination of the two. For initiatives who would benefit most from a retreat, we have often offered 4-6 weeks of asynchronous online education in the time leading up to a multi-day retreat, allowing the group to maximize their on-the-same-page conversation time during the retreat. 


3. Simpler Customizations 

Our simplest private offerings take an existing program, such as our Executive Program in Social Impact Strategy, or Global Social Impact House, and invite the partner to decide key aspects including location, cohort composition, and timing.

Executive Certificate Programs

Our programs in
Social Impact Strategy (SIS) and Digital Media for Social Impact (DMSI) are our most structured learning options, with weekly video lectures, readings, discussions, and assignments over 7-8 months. All weekly lessons are meant to be applied immediately to students’ own mission-driven work, and assignments must be completed about a real initiative that students are working on. Penn’s instructional team offers weekly feedback on students’ assignment submissions. Therefore, engaging actively with schoolwork is also an active investment in one’s own social impact portfolio. This option could be particularly useful if an organization is going through lots of changes. All classmates, also coworkers, will learn common language for improving key aspects of their interventions and organizational health. 

Our students leave these extended, cohort-based programs with the tools, community, and confidence needed to effectively drive social change in their communities and work, as well as informed choices about how to move their projects forward and evaluate their success. Graduates receive a Certificate from the School of Social Policy and Practice at the University of Pennsylvania and are eligible to complete the Master of Science (MS) in Nonprofit Leadership (NPL) in an accelerated format

If administered on Penn’s learning platform (OpenCanvas), these can be deployed as soon as a contract is signed.   

Residential Programs

CSIS offers intimate, residential retreats designed to help colleagues — leadership or management professionals integrate social innovation and business acumen in their work. Over the course of a retreat, we hope that participants might cultivate: 

  • A better understanding of one’s own initiative, and shared agreements on how to communicate that understanding with key stakeholders
  • Collaboration and decision-making on key strategic issues 
  • Trust-building and better working relationships among colleagues
  • More facility with how innovation and entrepreneurship play a central role in public problem solving. 
  • Mindsets and practices to co-develop new ideas collaboratively with key stakeholders.


Follow CSIS on LinkedIn for alerts about upcoming CSIS programming, sign up for our upcoming information sessions to learn more about the Executive Programs, and read our 2023-2024 Program Outlook to consider including us in your journey towards making a social impact.

Applications are live for the Executive Program in Digital Media for Social Impact (DMSI) and the Executive Program in Social Impact Strategy (SIS). Apply by October 22, 2023, to receive a $500 discount! We are also enrolling now for Penn Social Impact Accelerators (PSIA) — short, intensive bootcamps designed to support people with big ideas. We currently have have four offerings — three online bootcamps April 11-12, May 1-2, and May 9-10, 2024; and one in-person bootcamp June 5-7, 2024 on the University of Pennsylvania campus. 

Email us at for any questions about any CSIS programs. Please copy Ariel Schwartz for inquiries about the custom options mentioned on this page.

Did you know executive education graduates can apply to the Master of Science in Nonprofit Leadership (NPL) in an accelerated, on-campus, or online format? Learn more at the link provided above or reach out at