Residential Programs

Penn Social Impact Lab

A one week program for UPenn’s emerging impact leaders.

Every year, Penn Social Impact Lab brings together 20 emerging leaders across multiple graduate schools. Students explore their passion and purpose, connect with a community of changemakers, and learn the leadership skills necessary to create positive social change.

NPLD 585 is a 7-day, off-site, intensive residential course in social innovation.  Students will learn how innovation and entrepreneurship play a central role in public problem solving. We will explore how social entrepreneurs co-develop new ideas with key stakeholders, articulate problems and solutions, define intended impact, understand competition, and collaborate with other actors. At the end of the course, students will have mastered a set of conceptual tools and strategies that will allow them to be effective problem solvers in diverse settings throughout their careers. Bring your purpose, passions, and social impact goals to share.

Inspirational Setting

Learn, work, and play in a stimulating and peaceful environment.

Learn by Doing

Acquire the knowledge to turn a skill or passion into a concrete plan for social impact.

Digital Detox

Disconnect from technology and intentionally reconnect with your personal purpose.


Be asked the challenging questions from experienced leaders to support and encourage creative risk-taking.

Leadership Skills

Gain tools to strengthen your leadership, by applying our hands-on curriculum.

Powerful Community

Build meaningful connections with students and faculty across Penn.

Key Details

January 4 – 10, 2023
Powell River Valley, Tennessee
Program Fee
$500 (not including tuition)
Registration Deadline
November 2022


PIL students will study and live at the Well Being Retreat Center, in East Tennessee, nestled in the Powell River Valley. The Center has a history of hosting various retreats with the mission, “To promote harmony with Nature, wellness of body & peace of mind.” Participants will have access to many fields and trails, 2.5 miles of Powell River, and a meditative labyrinth, and are encouraged to explore their surroundings.

Teaching Team


Day 1

Settle in with our hosts at the Well Being Retreat Center.

Day 2
Observation and Empathy

Learn the fundamentals of observation and empathy for social innovation.

Day 3
Collaboration and Brainstorming

Practice collaborative problem solving.

Day 4

Refine a practical social innovation design brief, and practice the art of storytelling.

Day 5
Life Lab and Community Service

Explore work and life views, while taking in your surroundings in the Powell River Valley, within the Appalachian Mountains.

Day 6
Leadership Development

Develop personal goals and embrace failure.

Day 7

Return home.


Do I need a social venture or a project to enroll?

No. We encourage any students with a creative mindset and the drive to make the world a better place to enroll. Penn Social Impact Lab is as much about honing your leadership skills and developing a social impact skillset as it is dreaming about your venture. We welcome students to register regardless of whether or not you currently have a venture.

What is included in the $500 program fee?

The fee covers all programming and training-related costs, including housing and on-site meals, and a shuttle to our residential location from Knoxville, TN. Personal travel outside of the program dates and the provided shuttle is not included, nor is travel insurance.

Is this just for upperclassmen or graduate students? What schools?

We created this program to include all current students at Penn: undergraduate, graduate, full-time, and part-time. Penn Social Impact Lab is open to students in all 12 Penn schools.

‘Social impact’ is new to me; should I still enroll?

Our team looks for people with positive attitudes more than a particular type of resume. If you’re excited by this program and believe you could learn, grow, and support your peers, we invite you to register. And if you’re seasoned in the social impact space, we also invite you to register. This community of peers will be strongest when it is most diverse.

Who will be teaching at PSIL?

You’ll work with an amazing and diverse team of faculty on leadership skills, design thinking, business strategy, and research methods. Our staff is a blend of facilitators, practitioners, and researchers. You’ll be surrounded by seasoned and successful social entrepreneurs providing coaching and mentorship.

What happens after the program?

Participants return to a community of alumni at Penn supporting one another in their personal and professional goals.

What if I can’t make it the whole time?

We ask for full participation from registered students. Any person who is enrolled and commits to the program will be expected to be present for both virtual sessions (December 9th and December 16th, from 1pm-4pm) and all of the residential program, from January 4-10, 2023.