Resource: Acumen E-Courses

Hey y’all! The Acumen Fund is hosting free e-courses for people interested in changing the world.  A few months ago, I took my first Acumen e-course on value propositions which wasn’t quite as revelatory and ‘world view-changing’ as it was made out to be–but I think that was just my previous familiarity with the concept and the course instructor’s teaching style. This new crop of courses looks pretty fantastic, and a few are focused on skillsets I really want to acquire or strengthen.

See below for my curated list of best classes. And if anyone is interested in taking any of them together, reach out to me. I’ve found that when you have a someone to go through the course with together, it makes the whole experience richer.

STORYTELLING FOR CHANGE
opens January 27, 2015
I’ve been speaking a lot recently on my research on design, business models and social impact. While content matters, being able to frame information and bring it to life is crucial to moving ideas forward. As I emphasize in the Build Yourself+ workshop when we talk about speaking and self-presentation, this isn’t just a key skill when you’re up there giving your fabulous TED talk, it’s also in the job interview, in your staff meetings, in the community meeting on your proposed design or development. This Acumen course looks like it takes on speaking from that holistic perspective.

FINANCIAL SUSTAINABILITY: THE NUMBERS SIDE OF SOCIAL ENTERPRISE
opens February 11, 2015
As I’ve recently written about, the numbers are really important. While the whole story isn’t in the numbers, I do think the liberal arts-heavy education style I certainly experienced underemphasizes the numbers in favor of the narrative. In Acumen’s own words:

“We have come across entrepreneurs who have not been sufficiently rigorous in assessing the business case. In some cases, their numbers just didn’t add up—targeted price points couldn’t generate enough income to cover anticipated sales and operating costs. Other times, a business could look profitable at first glance. But on deeper investigation, the business could never scale without continued subsidies because it didn’t generate enough net profit to pay for up-front set up costs, capital depreciation, and overhead.”

‘Nuff said.

LEAN DATA APPROACHES TO MEASURE SOCIAL IMPACT
opens March 11, 2015
I recently heard about a social impact design firm that wanted to measure the impact of their project on a specific community indicator–the academic researcher they hired gave them a study budget that was larger than the budget of the project. This is an issue I am passionate about, and I’ve written about in previous blog posts, although I’ve never before framed it as ‘lean data’ and I like the term. I think that there are more fluid, cheaper (albeit slightly more imperfect) ways of assessing impact, and that’s what this course seems to be all about.

Other courses that look great but are not for me right now…..

DESIGN KIT: THE COURSE FOR HUMAN-CENTERED DESIGN
opens February 9, 2015
I think Human-Centered Design is an incredible skillset, and I just recommended it to students at a Harvard Social Enterprise conference I spoke at last week. If there weren’t so many other things on my to-learn list, I’d definitely take this one as in each project, there’s something new to learn or a skill (research design, interviewing, prototyping) that you can go deeper into.

MARKET ANALYSIS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PYRAMID
opens February 17, 2015
This one looks great for the same reason I’m interested in ‘the numbers.’ Market validation is an important skill (and one designers are not trained to even think about) and doing it in the context of poor populations has got to be even more interesting (difficult?) I don’t have a social venture or work in the developing world so this one’s not directly relevant to me so I’ll take a pass, but it looks fantastic.

Know any great e-courses or opportunities to hone your skills? Feel free to leave comments and pass them on.

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