Tired of feeling like I didn’t have the academic “credentials” to be part of what the Business People or the Finance People did, and disappointed by the apparent gaps on my resume betraying the professional I knew I could be, I decided it was time to do something about it.
The first step was quitting my comfy university job to take an unpaid business development fellowship with a startup social enterprise in Colombia. I’ve now been in Bogotá for about four months and as part of a small team of two co-founders, I’m getting more exciting experience in supply chain development, market research, strategic fundraising, and impact investing than I could have even imagined–and have discovered a newfound fascination with marketing in the Bottom of the Pyramid segment.
But although I’ll be the first to tell you that experience speaks much more than words on a page, I still felt like something was missing. I jumped into my position at SokoText, immediately surrounded by exactly the environment I had wanted–a small startup with a small team, in which I’d have the chance to wear many hats–and suddenly felt like I didn’t know nearly enough about almost any of these hats.
I know who I am. I am a big-picture person: a problem-solver, a critical analyzer, a communicator, and a strategist. I want to know about all the pieces, how they work and how to make them better. Yet here was an incredibly exciting real-life example of a social enterprise, with limitless opportunities for developing answers and building solutions, and I was suddenly painfully aware of the holes in my knowledge. I craved to have the tools to solve these fascinating challenges.
That’s when I developed one of my secondary goals for this experience: I was going to piece together the business minor I never had, and start finding some answers.
The only question was…how?
Luckily, it’s 2015, and there’s an Internet thing for that!
They’re called MOOCs, and they’re my favorite thing of this entire year.
MOOCs are Massive Open Online Courses, and they’ve gained popularity and traction over the last few years with major sites like Coursera, edX, and more offering thousands of courses in everything you could imagine, from software, coding, and graphic design to business courses and random liberal arts courses you never got to take in college. And many of the courses are created and taught by professors at universities like MIT, Harvard, Stanford, University of Pennsylvania, and many more.
Did I mention they’re free*?
(*Don’t be scared because “free” came with an asterisk. I know no one likes to see that, but in this case never fear–the classes really are free! There is usually a paid option (around $35-100 per class) to receive a “Verified Certificate”, but general consensus seems to be that if you can give yourself the motivation to finish the class without having paid for it, it doesn’t make much difference to potential employers or others whether you received a Certificate or not.)
In the classes I’ve been taking, I’ve tried to find a balance between curriculum related to social entrepreneurship, and material from the traditional business sector. While I’ve gotten through several classes so far, I’ve got plenty more on my list! I’ve spent a great deal of time compiling my dream list of fascinating MOOCs that will be very useful for me, and I’ve shared them below.
The courses range from 2.5 hours to 8 weeks or more, though on average most of them are around 4 weeks. I’ve been aiming to complete at least one a month, since realistically the only time I reliably have to dedicate to studying consists of a few hours on the weekends. But there are courses to fit every schedule, so don’t let that be your excuse 🙂
[If you’re interested in these topics exclusively as they relate to social enterprise, check out +Acumen’s full list of fantastic free online courses.]
Finance and Accounting
- Finance for Non-Financial Professionals via Coursera | **This is a fantastic introductory course on some important key concepts in finance and accounting, presented in a way that is intelligible for non-finance folks! Highly recommended**
- Financial Sustainability: The Numbers Side of Social Enterprise via Acumen
- Introduction to Financial Accounting via Coursera
- Introduction to Finance via Coursera
- Introduction to Corporate Finance via Coursera
- Managerial Accounting: Cost Behaviors, Systems, and Analysis via Coursera
- Marketing with Dignity at the Bottom of the Pyramid via +Acumen | **This course changed my vision entirely of marketing, especially in the BoP context, and allowed me to have some amazing insights about our company’s target market and the messaging we need to reach them. Also highly recommended!**
- Marketing Segmentation at the Bottom of the Pyramid via +Acumen
- Storytelling for Change via +Acumen
- Driving Adoption of Innovation at the Base of the Pyramid via +Acumen
- Introduction to Marketing via Coursera
- Marketing in a Digital World via Coursera
Operations and Management
- Foundations of Business Strategy via Coursera
- Introduction to Operations Management via Coursera
- Lean Principles for Social Enterprises via +Acumen
- Networking for Changemakers via +Acumen
Entrepreneurship and Innovation
- New Venture Finance: Startup Funding for Entrepreneurs via Coursera
- Design Kit: The Course for Human-Centered Design via +Acumen
Graphic Design and Software
- Visual Design via Coursera
- Introduction to Adobe Illustrator via World Education University
- Beginner’s Adobe Photoshop via AdobeKnowHow
- Introducing InDesign via Lynda
- Layout and Composition with InDesign via Lynda
Impact and Scale
- Lean Data Approaches to Measure Social Impact via +Acumen
- Scaling Smart: Developing Repeatable Models to Grow your Impact via +Acumen
- Scaling Operations: Linking Strategy and Execution via +Acumen
Are there any other courses you’ve taken that you would recommend? What’s been your favorite MOOC that you’ve taken?