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Social Entrepreneurship and Impact Investments (19CBA85000)

General information






S semester

ECTS Credits:


Teaching Staff:

Group Teacher Department Language
Elena Esperanza Pons Conforto Dirección General y Estrategia ENG



Previous Knowledge


Workload distribution

In the first session I will introduce the concepts of social entrepreneurship and impact investing. After that the course is structured in two parts.

A first block will address the concept and practice of social entrepreneurship, and the three stages in the life of a social enterprise: start-up, scaling up, and growth/consolidation. Here we will also look at social entrepreneurship in different contexts, specifically in emerging countries.

A second block is dedicated to the sourcing and analyzing of impact investments. We will introduce the objective of generating social and/or environmental impact, how it is analyzed and measured, and how funders are increasingly investing for social and/or impact.

During the course, we will welcome guest speakers who will share with students their own experiences as social entrepreneurs, social consultants or impact investors; providing insights on possible career paths linked to this field, while offering an opportunity to engage with real cases and examples.

Students will be expected to do intensive preparation before each session individuallly and in groups, as well as to attend ALL classes, since a high proportion of the learning is developed in class. To prepare for each class, you should make use of the "study questions in preparation for class?, to encourage you to think through the main concepts, to prepare the class readings, and the exercise or the case for discussion.

Many additional articles, videos and links will be posted on Moodle (ESADE's elearning platform) so please check it regularly for updates. The slides used during the sessions will also be posted there. I will make active use of the news forum and the debate channel and other online tools on Moodle, so that we can make better use of our time in the classroom. All assignments will be handed in on Moodle and I will provide you with feedback as the course proceeds.


It is widely accepted that contemporary democratic societies are built around three sectors: public administrations, business companies and nonprofit organizations. Like a three-legged stool, these three sectors have to work together to drive societies towards a state of equilibrium. However, certain organizations seem to blur the limits between these sectors: Social Enterprises. In an ever-changing, fast-paced environment, social enterprise organizations (for profit and nonprofit) need the appropriate skills in order to face new challenges and continue to help improve the lives of people and communities. In other words, these organizations must be truly capable of leading the complex world of social intervention. The new demands placed upon social enterprises are the results of deep-rooted changes that are shaping contemporary societies.

Impact Investsments seek to generate social and/or environmental impact in addition to financial returns. This emerging investment strategy can be applied across all asset classes in diversified portfolios, while addressing critical issues such as energy, water scarcity, climate change, community development, access to financial services, health, sustainable development and education. Often times impact investors are the first investors in a Social Enterprise.

A new generation of investors and social entrepreneurs are recognizing that many challenges facing the world can only be solved through integrated solutions that can successfully combine business acumen, capital markets, and policy objectives.

Though social entrepreneurship and impact investing have gained in popularity and are now being taught in many universities, both concepts are still very young fields intellectually. The theory is in relatively elementary stages of development and empirical research has been limited. The concept is inherently appealing to many, but we do not have the kinds of intellectual frameworks that would help social entrepreneurs, their funders, and policymakers make wise decisions about how to use it to the greatest benefit. This analysis requires looking at limits and weaknesses of popular approaches to social entrepreneurship and impact investing with the same intensity as we trumpet their strengths.

The course is designed for a broad range of ESADE students including those who, during their professional careers, are considering a leadership position in a social enterprise; are interested in understanding the specifics of managing social enterprises; interested in advising social enterprises; planning to serve as board members or volunteers; funding or investing in social enterpriseS; or interested in leveraging business to serve social transformation. "Social? is understood here in the broadest sense of benefitting society, including environmental improvements.

Course Learning Objectives

The main goals of this course are to introduce and explore how social entrepreneurship can help find solutions to the major social challenges facing our society, and to foster a positive attitude and affinity toward the possibility of becoming personally involved in a social enterprise initiative in the future. We will also introduce and explore the concept of impact investing as a way of applying the principles and practices acquired in the course in any career path. Hence participants will acquire the basic knowledge necessary to source and analyze investments which help generate economic and social and/or environmental value simultaneously, and are economically viable in the long term.

The course also places a strong focus on methodologies and skills. We will practice creativity and innovation skills, analytical skills, negotiation skills, group work, presentations... and become acquainted with the main innovation and start up methodologies of the time, as well as with the investment strategies. We will also sharpen our critical thinking ability and strive to develop our own opinions about controversial issues and question our own assumptions. Hence this course is also interesting and suitable for students who want to explore entrepreneurship, investments, or simply an alternative view to business and economics.

The course strives to be eminently practical and applicable to a variety of contexts. For this reason we will analyze cases referring to different types of social enterprises and investments, in different sectors and continents, addressing varied challenges in various ways, and displaying the main challenges faced by social entrepreneurs and investors in different development phases.
At the end of the course, students should:
1. Be familiar with the basic principles and practices of social entrepreneurship
2. Understand how social entrepreneurs develop businesses that have a positive social impact, but are also financially viable.
3. Grasp the concept of social and environmental impact investment and how social entrepreneurship requires the appropriate type of funding.
4. Develop participant's analytical skills to spot and analyze investments in social enterprises.
5. Enhance a student's ability to weigh various qualitative and quantitative decision factors and exercise independent judgment when making investment decisions.

Assessment criteria

80% case studies and various exercises (individual & in groups)
20% class participation

Timetable and sections

Group Teacher Department
Elena Esperanza Pons Conforto Dirección General y Estrategia