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14 Experiential Learning Programs for Social Innovators and Social Entrepreneurs

Are you social entrepreneur, social innovator or change-maker looking for an intensive education program or learning experience? If you're indifferent about which letters appear behind your name, one of these opportunities may be for you.

April 19, 2018

It’s not easy navigating the path to meaningful work. If you’re a social innovator craving a better understanding of impact creation, tailor-made social entrepreneurship programs to expand your skills and experience are few and far between.

That is, until now.

Offering a mix of travel, hands-on projects, and standard coursework, there are several field-based learning to help accelerate your transition into a more meaningful career or gain the hands-on experience needed to launch a social venture. 

For those who are indifferent to adding formal post-secondary letters behind their names, one of these intensive programs could be just the right fit. Plus as a bonus for the budget-conscious, they are often a lower-cost alternative to traditional graduate programs. Pick your blend of immersive adventure, social entrepreneurship curriculum, and expert mentorship from the list below.

If you don’t see a learning opportunity that piques your interest here, browse our list of impact-focused graduate programs tailored for social entrepreneurs and social innovators.


14 experiental learning amani

DURATION: 9-months total (1 virtual + 4 immersion + 4 virtual)

COST: $7950 (not including travel expenses)

LOCATION: Nairobi, Kenya | Bengaluru, India | Sao Paulo, Brazil


This experiential program combines an apprenticeship in Brazil or India with access to mentorship to equip participants with the skills they need to transition into an impact-driven career.


This program starts with 1-month of virtual study with ~15-20 hours commitment per week. Following this foundation, participants will complete 4-months immersion in either Brazil or India with ~45-50 hours per week in an Apprenticeship. The program is completed with another 4-months of ‘acceleration’ where participants apply learning from a flexible location with ~5-10 hours per week commitment.

Completing this program counts as 25% towards an MBA through Lynn University and with two additional online courses makes participants eligible for a Diploma in Social Innovation through University for Peace in Costa Rica.


This program is open to anyone with an undergraduate degree or at least two years work experience. Flexible in nature, it is feasible to participate even while working full-time or leading a social venture.

 2. DSIL

14 experiental learning dsil

DURATION: 5 months

COST: $8,500 *Includes accommodation, most meals, and course materials during Immersion. (or join the 9-day immersion only for $6,500, or the virtual classroom for $2,000)

LOCATION: Virtual | Bangkok, Thailand | Phnom Penh, Cambodia


Through real-time cases and design sprints, the DSIL course provides participants with the skills and mindsets required to understand and apply design thinking to solve challenges. The program offers participants a tool-box and the experience to bring the learning back to their teams and organizations after the program finishes.


This 5-month course includes 15 one-hour virtual sessions to connect with global thought leaders on various course themes, five at home DSIL challenges, and two executive coaching sessions. 

If participating in the immersion in Thailand and Cambodia, time will be split between the two countries working with local innovators and social entrepreneurs on real-time challenges and design sprints.


This course is designed for established leaders from all backgrounds. Alumni of 130+ from over 55 countries range in age from 26 to 60 years old and includes people of all educational backgrounds. 


14 experiental learning grassroots

DURATION: 8-14 Days

COST: $3,000 + $800+ for additional weeks



Grassroots U has several experiential programs available for students and professionals to build leadership and organizational capacity in social entrepreneurship. Curriculum areas include social enterprise, sustainable organizations, impact investing, and social innovation and entrepreneurship.


Participants are immersed in the local community where they can problem solve and innovate in real-life. The programs center around learning-by-doing with 70% being experiential learning, 20% peer learning, and 10% formal learning.


There are different opportunities depending on experience. For example, the Impact Consulting program is for graduate students or working professionals to gain field experience, and the Social Entrepreneurship program is designed for undergrad students and recent college graduates.


14 experiental learning hollyhock


COST: $850 + tax + accommodation at Hollyhock

LOCATION: Washington, DC region | San Francisco Bay Area


Running since 1982, Hollyhock is a learning center that has offered leadership programs to over 2,500 entrepreneurs who are making the world better.


The program is interactive and experiential with participants learning through panels, discussion with peers, and facilitation from experienced mentors and faculty.


Participants who take part in Hollyhock programs come from a mix of backgrounds and levels of experience. There is typically a range of early-stage entrepreneurs and experiences leaders working in for-profit, nonprofit, cooperative, and hybrid models.


14 experiental learning middleburry

DURATION: 2-weeks

COST: Nondegree students: $4,000 | Middlebury students: $1,000

LOCATION: Fellowship is in various locations for selected candidates


Completing the professional certificate in Social Enterprise Management and Impact Investing is the first step to joining the Frontier Market Scouts 12-month Fellowship program.

Facilitated by leading practitioners in the impact space (and working with organizations like Omidyar Network, Accion Venture Lab, and Unreasonable Group) certificate students gain knowledge of the impact sector, designing innovative impact-focused business models, and what it takes to grow a social venture.


The program runs over an intensive two-week period and provides lectures and actionable projects in collaboration with a network of social enterprises, impact investment funds, and incubators around the world. At no additional cost, students have the opportunity to apply for a two to 12-month fellowship to work with a social enterprise.


The Frontier Market Scouts program trains students to become talent scouts and investment managers for local entrepreneurs and social-minded investors.


14 experiental learning idex

DURATION: 6 months

COST: $3950 + $130 / month stipend + housing  (not including travel and other expenses)

LOCATION: Bangalore, India


The IDEX Accelerator offers a six-month Fellowship with hands-on learning in India working with local social entrepreneurs to grow an enterprise.


The program is a mix of online orientation (3 weeks) and coursework and workshops during the 24-week in-person field placement.

Online curriculum is comprised of readings and virtual seminars and is expected to take ~5 hours a week over the entire program. Topics covered include managing social innovation, advocacy & outreach, resource mobilization and impact measurement.


Ideal participants have one to three years of professional work experience and have a passion for social enterprise. Fellowship Alumni are from 23+ countries and a variety of professional backgrounds.


14 experiental learning moving

DURATION: 6 months

COST: $3,600 Institute Tuition: Includes costs for all assessments, speakers, online community, coaching, social impact project support, and life-time alumni access

LOCATION: Virtual. Join from anywhere. Fellowship starts with a 2-day online cohort building and kickoff session.


The MovingWorlds Institute Global Fellowship program is for professionals looking to find more purpose in their work and make a positive impact with their careers. The virtual programming is customizable to participants' unique goals and lifestyle, and is easily combined with a full-time job.


The 6-month program kicks off with a virtual training weekend to explore personal and professional drivers, develop skills in design thinking and social entrepreneurship, and meet the other changemakers.

Throughout the Fellowship, participants are engaged with weekly coaching calls, monthly webinars with industry leaders, and case-based learning projects. Additional reading and reflection assignments provide a deeper understanding of social impact frameworks like human-centered design, behavioral economics, systems mapping, and more. Particpants also gain hands-on experience by applying learning to a real social impact projects to build on strengths while challenging growth. At every step, there is support of coaches, mentors, and peers to help participants reach their career goals. 

By the end of the Fellowship, participants will have developed the skills, network, and confidence to take their careers to the next level, plus join an inspiring group of Fellows from around the world supporting each other to create a lifetime of impact!


The MovingWorlds Institute is looking for early- to mid-career professionals from across all sectors who are looking for the best way to contribute to building a better world.


14 experiental learning social

DURATION: 6 weeks (minimum)

COST: $2,100 (for first 6 weeks - every additional week $300 per week)

LOCATION: Guatemala | Ecuador | Nicaragua | Dominican Republic


Through impact and immersion programs, the mission of Social Entrepreneurs Corps is to provide participants with the knowledge, skills, and support to empower marginalized individuals, families and community in Latin America.


Each program runs for 6-weeks and takes place in Guatemala, Ecuador, Nicaragua, or Dominican Republic. Over the program, participants design projects along with local leadership to implement and scale social innovations. There is also an option to extend the experience for an additional $300 per week.


This program is open to recent grads and young professionals who want on-the-ground social entrepreneurship and adaptive leadership experience.

¿Hablas español? It is recommended participants have basic Spanish language skills to make the most of the experience.


14 experiental learning starting

DURATION: 5-day institute

COST: $40 fee to apply, and if you are accepted tuition will be $1,250

LOCATION: Available in LA (February), NOLA (May), Raleigh (June), NY (August), or DC (October)


StartingBloc is focused on convening, growing and supporting leaders to step into a collaborative, authentic, distributed workforce. Programming takes a combination of supporting Fellows to both show up authentically in community and develop hard skills.


The StartingBloc experience starts with an Institute where Fellows meet for 5-days in an informative blend of workshops for both personal and professional leadership development. Past speakers have included people such as Seth Godin and Krista Tippett.


It is not a requirement to have started or be planning start a social venture. The community is made up of both entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs leading positive shifts within an existing organization. StartingBloc is focused on activating people, not necessarily businesses.


14 experiental learning tech

DURATION: 16-weeks of courses + 5-day orientation for Grad school track

COST: Working professional experience $995; Alternative grad school experience $4,995 (not including travel or annual conference)

LOCATION: Online + Washington, DC


This alternative diploma program is designed for both students and professionals looking to build technical skills in monitoring and evaluation to better quantify, qualify, and communicate impact.


There are two tracks available. The ‘Working Professional’ track is fully online, and tuition provides access to course for 1-year and office hours for 3-months. The ‘Alternative Grad School Experience’ includes a 5-day orientation in Washington D.C., lifetime access to the courses and 6-months office hours, plus a one-on-one mentorship program with TechChange CEO, plus other perks to set students up for a smooth transition into a career.


This program is ideal for people seeking to start a career related to impact monitoring and evaluation, or looking to grow within an existing organization. With both the ‘Working Professional’ and ‘Alternative Grad School Experience’ tracks, participants can select the level of engagement that best suits their goals.


14 experiental learning tribe

DURATION: 7-days

COST: $2950, not including flights or accommodation

LOCATION: Mumbai, India


Social Impact Journeys are a small group immersion experience in India. It is ideal for those who are passionate about social change and looking to transition into a new impact-focused career or advance their understanding of social impact. Throughout the program, participants will be exposed to local and global social issues while gaining clarity and confidence for transitioning into a career of social change.


The week starts off with a one-on-one leadership coaching session for each participant, and the following seven days offer a curated experience specific to the particular group (of up to 20 people). Social Impact Journeys include a mix of day field immersions where participants work directly with communities in need, educational tours and group training, and the opportunity to provide consulting for local foundations, nonprofits and social enterprises. Curriculum is facilitated by subject matter experts and mentors.


Social Impact Journey expeditions are open to participants from diverse backgrounds who are 21 and older. The experience will be the best fit for those who are are interested in international development, transitioning into a social impact career, or on a career break and seeking an alternative path.


14 experiental learning global

DURATION: 3-day in-person retreat, followed by a 3 or 12-month virtual accelerator program

COST: 3-day retreat and 12-month virtual accelerator £4997 | 3-day retreat and 3-month virtual accelerator £1597 | 3-day retreat only £1297

LOCATION: Bath | Oxford, United Kingdom


The Global Goals 4P Impact Accelerator helps changemakers design and lead impactful projects in collaboration with public and private sector partners with the shared purpose of making measurable progress against the Sustainable Development Goals. Using frameworks based in empathy at the levels of ‘self’, ‘social’, and ‘system’, participants first examine personal purpose and leadership qualities as the foundation for social change work. Then, they explore the problem in-depth to design human-centered breakthrough solutions rooted in problem-solution fit. Finally, participants learn how to engage stakeholders, align impact measurement with Sustainable Development Goal indicators, and build a credible entrepreneurial ecosystem to attract capital through public-private partnerships.


The Global Goals 4P Accelerator is a blended programme that begins with a three-day in-person intensive followed by a three-month virtual accelerator with one-on-one coaching to produce an initiative that can be measured to the Sustainable Development Goals. After that, qualified participants wishing to continue developing their social change project, and secure public-private partnerships to support it, can extend support for a further 9-months.


The Global Goals 4P Accelerator is for social impact entrepreneurs who want to make measurable progress on the Sustainable Development Goals through a social change initiative. The program is ideal for those in need of greater value proposition refinement, who are seeking new social financial vehicles, and who have an interest leveraging collaborations to design, negotiate, and secure public-private partnerships.


14 experiental learning unity

DURATION: 6 or 10 weeks

COST: Student/Social Entrepreneur: 340 EUR; Individual/Nonprofit: 690 EUR; Corporate: 1400 EUR

LOCATION: Program runs in Bonn, Germany, or online (English and German cohorts available)


The purpose of the Changemaker Journey program is to empower people to lead and inspire change from inside out. The experience is designed to support leaders in discovering and developing the inner capacities needed to co-create purposeful change. By starting with an understanding of self and what matters to participants personally, then exploring ways to join forces with others who share similar values, and finally taking inspired action together, participants will grow as leaders who are able to better navigate uncertainty and build resilience.


Each Changemaker Journey cohort is a 6 or 10-week program with small groups of up to 12 changemakers. Over that time, there are workshops, weekly online reflection sessions, and weekly peer mentoring and supporting written workbook materials. Bringing together frameworks in the areas of systems thinking, storytelling, collective leadership and more, workshops and reflection sessions provide a learning experience that can be applied in real time to existing projects.


The Changemaker Journey is ideal for social entrepreneurs, innovators, students or young leaders who are passionate about making an impact.


Danielle Sutton

Danielle Sutton is the Content Animator at Acumen where she surfaces stories to inspire and activate social entrepreneurs. In an age of information overload, she believes in learning 'the right thing at the right time' to intentionally design impactful social enterprises. You can usually find Danielle digging into the Acumen course library, playing in the mountains, or exploring marketing on The Sedge blog.

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