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Learn How To

Recognize key ideas in finance and how they shape our daily lives
Define and explain complex ideas like insurance, risk, options, diversification, and M&A
Translate financial jargon into easy-to-comprehend language
Use debt and commitment to create leverage and opportunity

Leverage real-world expertise

Apply breakthrough insights from today’s leading thinkers to your social enterprise.

Adopt best practices

Learn tried and true methods to amplify your impact from the best in the business.

Enjoy lifetime access

Revisit courses, refresh your knowledge, and brush up on your skills at any time.

This course makes finance very accessible and central to any entrepreneur’s endeavors. Beyond the basics, [Mihir] also provides insight into finance as a tool for social impact and [outlines] areas for innovation.”


Course Syllabus



Video: Welcome to the Course by Mihir Desai

Video: Why Is It Important to Understand Finance?

Exercise: Introduce Yourself

Resource: Workbook for the Course



Video: Randomness and Risk: Understanding Insurance

Video: Insurance: A Financial Tool for Chaos

Video: Two Branches of Finance: Asset Pricing & Corporate Finance

Quiz: Distinguish Between the Branches of Finance

Exercise: Analyze Randomness and Insurance in stories



Video: Assessing Options: Pride and Prejudice

Video: Increasing Opportunity with Stock Options

Quiz: The Purpose of Optionality

Video: Asset Pricing and Diversification to Reduce Risk

Video: Types of Financial Assets and Personal Relationships

Quiz: Types of Betas

Video: The Mandate to Create Value: Parable of Talents

Video: What is Asset Valuation?

Quiz: Calculating Present Value

Exercise: Analyze and illustrate the different elements of Asset Pricing



Video: What is the Principal-Agent Problem?

Video: How does the Principal-Agent Problem Affect Your Daily Life?

Quiz: Identifying Principals and Agents

Video: Why Should Companies Merge?

Video: How are Mergers Like Marriages and Why do They Fail?

Quiz: Ideal Conditions for a Merger

Video: Why is Leverage Important to Finance and Life?

Video: What Are the Risks of Debt and Leverage?

Exercise: Identify elements of Corporate Finance in stories



Video: Rediscovering the Humanity in Finance

Video: Why Should Social Entrepreneurs Understand Finance?

Exercise: Identify the core human needs that Finance serves

Video: About +Acumen

Survey: Complete the Post-Course Satisfaction Survey

Course Description

On the surface, finance is intimidating - full of complex charts, confounding equations, and big words - but its underlying concepts have been ingrained in our stories for centuries, and continue to shape our daily lives. Renowned Harvard professor Mihir Desai is on a mission to make finance human again. In this course he’ll take you on a vivid, story-based tour of the key ideas in finance.

NOTE: This is not a personal finance course.

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About the Instructor

Mihir Desai

Mihir A. Desai is the Mizuho Financial Group Professor of Finance at Harvard Business School and Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. He received his Ph.D. in political economy from Harvard University; his MBA as a Baker Scholar from Harvard Business School; and a bachelor's degree in history and economics from Brown University. In 1994, he was a Fulbright Scholar to India.
Professor Desai's areas of expertise include tax policy, international finance, and corporate finance. His work has emphasized the appropriate design of tax policy in a globalized setting, the links between corporate governance and taxation, and the internal capital markets of multinational firms. He is a Research Associate in the National Bureau of Economic Research's Public Economics and Corporate Finance Programs, and served as the co-director of the NBER's India program. He has testified several times to Congressional bodies on various tax policy questions.

Professor Desai has taught extensively as an award-winning teacher at HBS and at Harvard University. He has taught public economics and entrepreneurship to undergraduates, finance and international finance to MBA students and executives, and tax law and policy to law students. Recently, Professor Desai created an online finance course through the HBX platform titled Leading with Finance. His most recent book is The Wisdom of Finance: Discovering Humanity in the World of Risk and Return, published in May 2017.

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Master Classes

Our video-based courses are taught by the best in the business.

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World-class instructors

Learn at your own pace

Watch anytime, anywhere

Master Classes

Our video-based courses are taught by the best in the business.


World-class instructors


Learn at your own pace


Watch anytime, anywhere

Fund Your Idea

Team Course

Nonprofit Fundraising Essentials


On Demand

6 weeks

Embrace Entrepreneurial And Strategic Approaches To Fundraise More Effectively

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Our community comes from a range of countries and socioeconomic backgrounds; differences in pricing standards and privilege shouldn't prevent access. Therefore, this course is 'pay what you can.' In order to continue to provide access to as many people as possible, we appreciate whatever you are able to contribute to help keep our courses running. Please note that a payment is NOT required to take this course.
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