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The Social Enterprise Practicum

The Social Enterprise (SE) Practicum is the capstone of your 2-year masters program. It serves as a vehicle to personally integrate what you have learned in your graduate coursework, consulting projects, study abroad, internships, and paid employment.

It does this by providing an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to apply what you have learned in the program in a situation that approximates some aspects of the post-graduate professional activities in which you intend to engage. It is a bridge between fulltime graduate study and fulltime involvement in the world of social enterprise.  

By the end of the practicum you will have demonstrated your ability to: 

• Develop and execute a work plan that leads to a social innovation. • Move a situation from Point A to Point B, producing a resume-worthy accomplishment. 

• Make mid-course corrections and learn from your experience.  

• Draw upon the resources of, and build strong professional relationships with faculty, Practitioner Affiliates, student colleagues, and external advisors. 


Because each student’s interests in this field are different, it is expected that a wide variety of practicum projects will be proposed to be undertaken during this semester long experience. Some of you may create a new organization, build a prototype, apply a social enterprise technique to an existing organization, or lead a change effort. Some of you will work in the US, some abroad. The common thread is that these are all hands-on efforts intended to result in doing something, in taking an action that leads to some form of societal betterment. 

Practicum projects may involve producing a variety of real-world results: 

• Employing your critical thinking skills to address an issue currently being debated in the SE space (i.e., the role of prizes and competitions to drive innovation, the limits of applying private sector techniques) in a way that measurably influences debate in this field. 

• Developing a new method of use to practicing social entrepreneurs. • Building a prototype of a social innovation, applying what you have learned about design thinking. 

• Launch a new SE organization or venture. 

• Creating an alternative “SE way” of addressing an important existing societal concern. 

• Solving a problem plaguing an existing organization. 

• Changing a policy or practice to benefit an existing organization. 

Common Elements 

The core of the Social Enterprise Program is about creativity, breaking out of dysfunctional rules and practices, positive change, initiative taking, and innovation. The nature of a practicum project should reflect these values. It should also reflect your professional identity, as expressed in the specialization concentration you have designed and pursued in your graduate study. 

Because of the diversity of career interests of students in this masters program, and the program’s encouragement to its students to use it as an incubator for an idea about a societal change or a new venture that they would develop during their graduate study through coursework and experiential learning opportunities, the Social Enterprise Practicum is intended to offer a significant degree of flexibility in both practicum subject and how it is carried out. 

Practicum projects may be solo efforts or team endeavors, depending on the nature of what you propose to be accomplished. All students engaged in a practicum will meet periodically to both learn techniques that cut across the range of projects undertaken that semester, and to advise, coach, and support each other. Additionally each practicum project selects an individual or small team of individuals from outside the Social Enterprise Program to serve as project mentors. 

Each student, or team, gives a final presentation to an audience of students, faculty and Practitioner Affiliates in the program about what they accomplished. 

Recently Completed Practicum Projects 


Social Enterprise Masters students are also allowed to meet their capstone practicum requirement by taking participating one of the school-wide practica. More information about these is available here.

2014 Social Enterprise Capstone Practicum Projects

Taryn Bird

Kate Spade + ADC in Rwanda
My practicum focused on developing a robust and relevant life skills program for Kate Spade and Company’s newest Rwandan Vendor: ADC. I chose to focus my practicum on the life skills program, as my job portfolio is centered on the economic generation and product side of the business. As ADC is being set up as a for profit social enterprise, I felt it was important to develop a life skills program that met the needs of the employees, community and business.  I traveled to Rwanda on 8 occasions over the last 12 months. Through spending time with the employees at ADC it became extremely apparent that we were facing business complications, as a result of poor communication, health issues or language barriers, that a properly crafted life skills program would not only help serve the employees at ADC, but also improve efficiency and productivity on the production floor.

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Nick Boedicker

Strategic Good and FailSafe

Largely through the client-centered coursework of the Social Enterprise Program, Nick Boedicker realized that what he really loves is working with passionate problem solvers who are coming up with innovative new ways to create positive change in the world. He also realized that making a career out of supporting these social entrepreneurs with the autonomy he desired would take a new kind of consulting firm. As his practicum, Nick set up a social enterprise consulting firm named Strategic Good that will serve as a vehicle for him to take on the kind of high-impact work that he will be seeking after graduation. During grad school, Nick also became a believer in the power of design thinking in the social sector. Wanting to incorporate this skill into the offerings of his firm, Nick has designed a new methodology for teaching and practicing design thinking called Failsafe.

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Adrienne Gifford

Organic Perspectives in Uganda

Adrienne worked with Organic Perspectives, a local grassroots non-profit social enterprise located in Kamuli, Uganda, approximately 2.5 hours east of Kampala. The vision and mission of the organization is to transform rural communities and improve the livelihoods of local farmers through sustainable agro-forestry, organic gardening, and alternative household energy. Adrienne applied an “engaged venture philanthropist” approach to assist the organization in initiating The Uganda Community Farm - a for-profit community-managed organic vegetable farm and “Center of Excellence” where local farmers will receive the training, financial support, and the capacity building needed to improve their production. Through collective production and marketing, the farm aims to produce high-quality, organic produce on a commercial scale to improve local diets/health as well as improve the livelihoods of local farmers in a sustainable way. Adrienne provided strategic business advisory services and simultaneously conduct due diligence on this venture to determine its viability as an investment.

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Amanda Lotz

Financial Inclusion

My practicum was not without challenges; my original objective was not my ultimate objective, though I still accomplished a great deal. Beginning with a large scope of work, I narrowed down my official practicum to a consulting project with a financial inclusion technology start-up. I chose to do this because the start-up is interested in expanding to the Philippines and I wanted to further build my network there. Utilizing design thinking principles, I took a consultative approach to developing interview questions. When faced with constraints because my contact at the company was traveling in Africa, I chose to conduct interviews independently. I synthesized insights from four interviews and found that the missions of the institutions were very indicative of how frequently they engaged with clients. Organizations with social or double-bottom line models were more likely to have senior staff engage with clients. Another insight was around technology: despite mobile phone usage being ubiquitous in the Philippines, mobile banking is still uneasy or uncharted territory. Of the four providers, two failed in their pilots of mobile banking and two were just in their testing phase. Through the process, I learned to take risks when others create roadblocks. I also learned to consult advisers early on, particularly when developing interview questions. Finally, I solidified the importance of keeping my scope of work smaller than my ambitions.

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James McDowell

Increasing Diversity in Foreign Policy Careers Paths

The purpose of my practicum project was to create a virtual networking platform for the alumni of a defunded federal program, the IIPP Fellowship. The platform or website would double as virtual mentoring platform for aspiring minority students in international affairs. After months of planning, networking, and survey stakeholders, the initial launch of the project failed. We had taken a decentralized approach to creating a network. After revisiting the model, we decided to concentrate our effort on creating an online professional development resource for students and young professionals. We have an established website, a database of available resources, and developed a webinar series all directed toward professional development in international affairs. As we grow as an organization, we will leverage the success of the organization to gain support from and reconnect the IIPP Fellowship alumni network.

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Stephanie Navarrete

The Equitable Apparel Movement

Description: Cover page.pngStephanie Navarrete, in an effort to emerge an expert and thought leader in the sustainable apparel industry, created a basic guidebook, digestible in 15 minutes, based on the principles of leading social innovation; specifically those on how to start a movement. The TEAM Guidebook is an open source document that provides quick and easy reference to understanding the complexities involved in the production process within the apparel industry. The TEAM Guidebook was created with the intent of being openly sourced in order to inform and propel to action the consumer types most likely to adopt sustainable purchasing behaviors. The creation of this guidebook is the culmination of a series of classes undertaken while working towards the Masters in Social Enterprise program. They include, Leading Social Innovation, NGO-Private Sector Engagement, Marketing for Social Change, and Grassroots Digital Advocacy. The Social Enterprise program was a great platform for idea incubation, providing the skills necessary to develop a one of a kind guidebook, through hands-on formative research and design thinking methods.  

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Jessica Nehrbass

Abriendo Mentes in Costa Rica

As the Social Enterprise Coordinator for the women’s empowerment micro social enterprise, Abriendo Mentes, in a rural town in Costa Rica, Jessica Nehrbass conducted a women’s needs assessment to help the social enterprise better understand its clients and determine areas of greatest positive impact. By working with over 60 community members to uncover these needs, she was able to highlight serious issues that women in the community suffer from including machismo, drug and alcohol abuse, prostitution, teen pregnancy, and domestic violence. Results from the needs assessment will be used to provide future programming through the social enterprise. Jessica plans to continue her focus on community engagement as a consultant for social enterprises in the US and abroad.

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Aaron Shneyer

Heartbeat Music Academy in Israel + Palestine

As tensions continue to rise between the diverse communities of Israel and Palestine, music education offers a natural meeting place for young people to come together to develop tools for creative self-expression while also building respect and trust for those from different ethnic, linguistic, and religious backgrounds. For his Practicum, Aaron mobilized and led a task force of youth and professional musicians and educators to research, plan, and lay the groundwork for the establishment of the Heartbeat Music Academy. The Academy aims to provide affordable music education to the communities in the Middle East which most lack access to quality music and arts education.


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Sara Stromer

Public Interest Architecture

Through her international development courses at SIS, Sara Stromer learned the importance of community driven, locally appropriate projects. In her Social Enterprise courses, she learned about innovation, human-centered design, improving NGO management practices, and the increasing importance of private sector and public-private partnerships. After writing a literature review and completing a case study of a prominent humanitarian architecture firm in a core Social Enterprise class, she saw clearly how the quality of the built environment affects the quality of life, and she became passionate about increasing the interactions between the non-profit and architecture sectors. Sara created a proposal for a public interest architecture fellowship modeled off of the best practices of the public interest fellowships that have been successfully institutionalized in the field of law. This proposed fellowship will connect newly graduated architecture students with the opportunity to work with non-profit organizations to increase interaction between the fields, resulting in more effective, sustainable projects benefiting those in need.  

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Trey Waters

Building a Dashboard to Monitor the Microfinance Competitive Landscape

Trey Waters’ practicum involved working with FINCA International, a microfinance organization that operates in 23 countries. Using a design thinking approach Trey worked with FINCA managers and staff worldwide to construct a survey and dashboard that FINCA will use to more accurately monitor the competitive landscape at the subsidiary level. The data collected from FINCA subsidiaries will be used by organization managers and board members to improve decision-making capabilities and analyze the health of local subsidiaries.



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Kate Burke

Improving Workplace Mental Health

Kate Burke applied the learning from the Social Enterprise program as an social intrapreneur at the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health (Partnership), a program of the American Psychiatric Foundation, based in Arlington, VA for her final practicum project. Kate applied both her own professional experience in human resources and managing staff, and the leadership insights gleaned from the Social Enterprise Program to suggest various organizational changes that brought efficiencies to the busy organization. For over ten years, the Partnership has educated and provided various resources to employers. These resources exist so that employers might better create mentally healthy workplaces as well as provide support and access to quality and effective care so that employees and their families living with mental illness, including substance use disorders, receive effective care. This work is informed by the recognition that employers purchase healthcare for millions of American workers and their families. Kate also worked to put in place monitoring and evaluation tools so that the Partnership can share details of the impact of their great work with the public. This knowledge will continue to influence the positive change in the fundamental societal structure of the workplace.

Thuy Dinh

Using Participatory Filmmaking to Give Women a Voice in their Economic Development

Thuy Dinh initiated a new prototype project entitled H.E.A.R (Hear-Engage-Amplify-Resonate) that is based on the concept of participatory filmmaking to promote understanding and cooperation between people, communities and key players in international development. The pilot field implementation was in Lao Cai, a northwestern mountainous province of Vietnam where Thuy partnered with Oxfam’s Livelihoods Program to work with a group of ethnic women in Oxfam’s Women Economic Leadership project. In the period of 2 weeks, a participatory 18-min documentary was produced and screened to the community. The film was directed, filmed, narrated and edited collaboratively by a group of 8 Hmong , Kinh and Nung women. The movie not only helped Oxfam to gain a better understanding of the women voices, with implication for future adaptation to other projects but also provided input for their upcoming mid-term review in June 2013. A guideline was also passed to the Oxfam’s staff for future experience exchange among its different programs.

Amy Gillespie

Do Good Images

Amy Gillespie founded a one-for-one social enterprise photography business, and has begun the process of launching it. Amy’s social enterprise, Do Good Images, provide consumers with the option of choosing a one-for-one movement company for their photography needs. When a customer purchases a photography session, apprentice hours are donated. Family 2 Family Images supports and operates an apprentice program which provides photography lessons and equipment to DC youths.

Jennifer Hartzell

Starting a Social Enterprise to Lower the Barriers to Becoming Green

Jennifer Hartzell launched Innately Brilliant, a social enterprise working to lower the barrier to the green movement for low to middle-income populations & disrupt the connection between income disparities and health disparities. Many personal care products contain toxic chemicals that have been linked to serious health problems and Innately Brilliant is addressing the issues around consumer awareness, access to products good for people and planet, and guidance around D.I.Y. recipes. The Innately Brilliant website is in the process of establishing a social media presence on Twitter for awareness, starter kits of travel-sized products for purchase, and community generated & rated D.I.Y. recipes.

Jeremy Jensen

Starting a Social Enterprise to Build Communities of Activists in the Outdoor Sports and Lifestyle Industry

Jeremy Jensen and Jason Smith created tectonic, an online community and marketplace for active lifestyle enthusiasts that rewards users for engaging in issues that are important to them. Increasingly, consumers want more from brands than just another product. They are practical purchasers that are values-driven and want to be part of a meaningful story. In short, they are searching for purpose in the buying experience. tectonic aims to deliver that purpose during every conceivable interaction with the brand. Jeremy and Jason used the practicum process to incorporate the business, design creative assets, build a community of advisors and partners, search for interns and co-founders, devise a marketing strategy, and build a customer base. Jeremy plans to use the foundation built during the practicum process to launch the company after graduation.

Kate McElligott and Sara Telzer

Enouraging Risk Taking and Innovation in Philanthropy

Kate McElligott and Sara Telzer worked with the Case Foundation’s “Be Fearless” Campaign. This practicum project was created in order to assist the Case Foundation in its efforts to better understand the root causes of risk avoidance and fear of failure by grant-makers and grant-seekers, and to support a more conducive environment for innovation and philanthropic experimentation. The project leveraged the already established Be Fearless campaign – the Case Foundation’s campaign to ignite a more fearless approach to changemaking. Our goal was to carry out an assessment of foundation and nonprofit industries’ appetites for risk, failure and innovation.

Kerri Murphy

Partnership for financial sustainability

Kerri Murphy worked with Kolton.J, an eco-vinatge jewelry company in Washington, DC for her practicum. Kolton.J was looking to become a more socially responsible business than its current practice of donating 10% of profits to charity. Kerri laid the groundwork for the creation of a partnership program between Kolton.J and the DC Fashion Foundation, which will create jobs and provide art therapy and other training for disadvantaged women in the Washington, DC area.

Michael Sayre

Promoting Eco-Tourism in Mexico

Over the course of his practicum, Michael Sayre worked with Solimar International, a tourism consulting firm based in Washington, DC, with the mission of helping businesses, travelers, and destinations develop and connect to sustainable tourism experiences that support environmental conservation, preserve cultural heritage, and enhance the lives of local residents. Michael helped develop the business model for a conservation lodge in Baja California Sur, Mexico focused on attracting impact investors interested in sustainable tourism, as well as an investor outreach strategy for Solimar International’s projects in Mexico along the Texas border.

Sara Seavey

Providing Entrepreneurship Training to Immigrant Women

Sara Seavey worked with Empowered Women International (EWI), a Washington DC- area nonprofit that provides entrepreneurship and skills training to immigrant, refugee, and low-income women, and improves the women’s self-sufficiency. She rebuilt EWI’s monitoring and evaluation system so that EWI can better translate the social, economic, and community impact of their Entrepreneurship Training for Success (ETS) program. Ms. Seavey also worked with EWI to build up their organizational capacity by creating a procedural manual for staff for the M&E system, and conducted research that can be included in grant applications so that EWI can receive more funding from foundations

Stevie Valdez

Reducing the Risks in Investing in Clean Cooking in East Africa

Stevie Valdez worked with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a public-private initiative of the United Nations Foundation to provide infrastructure and guidance on their grant investments into the clean cooking sector, helping to bridge the gap between grant and impact investments. Stevie created an impact investment database, reporting template for grantees, investment readiness tools, and a growth stage assessments of many of their partners in East Africa. She was able to use the growth stage assessments to create a regionally appropriate fund for the growth of clean cooking businesses in East Africa.

Setra Yappi

Increase higher education attainment and youth’s employability

Setra Yappi founded Sarjana.co.id, an online “one-stop shop” providing free admissions information at Indonesian universities to bridge the gap between Indonesian high school students and resources that empower them to pursue college education. The mission is to increase higher education attainment and youth’s employability in Indonesia. It was a multi-stakeholder initiative, where Sarjana.co.id works with schools and universities nationally, as well as youth organizations and businesses. Setra’s practicum was designed to explore the operational principles of a cooperative model and apply them to Sarjana.co.id as a social enterprise. Challenges to doing this were identified which involved Sarjana's business model needing to be enhanced so its regulations and organizational culture would allow democratic decision making and profit sharing by its employees.