02 Feb
  • By Brownie Points
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Our Top Free Online Courses for Changemakers

There are hundreds of free online courses (known as Massive Open Online Courses or “MOOCs”) out there these days. Have you taken one? These kinds of courses have completely changed the way we acquire new interests, skills and perhaps even new careers. But let’s face it – we’re all busy and finding the time to study again can be tricky. So… if you are going to start an online course, it must be worth your time. Right? We hear you!

More recently there’s been a flurry of MOOCs focusing on social impact, specifically aimed at nonprofit organisations and social entrepreneurs. 

Below are a couple of courses the Brownie Points team have tested, or are on our to-do list for 2017.

UCT Becoming a Changemaker: Introduction to Social Innovation

This course from the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UCT’s Graduate School of Business is a home-grown winner! The Bertha Centre co-created this course with RLabs – a social movement started in Cape Town, and is now operating in 22 countries.
This 6-week course is for anyone who wants to make a difference. Whether you are already familiar with the field of social innovation or social entrepreneurship, working for an organisation that wants to increase its social impact, or just starting out, this course will take you on a journey of exploring the complex problems that surround us and how to start thinking about solutions.
We love both the Bertha Centre and RLabs’ work, and we love this course. There are a lot of local examples to learn from and local students on the course to engage with. Well worth the time and effort.

Philanthropy University

Heard of Philanthropy University? Powered by Berkeley Haas, this varsity offers a range of free online courses focusing on impact and leadership in the social sector. Our team have done a couple of these courses and they’re great. Fairly light on coursework and rich in discussions with people from all over the world. Here are our top 2 favourite courses:

  • Philanthropy University Essentials of Nonprofit Strategy
    This 7-week course help you design an appropriate strategy for a nonprofit organisation, identifying achievable milestones and measuring your progress along the way.
    This course will help you develop successful strategies to achieve your organisation’s goals and make strides towards meaningful impact. Using the social problems of homelessness and childhood obesity as real world examples, you will learn how to undertake the basic elements of strategy: defining the problem, identifying stakeholders, designing a theory of change and logic model, and establishing assessment criteria. With this foundation, you will be able to develop strategies that will ensure long-term impact for your own organisations—rather than just made up results.
  • Philanthropy University Financial Modelling for the Social Sector
    Connecting your impact work with a viable and sustainable business model is tough. Some organisations never manage it, especially if they focus on immediate needs and quick funding fixes. This course is for NPOs, social entrepreneurs, corporate entrepreneurs and social change leaders who want to “use creative approaching to market-based funding to scale the impact of their work”.
    A little more than the course above, this requires 4-5 hours per week, over 7 weeks. This is an Acumen course and is well worth the time.


One of the world’s most innovative NPOs, “Acumen raises charitable donations to invest in companies, leaders, and ideas that are changing the way the world tackles poverty”. +Acumen is the organisation’s learning arm for social changemakers and they have a number of awesome courses.

  • +Acumen Making Sense of Social Impact
    Together with Acumen’s Impact Team, +Acumen developed this course to help answer these questions: ‘What does it mean to create social impact?’ ‘How do you go about it?’ and ‘Why measure social impact and what to measure?’. This course will focus on how Acumen measures impact in their portfolio companies and how you can apply those tools in any context.
    It is a great course for people interested in fundraising, impact investing and M&E (monitoring and evaluation) – but is valuable to anybody who is interested in a measured and scalable approach to social change.

  • +Acumen Storytelling for Change
    Using stories to communicate the challenges you are addressing and impacting is so powerful, from securing funding for your project to having a clear and shared vision. This 6-module course teaches you how to use stories in your communications, and send a powerful and targeted message to different audiences. This course is well worth all of ya doing!
    Acumen believes that storytelling is an essential tool for changing the way the world tackles poverty because it starts with changing conversations around what we see, hear, feel and know to be true. Change leaders see the world’s potential, and tell powerful stories that inspire action.

Which ones are on your bucket list? Know any others that you can share with our community? Comment on this post!

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