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Social Innovation in Action


Deze informatie is alleen in het Engels beschikbaar.

Admission requirements

This course is an (extracurricular) Master Honours Class aimed at talented Master’s students. Admission will be based on academic background, GPA and motivation.

This course is aimed at students who are interested in learning how societal challenges can be tackled using entrepreneurial tools to achieve positive social change. You are not required to have any past business acumen, but must have an interest in (social) business modelling.


In today’s vibrant economy, we witness a strong undercurrent of change in economic thinking. The importance of social integration, once a rather frozen concept, has begun to thaw; people, companies and governments are exploring and grasping the importance of embedding society within business practice to achieve longer-term survivability and positive growth prospects. The question is; How can we use business-thinking to tackle social challenges?

This is high-paced, innovative course that allows you to apply your skills and theory to real-life solutions. As such, be prepared to work fast and think creatively! In this dynamic course, you are tasked with finding a sustainable-solution to a real social problem faced by the city of Leiden. The problem for this edition of the course is employment and work equality. To develop solutions to this challenge, you will step into the shoes of a ‘social entrepreneur’ and learn what it means to set up your own social enterprise.

As a class, you will be assigned a societal challenge in Leiden; employment and work equality. You will then work in groups of 3 or 4 to develop a solution to this problem using entrepreneurial and design thinking. The course will take you on a journey to understand the different puzzle pieces that make up a social enterprise start-up idea. Throughout the course you will engage with local stakeholder to create viable solutions to tackle your challenge. Your solutions will be pitched to local stakeholder of Leiden and a winning idea will be selected!

Course objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, students will:

  • Have a thorough understanding of the foundations of social entrepreneurship theory.

  • Collaborate with local stakeholders and understand the challenges they face on daily basis.

  • Be able to apply social entrepreneur, business modelling and systems thinking theories and tools to assess complex societal challenges.

  • Be able to apply theories and tools to develop a social enterprise blueprint.

  • Be able to present and pitch their solutions and answer questions effectively.

  • Be able to critically assess their ideas using assumption testing.

  • Be able to work within a group of students with diverse backgrounds.

  • Improve your presentation skills and your report writing skills.


This course runs from 31 October until 12 March on Thursdays, 16.00-19.00 (with the exception of 26 December and 2, 9, 16 & 23 January).


PLNT Leiden, Langegracht 70


Class 1: Introduction to SIA
After an introduction to the course content, structure and assessment, we will explore the concept of social innovation and you will be introduced to the societal challenge we will be tackling together during the course. During this class you will be introduced to the foundational theory of social entrepreneurship. What does it mean to be a social entrepreneur?

Class 2: Matching bootcamp with local stakeholders
You will be immersed in a half-day problem analysis session organised by PLNT. During this session you will learn more about the societal challenge and, together with local stakeholders you will develop a collective issue tree and pick specific intervention logic that you want to explore and offer solutions for. During this time, you will form start-up groups within which you will work for the remainder of the course.

Class 3 & 4: Problem space theory and design
During these classes you will learn how to effectively analysis and understand (diamond 1) your societal challenge. You will learn how to conduct an ecosystem quick scan to identify conditions and stakeholders that are relevant to your challenge. You will learn how to develop a more empathetic understanding of your ‘beneficiary’; the person or people you aim to help. In class 3 focus is placed on theory while class 4 provides a space to reflect and improve your understanding of the societal challenge through worksheets, peer-to-peer support and coaching.

Class 5: Solution space theory
Having developed a thorough understanding of the societal challenge in class 3 & 4, you will now learn more about the social entrepreneurship process. You will learn about different business and revenue models for social enterprises and explore the difference between commercial and social value propositions. You will learn what it means to create blended value within a single organisational model. You will also develop a more robust understanding of your market and how to position your solution most effectively

Class 6: Blended Value Creation theory
Can we find harmony and complementarity between social value creation and commercial value creation or not? The idea that we can achieve both in a single organizational model sounds challenging. During this class we will explore the complexity of Blended value creation using the BVC canvas.

Class 7: Solution space design session
Class 7 provides a space to reflect on the theory learned during classes 5 and 6, and improve your understanding of the solution through worksheets, peer-to-peer support and coaching. You will use this session to further improve your own startup ideas.

Class 8: Solution presentation
During this class you will deliver a presentation (10min) of the problem you are tackling and in detail presentation of the solution you have been developing. You will receive feedback from your peers and instructors that will help you improve your solution. After this session, a small dinner will be organized to celebrate your achievements so far!

Class 9 & 10: Learn how to pitch and practice
During this class you will learn how to pitch your idea in-front of a panel of expert judges. This class is geared at preparing you for the pitching day (class 11). You will learn how to use story-telling techniques to help you demonstrate your value proposition and sell your business model and impact model to the judging panel. In class 10 you will have time to present your pitch and receive feedback from the group in order to prepare and finetune your pitch for class 11.

Class 11: Problem/Solution Pitch
In this class you will pitch your solutions to the local stakeholders from Leiden. You will have 5 mins to present your idea.

Class 12 - 14: Assumption testing theory, design session and synthesis
At this point you have pitched an epic idea for a social startup and it’s time to put your idea to the test. You will learn how to identify the riskiest assumptions of your idea and develop appropriate experiments to test them. The results of this test will be presented in the final class (14). In class 11 you will learn about the importance of assumption testing and, as a group, identify your riskiest assumptions and develop an experiment. In class 12 you will provide an update on your test and how you plan to further test in the remaining two weeks. In class 13 we will look at synthesizing your results into a coherent presentation to stakeholders.

Class 15: Assumption results presentation with local stakeholders
During this class you will present your assumption tests and explain how this has impacted your final social enterprise blueprint. This is part of your formal assessment.

Course load

This course is worth 10 ECTS, which means the total course load equals 280 hours.

  • Lectures: 15 lectures of 3 hours + 1 lecture of 6 hrs = 51 hrs

  • Literature reading & practical work: 10 hours p/week = 140 hrs

  • Assignments & final essay: 80 hrs


Individual assessment:

  • 20% Participation

  • 30% Individual report

  • Pass/Fail for attendance

Group assessment:

  • 30% In-class presentations x 3 (10% each)

  • 20% Report x 2 (10% each)

Additional requirements: examination of this Master Honours Class consists of several partial exams. Students could only pass this course after successful completion of all partial exams.

Blackboard and uSis

Blackboard will be used in this course. Students can register for the Blackboard site two weeks prior to the start of the course.

Please note: students are not required to register through uSis for the Master Honours Classes. Your registration will be done centrally.

Reading list

Bloom, P.N. and Dees, G. (2008), Cultivate your ecosystem. Stanford social innovation review, 6(1), pp.47-53.

Johansson-Sköldberg, Ulla et. al (2012). “Design Thinking: Past, Present and Possible Futures.” Creativity and Innovation Management 22(2):121–146

Judit Kertesz (2017) Introduction to empathy maps. RealTimeBoard. Accessed: 29 January 2018. Available at:

Monarth, H. (2015) The Irresistible Power of Storytelling as a Strategic Business Tool. HBR
Twersky, F., Buchanan, P., & Threlfall, V. (2013). Listening to those who matter most, the beneficiaries. Stanford Social Innovation Review, 11(2), 40-45.

Peredo, A. M., & McLean, M. (2006). Social entrepreneurship: A critical review of the concept. Journal of world business, 41(1), 56-65. (Available online)

Bloom, P.N. and Dees, G. (2008), Cultivate your ecosystem. Stanford social innovation review, 6(1), pp.47-53.

Alter, K., 2007. Social enterprise typology. Virtue Ventures LLC, 12, pp.1-124.

Twersky, F., Buchanan, P., & Threlfall, V. (2013). Listening to those who matter most, the beneficiaries. Stanford Social Innovation Review, 11(2), 40-45.

Strategyzer, A.G., 2015. The value proposition canvas. Retrieved at January, 10, p.2016.

All reading is available online, or will be made available to students. Other possible literature will be announced in Class or via Blackboard and is different per lecturer.


Enrolling in this course is possible from 16 up to and including 29 September through the Honours Academy. The registration link will be posted on the student website of the Honours Academy.


Titus van der Spek

Betty Huerta

Sjoerd Louwaars