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Managing Social Innovation: WU Executive Academy's New Professional Master

February 18, 2021

New program starting fall 2021

Social entrepreneurs and people working at NPOs or charitable organizations are first and foremost moved by social motivations: they want their work to contribute to the greater community and effect a change for the better. To reach their goals, they not only need the courage of their convictions to drive societal change, the right team, and an ample amount of intrinsic motivation. They also require thoroguh management skills and a good grasp of how social change can be realized and of the role social innovations play in such transformations.

bannerimage of the Professional Master Social Innovation & Management
The new Professional Master Social Innovation & Management

Enter the new Professional Master Social Innovation & Management, jointly developed by ERSTE Foundation and the WU Executive Academy. Offering a combination of academic content and a hands-on entrepreneurial training, the program fills a long-existing gap on the executive education market.

Portrait Renate Buber

Renate Buber

  • Academic Director of the Professional Master Social Innovation & Management

Especially social enterprises, non-profit companies, and charitable organizations have a still unmet demand for sound and highly practice-relevant management expertise, which is necessary to proactively shape innovation processes occurring at the interface of economy and social change. This is why we established this new Professional Master.

Participants in the Professional Master Social Innovation & Management acquire the fundamental knowledge and practical tools needed to become successful managers in this important segment. After all, modern society’s great challenges, including poverty, isolation, migration, and the unjust distribution of resources, could not be tackled if it weren’t for social innovations.

Social Innovations to Solve the Issues of Our Time

Against this backdrop, ERSTE Foundation has not only taken a great interest in being involved in the development of this crucial further education initiative, it also directly supports participants through scholarships.

“We knew it even before the pandemic, but the current situation has really hammered it home,” says Boris Marte, Deputy Chairman of the Board at ERSTE Foundation. “Regardless of whether long-known social problems such as the ones faced in care work or challenges related to climate change are concerned: the efforts we have been making simply do not suffice anymore. We urgently need new and sustainable ideas.” ERSTE Foundation entered into a collaboration with WU to initiate and support the Professional Master Social Innovation & Management because the program offers access to workflows, processes, and methods that have the capacity to breed social innovations.

Portrait Boris Marte © ERSTE Stiftung / Peter Mayr

Boris Marte

  • Deputy Chairman of the Board at ERSTE Foundation

We have to do all we can to support charitable organizations through further education offers because they fuel the grass roots movements, hold an enormous pool of expertise, and are significant contributors to solving the most pressing issues our society currently faces.

Commitment to Social Causes and Business Success: Not a Contradiction

“Social entrepreneurs, NPOs, and charitable organizations primarily work towards social objectives, but as conditions are getting increasingly harsher, they too must adjust their actions to economic criteria,” Buber says. Managers thus need the right skills in order to be able to respond to the growing challenges in an increasingly complex context. “Our Professional Master combines management and innovation knowledge in a state-of-the-art way, enabling students to develop new approaches to tackling problems and to put these strategies into practice,” Buber says.

pic of a laptop
Even if social goals are in the foreground, economic know-how is essential, also for NPOs.

Topics covered in the curriculum range from social innovation and strategy to social entrepreneurship, marketing psychology, social innovations in a digital context (digital citizenship, impact measurement and reporting), funding strategies, social finance and impact investing to social policy and drafting applications for EU subsidies. Students work on a project rooted in their professional practice, in which they are supported by experienced experts offering an outsider’s perspective on proposed solutions with an eye on practicability, up-to-dateness, cost effectiveness, and marketability as they coach participants and provide specific advice and impulses for action.

“As a result, the participants can directly apply their newly acquired knowledge to their work surroundings, creating an immediate benefit for both students and their organizations.” Furthermore, several field trips throughout the course of the program provide students with valuable insights into the work of successful social companies and projects.

class pic of the PM Social Innovation & Management
Experts provide insights, tips and offer coaching for students.

International Orientation at the Interface of Academia and Practice

“We made a conscious decision to set our program apart from the abundance of non-academic further education programs, putting our Master’s focus on the combination of scientific work and business activity,” Buber explains. As a lively exchange among students from all over the world is a central element of the Professional Master, the program language is English.

“Existing support offers in the social innovations ecosystem such as the Social Impact Award, to name just one example, show the great potential of new ideas addressing society’s most pressing challenges, but there is still a huge demand for comprehensive training offers in this field,” Buber says. Social leaders often lack the in-depth leadership and management knowledge necessary to successfully implement outstanding ideas on the market that could turn out to be real game changers for civil society. “And we are here to close this gap.”

Graduates of the new Professional Master will have the skills to make a real change in their organizations and the entire society. “And that’s exactly what we had in mind: changing society for the better and making a difference,” Renate Buber sums up.

You can find all information about the Professional Master Social Innovation & Management here.

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