Social Impact Leadership Concentration | Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis
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Social Impact Leadership Concentration​

The urgency of social and human needs require strong leaders that can make human service, civic and social justice organizations more effective, sustainable, innovative and responsive. Leaders must be capable of both strengthening existing organizations and developing new programs—and even new organizations—in order to improve the well-being of individuals, families, communities and the society at large. 

The Social Impact Leadership concentration offers the opportunity to develop advanced organizational and business skills and social work expertise—a powerful and unique combination that equips students to lead and drive positive social impact across nonprofit, government and corporate sectors.

With coursework grounded in social work knowledge and ethics, you’ll be well-prepared to responsibly address the most complex social issues. You’ll learn a dynamic and dual-approach to leadership that balances steady organizational growth with rapid innovation capable of responding to urgent needs and opportunities. You will develop your skills and test your ideas through community-engaged learning, while also building a professional network with leading social impact leaders.

Working adults who need flexible scheduling may decide to pursue a Part-Time MSW with this concentration. Learn more about the curriculum structure and application process.

This concentration is designed for students entering the MSW program with prior experience and commitment to a career in organizational leadership.


Students in the concentration choose one of two tracks: 

  • Innovation & Social Entrepreneurship: Learn to design, test and launch new programs and market-based ventures that create sustainable solutions to pressing social and human needs.
  • Organizational Leadership & Management: Prepare for a range of careers in C-suite leadership roles throughout existing organizations or in organizational capacity building. 


  • Human Service Organizations: Theory, Concepts and Issues (3 credits)
  • Leadership and Management of Human Service Organizations (3 credits) - Required for Leadership & Management track.
  • Social Entrepreneurship (3 credits) - Required for Innovation & Entrepreneurship track.
  • Financial Management  (3 credits)
  • Leading and Managing Employees, Volunteers and Teams (3 credits)
  • Revenue Development & Communication (3 credits)
  • Human Services: From Design to Impact (3 credits) 
  • Policy course (3 credits). Specific course determined by your career interests

You will also have 9 elective credits, which can be used to earn a specialization, take the alternate track course, broaden your expertise in other practice areas, or enroll in other social impact leadership-related electives, including capstones and one-credit skill labs. Potential electives include:

  • Brown Consulting (Elective Capstone)
  • The Hatchery (Elective Capstone)
  • Community Development Practice: Basic Concepts & Methods
  • Community Based System Dynamics
  • Grant Writing


The MSW program requires 600 hours of concentration practicum (in addition to 360 hours of foundation practicum). The concentration practicum must take place at an organization that focuses on leadership in human and social services, with opportunities to experience both mainstream management and entrepreneurial settings. Some practicum sites include: 

  • BJC HealthCare and its system of leading hospitals
  • United Way of Greater St. Louis
  • Social Entrepreneurship & Innovation Lab
  • Third Plateau Social Impact Strategies
  • Equifax
  • Deaconess Foundation
  • Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation

During practicum, students will work with an organization’s leaders and administrators, gaining valuable experience addressing issues that enter the C-level suite, such as board governance and organizational strategy or supporting local entrepreneurs. Students may also apply to be a CEO Fellow, and work directly with the CEO of a leading organization.


In 2020, The Princeton Review ranked Washington University in St. Louis the #6 school for entrepreneurs. As a student, you’ll benefit from initiatives such as the Center for Experiential Learning, which creates meaningful learning opportunities for nonprofits, startups and global firms. You may choose to get involved at the Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which provides young leaders and entrepreneurs professional guidance and mentorship or take courses at Washington University’s Olin Business School. The Brown School’s world-class faculty, research and community-based scholarship in social work, public health and social policy provide expertise in the determinants of social issues as well as the strategies and programs to address them. 

Barry Rosenberg is a professor of practice at the Brown School. Rosenberg's scholarly work is grounded in a 37-year career in nonprofit leadership and nationally-recognized innovations in strengthening human service organizations. Rosenberg teaches courses in leadership and management including Brown Consulting, an integrative capstone where student teams assess service organizations and present recommendations. Rosenberg directs the Center for Human Service Leadership, which provides organizational capacity-building services to nonprofit tenants at the Delmar DivINe co-location site.

Heather Cameron is the inaugural Michael B. Kaufman Professor of Practice in Social Entrepreneurship at the Brown School. She is the founder of several award-winning social enterprises in the fields of education and sports for community development. As an Ashoka fellow, she has worked all over the world. Cameron teaches courses focused on entrepreneurship, strategic planning and strategic execution.

"The Social Impact Leadership concentration is unique in its theory and evidence-based integration of leadership, management, innovation and entrepreneurial training. Over the course of their careers, human service leaders will need these skills to manage existing organizations and launch new organizations and programs. The concentration prepares students for senior leadership positions, entrepreneurship roles, as well as careers in organizational consulting and capacity building."

- Barry Rosenberg & Heather Cameron, Concentration Faculty Leads