Spring 2023 - 60070 - PA 680PA - Policy Research Project


Poverty, hunger, homelessness and other social problems harm Americans’ lives and livelihoods. While many US policies aim to help, some are more effective than others, leaving much room for the private sector to create market-driven products and services that help solve social problems while making profits. Enter: social entrepreneurs.


This course explores social entrepreneurship inside and outside the classroom before giving student-entrepreneurs the opportunity to build and pitch plans for new programs aimed at improving the health and prosperity of America’s most vulnerable populations. The curriculum aims to prepare effective social entrepreneurs and advocates while answering three important questions about disparities in the United States:

  1. What do the experts say? Alongside guest lectures, debates, and panels with subject expertise, students will investigate social and economic issues impacting the health and wellbeing of vulnerable populations in the U.S. We will study the evidence on inequalities, debate US government programs and policies, and explore examples of relevant social enterprises and nonprofits. Notably, your professor is a pediatrician so there will be particular focus on issues, policies and programs impacting children.
  2. What do your neighbors say? If pandemic-related restrictions allow, students will have the opportunity to see up-close the effects of US public policies and social entrepreneurship by travelling into underserved communities near UT Austin. Students may travel with community partner organizations and/or Dr. Hole and his teams. Our intent is to learn from and partner with the people facing the problems we are trying to solve.
  3. What do you say DO? Applying lessons from both the classroom and community, student-entrepreneurs will practice human-centered design in cross-disciplinary teams alongside local service organizations to develop and pitch plans for new companies aimed at improving the health and prosperity of vulnerable people in the United States. The course concludes with student-teams pitching in a "Shark Tank for Social Impact" to potential partners and investors.
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