Population Health

Resources for UW students

The University of Washington offers a number of opportunities for students to engage in social innovation and social entrepreneurship activities.


A number of different courses exist that focus on topics of social innovation and social entrepreneurship.

HONORS 232: Improving Population Health through Social Entrepreneurship (5 credits)
This course was offered in spring quarters 2020 and 2022. The goal of the course is to offer undergraduate students a fundamental understanding of the role that social enterprises can play in addressing population health challenges.

HONORS 233: Social Entrepreneurship and Population Health in India (5 credits)
This early fall start course will run from August 19 – September 8, 2023, and will offer an immersive experience examining social entrepreneurship solutions to population health challenges in India.

PUBPOL 555: Social Enterprise: New Models for Mission-Based Business (4 credits)
Offers students an understanding of the changing landscape for social investments and the tools to become an effective social entrepreneur or practitioner working in the social enterprise and mission-based business space.

PUBPOL 555: Marketing Social Innovation (4 credits)
Offers graduate students an understanding of how to use marketing to strategically spur adoption of innovation—whether that be at the individual, organizational, or policy level—that addresses a social issue or problem.

PUBPOL 555: Funding the Social Sector (4 credits)
Introduces various models by which social impact work is funded, including philanthropic grants, impact investments, and others.

ENTRE 579: Grand Challenges for Entrepreneurs (4 credits)
Teaches how to use entrepreneurial tools like design thinking, lean entrepreneurship, and business models to solve big problems facing society.


The University of Washington offers several competitions annually that encourage students to form teams to create companies based on innovative ideas. Although these competitions are not specifically focused on social innovations, a number of teams typically work on developing products that have a social impact, and a community impact prize is awarded as part of the Dempsey Startup Competition.

  • Health Innovation Challenge—This annual undergraduate and graduate student competition occurs each March and encourages innovative solutions for big problems the world faces today related to health. Student teams from different schools and disciplines focus on a health or health care related problem, design a product, process or service to fix that problem and create a business summary that demonstrates the market interest and potential for their idea.
  • Environmental Innovation Challenge—Interdisciplinary student teams define an environmental problem, develop a solution, design and build a prototype, create a business plan that proves their solution has market potential, and pitch to 250-plus judges at a demo-day event.
  • Dempsey Startup Competition—Provides a real-world experience for student entrepreneurs, promoting student ideas and new venture creation to the entrepreneurial community. Participating in the Dempsey Startup gives students practice in the dynamics of venture creation by developing an idea, putting together a founding team, writing a business plan, and presenting to investors.


The Population Health Initiative’s Social Entrepreneurship Fellows Program supports teams of students with backgrounds in business, public health, engineering, policy, social work or related disciplines to perform an in-depth analysis of a UW population health research project to evaluate whether the social enterprise route is an attractive option for dissemination and sustainability.

Fellows explore various social enterprise models and provide the project team with a roadmap for how the project may move forward in a way that values social impact and can also be financially sustainable. The fellowship is offered during summer quarter.

Study abroad

The UW Grand Challenges Impact Lab enables students to work with community groups in Bangalore, India, to use social innovation to find solutions to pressing community problems. The GCIL defines grand challenges as the big problems facing humanity – things like food security, clean water and climate change.

The GCIL is a quarter-long, 15-credit program offered during winter. The program offers an active, hands-on learning laboratory and is open to graduate students and undergraduate junior and senior students from any department.