Carolina Graduate Certificate in Innovation for the Public Good

Carolina Graduate Certificate in Innovation for the Public Good

The Carolina Graduate Certificate in Innovation for the Public Good (CIPG) gives masters and doctoral students an educational pathway to explore modern changemaking and practice the skills they need to help create meaningful change in the world. The certificate is sponsored by three academic units: the College of Arts and Sciences (Public Policy), Gillings School of Global Public Health, and the School of Education.

CIPG provides students from any department with the mindset, tools and methods they need to work effectively across disciplines to solve complex problems. By earning the certificate, students become skilled in methods that they can apply to their doctoral or thesis research. CIGP also equips them with career-ready skills that they can use when working on multi-disciplinary teams in businesses, non-profits and government agencies that increasingly demand the ability to apply cross-sector, community-engaged practices.  

Interested in applying?

Graduate-level training

The certificate provides graduate-level training that teaches students how to:

• Focus innovation designs around the voices, experiences, wishes and aspirations of those affected by the innovation.  
• Develop an understanding of their own experiences, intentions, strengths, limitations, motivations and biases as changemakers.
• Identify, define and analyze problems.
• Recognize opportunities, challenges and the assets of communities.
• Generate optimal solutions by applying social innovation in practice.
• Understand how the context of problems and imagined solutions affects the way innovations are designed and implemented.
• Recognize and assess the strengths and limitations of various social innovation approaches – and identify which are most appropriate in specific contexts.
• Engage stakeholders in the co-design, implementation, evaluation and adaptive learning associated with an innovation.
• Build and maintain collaborations and partnerships in support of shared mission over time.

Sponsoring academic units

Program Overview

CIPG courses emphasize evidence-based and creative problem-solving approaches, along with team-oriented, customer/community discovery methods, that students can use to develop solutions that address pressing human concerns. The learning journey is designed to help students move their ideas into action through the intentional development of mindset, knowledge and skills that transcend any single discipline.

The certificate program requires students to take nine credits:

•Core Course: 3 credits in Design Thinking for the Public Good

•Elective Course: 3 credits in Innovation Methods, Tools and Best Practices

•Elective Course: 3 credits in Social Innovation in Practice

The program offers a set of cross-disciplinary courses from:

• College of Arts and Sciences (Public Policy)
• Gillings School of Global Public Health
• School of Education
• Hussman School of Journalism and Media
• Kenan-Flagler Business School
• School of Government
• School of Information and Library Science
• School of Social Work

Graduate students from any of the UNC-Chapel Hill’s graduate programs, including the professional schools and College of Arts and Sciences, are encouraged to apply.

Prerequisites for Admission
Baccalaureate degree from an accredited undergraduate institution.
• Currently enrolled as masters or doctoral student at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Application Process
Graduate students seeking admissions must complete an application that includes signatures of the Director of Graduate Studies in the student’s home unit and the CIPG Director (Liz Chen). The application form for the certificate program will be available in the summer of 2020. Once applications open, students my apply at any time. The application form will ask applicants for:

• Name, contact information, graduate program and department, degree sought, expected graduation date, and advisor’s name.
• A short statement of interest and how the program will support their learning goals.
• A list of courses that they expect to take on a year-by-year basis to meet the CIPG requirements.

If you have interest in the CIPG program or would like to learn more prior to applications opening, we encourage you to:

• Sign up to receive email notifications.
• Send an email with a specific question to

The certificate program requires students to take 9 credits based on the following criteria:

3 Credits: Foundational Core Course
• HBEH 748: Design Thinking for the Public Good (Spring). Priority will be given to students enrolled in the certificate.

3 Credits: Innovation Methods, Tools and Best Practices. Choose a course from the following list of highly recommended options:
• EDUC 818: Intervention Research and Social Entrepreneurship (Spring). Up to 10 seats will be available.
• HPM 890.002/966: Systems Thinking & Collective   Impact (Fall).
• PLCY 690/790: Methods and Tools for Social   Entrepreneurship (Spring). Priority will be given to   students enrolled in the certificate.

If needed, students may substitute the following courses for this requirement:

• EDUC 767: Educational Innovation & Technology,  Integrative Seminar I (Fall)
• MBA 833A: Systems Thinking for Sustainablen Enterprise (Spring). Taught in seminar (weekend) format.
• MBA 833D: Sustainability Reporting & Certification  (Fall). Taught in seminar (weekend) format.
• MEJO 463: News Lab (Fall, Spring)
• MEJO 530: Green Design Lab (Fall, Spring)
• PLCY 435: Designing for Impact: Social Enterprise Lab (Fall)
• SOWO 875: Community Theory and Practice (Fall)

3 Credits: Social Innovation in Practice. Choose from the following list of courses:
• EDUC 790: Special Topics Design of Emerging Technologies for Education (Fall)
• GLBL: 401: Paradigms of Development and Social Change (Spring)
• GLBL: 450: Social Change in Times of Crisis: Re-imagining How We Know, Think and Do Change (Spring)
• GLBL: 487H Social Movements Rethinking Globalization: From the Zapatistas to Occupy Wall Street to # Black Lives Matter (Fall)
• INLS 584: Information Ethics (Spring)
• MBA 803C: Corporate Communication: Social Advocacy & Activism (Fall, Spring)
• MBA 824: Management of Workplace Diversity (Fall, Spring)
• MEJO 671: Social Marketing Campaigns (Fall, Spring)
• PLCY 485: Poverty, Health, and Human Development in Low Income Countries (Fall)
• PLCY 530: Educational Problems and Policy Solutions (Fall, Spring)
• PLCY 565: Global Health Policy (Fall, Spring)
• PLCY 575: Innovation, Science and Public Policy (Spring)
• PUBA 756: Nonprofit Management (Fall)
• PUBA 757/SOWO 885: Financial Management for Nonprofits (Spring)
• PUBA 758: Navigating Nonprofit-Local Government Relationships in Organizations (Spring)
• PUBA 763: Grant Writing (1.5 credits) (Fall, Spring)
• PUBH 718: Designing Public Health Systems (Fall)
• SOWO 793: Asset Development Policy and Practice (Spring)
• SOWO 831: Substance Abuse (1.5 credits, Spring)
• SOWO 832: Child Welfare Policy, Practice and Advocacy (1.5 credits, Spring)
• SOWO 835: Poverty Policy (1.5 credits, Spring)
• SOWO 836: Health Access and Health Disparities (1.5 credits, Spring)
• SOWO 837: Disabilities Policy (1.5 credits, Spring)
• SPHG 428H: Public Health Entrepreneurship (Spring)

All courses are 3 credits except where noted.

Who can apply to the certificate program?
Any master’s or doctoral student currently enrolled at UNC-Chapel Hill can apply.   

How long does it take to complete the certificate program?
We expect students to complete the certificate over a two-year period, although it is possible to complete it in a shorter timeframe. 

Is there a required course sequence?
There is no required course sequence for completion, although we encourage students to consider taking the core course (HBEH 748: Design Thinking for the Public Good) early in the certificate.

During which semesters are the courses offered?
The core course (HBEH 748: Design Thinking for the Public Good) is offered during the spring semester. Other elective courses are offered during the fall and spring semesters.

Can a student apply the same course credits toward CIPG and their degree credentials?
A maximum of three credit hours can count toward a student’s certificate and degree credentials.

Is CIPG offered as a joint program with another university?
No, at this time the program is only offered at UNC-Chapel Hill. 

Is there a distance learning option?
Currently, the certificate program is only offered on campus at UNC-Chapel Hill.

• General:
• Program Director: Liz Chen, 919.966.9207

Board of Advisors


Liz Chen

Assistant Professor, Department of Health Behavior, Gillings School of Global Public Health; Design Thinking Lead, Innovate Carolina (CIPG Inaugural Director)

melissa carrier

Melissa Carrier

Professor of the Practice, Department of Public Policy; Director of the Office of Social Innovation, Innovate Carolina CIPG Advisory Board Chair


Giselle Corbie-Smith

Kenan Distinguished Professor of Social Medicine; Director of the Center for Health Equity Research; Professor of Internal Medicine, UNC School of Medicine


Tammy Cox

Executive Associate Dean, School of Information and Library Science


Jason Doherty

Clinical Assistant Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, Kenan-Flagler Business School


Heather Duhart

Managing Director MPA Program, School of Government


Daniel Gitterman

Professor and Chair, Department of Public Policy


Erica Johnson

Teaching Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Global Studies

steve knotek

Steve Knotek

Associate Professor and Program Coordinator, School Psychology, School of Education

Gary Nelson

Gary Nelson

Professor and Associate Director for Program Development and Training Initiatives, Jordan Institute for Families, School of Social Work


Kurt Ribisl

Chair and Jo Anne Earp Distinguished Professor in the Department of Health Behavior at the Gillings School of Global Public Health


Lisa Villamil

Assistant Professor, Hussman School of Journalism and Media


Marjorie White

Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Startup NC Law Clinic, School of Law


Meg Zomorodi

Professor, School of Nursing