Mini-MBA for Applied Social Scientists

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In this course, you'll learn the fundamentals of business finance, organization, and strategy, then practice using these tools to extend the scope and strategic impact of your own work.

Instructor: CAROLYN HOU

Enrollment: 20
Schedule: 7 live online sessions + reading assignments
Registration: $500, EPIC Membership required—see terms.

REGISTRATION IS CLOSED. To be notified when the course is offered again, please join our email list:


Applied social scientists have powerful tools for understanding people, but their training often lacks key skills needed to navigate and influence the business environments in which they work. This course will give you the business acumen you need to amplify your impact within your own organization or your clients’ organizations, and teach you to be a better interlocutor between traditional business functions and your own function or department.

Covering the fundamentals of finance, organization, and strategy, you’ll learn the tools and processes that drive business thinking and decision making. This course goes beyond simplistic “text-book” definitions to enable participants to analyze financial statements and organizational charts as reflections of a social reality, and strategy as a method for social change.

In addition to live lectures, discussions, supplementary readings, and group work, this course will use a case study methodology to put you in the position of decisionmaker of a major national company. Your team will define the business problem and current strategy of the company, then practice translating research findings into a new strategic direction for growth. You’ll get hands-on experience directly applying the business acumen you gain to your own work, enhancing the value and influence you bring to your organization and to your clients.

What Will You Learn?

  • The meaning and significance of key financial terms and reports, including how to find and interpret the numbers
  • Five ways corporations can be organized internally, and the consequences for a company’s business model
  • How to dissect components of a corporate strategy; determine strategic options, and translate research findings into a new strategic direction
  • How to understand business thinking in a human and social context
  • How these tools are used by executives and managers to make decisions
  • How you can use these tools to increase the scope and impact of your own research and recommendations
  • Practice writing and presentation skills for a business audience

How Will You Learn?

This online course was specially designed for EPIC to provide active, live engagement with a small group of participants and an expert instructor. It isn’t cobbled together from cookie-cutter modules or passive webinars—it offers meaningful, relevant learning and connects you to an important network of people and resources. The online course uses platforms and co-working tools that facilitate group interaction and collaboration, accessible from your browser. Learning with other EPIC members representing different industries, roles, and backgrounds exposes you to diverse perspectives and approaches that enrich the experience.

Who Should Take This Course?

The Mini-MBA is designed for budding or early career ethnographers and other applied researchers with a social science or design research background in roles such as:

  • UX Researcher
  • Usability/Human Factors Specialist
  • Qualitative/Ethnographic Researcher
  • Insights/Market Researcher
  • Design Researcher
  • Applied Anthropologist

This course is not appropriate for people with a formal business degree, such as in Business Administration, Economics, Finance/Accounting, etc. or for people already working in managerial or executive positions.


“I learned how to ensure you are incorporating business thinking and strategy in every step of the research and delivery process to ensure your recommendations are meaningful to your stakeholders.”
—Katie Phillips, User Experience Researcher, Australia Post

"Carolyn helped build a great foundation around basics of business thinking and shared many valuable approaches to manage business stakeholders and create influence. I was very pleased with the overall outcome and see many opportunities to apply this thinking to current and future projects at work."
—Tanushree Bhat, MDes, User Experience Consultant, Steelcase

"The worlds of the business and the user are too often perceived as separate, not only in the minds of the industry and corporate leadership, but also in the minds of us researchers. In this course, I learned how to build a bridge between these two worlds. Carolyn did a fabulous job of structuring the course, discussions, and assignments for us to get hands-on experience. I'm thankful to her for offering this course, sharing her knowledge, and equipping us for building these bridges in our own organizations."
—Hina Shah, PhD, Senior UX Researcher, SmartSheet

About Your Instructor

CAROLYN HOU is a business anthropologist and innovation and strategy consultant. She works with Fortune 500 companies in healthcare, automotive, consumer goods, consumer electronics, retail, and telecommunications industries to define new product and service innovation, marketing, branding and sales initiatives, and corporate strategy. Hou received her graduate degree in Social Anthropology from the University of Oxford, where she also served as President of Oxford Women in Business.

Course Schedule

This course consists of seven live online sessions (four instruction and three group work sessions) plus reading assignments:

Part 1

Introduction to Business Thinking and Finance Fundamentals
This session will challenge us to re-examine our role and responsibilities in the corporate world, as well as provide a foundation of tools to decode one of the most important languages spoken in businesses today: finance.

Part II

Introduction to Organizational Structures and Corporate Strategy
In this session you’ll learn frameworks for understanding how companies are organized and operate internally, as well as frameworks for how to evaluate and build a new corporate strategy.

Part III

Incorporating Business Thinking into our Practice
This session will be an opportunity to reflect on how we can push the boundaries of our practice even further by examining how and when it is most relevant and impactful to incorporate business thinking into our work.

Part IV

Group Presentations, Discussion, Summary and Analysis
This session will bring it all together—you’ll put the skills and tools you’ve gained throughout the course into practice to answer the strategic question faced by the company in our case study. We’ll discuss our independent work, offer each other guidance and critique, and explore the challenges and opportunities we face in our own workplaces and careers.


Courses are open to EPIC Members, and membership is open to everyone—join here.

Refunds & transfers: If you need to cancel more than 14 days before the start of the course you’ll be refunded 50% of the registration fee. No refunds will be made within 14 days of the start of the course. You may transfer your registration to someone else; the recipient must be an EPIC Member prior to transfer.

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