BUU44620 Social Innovation and Social Impact 2021/22

(20 ECTS)


Professor Gemma Donnelly Cox

Email: gdnnllyc@tcd.ie  
Office Hours: By appointment 


BUU33590 - Business in Society 
- Social Entrepreneurship 
(or equivalent)

Module Content:

Social innovation is the process of creating, and / or developing and implementing a novel concept, idea, or organization, that benefits society (social and/or environmental benefit) and is achieved through community, business, institutional, and/or behavioural change (TCD Centre for Social Innovation). It is about developing and implementing effective solutions to social and environmental issues.  If you are interested in thinking differently and making a difference, whether your focus is climate action, or marriage equality, you are interested in social innovation. This 20 credit capstone module immerses students in social innovation theory, practice, and research. In tandem with studying concepts for and approaches to social innovation and value creation, participants are supported to formulate and clarify a social innovation research topic, develop a social innovation research proposal, conduct a rapid systematic literature review, and carry out independent social innovation research.

Participants take part in a two-hour workshop and a one-hour seminar weekly.  The workshop is focused on social innovation theory and practice, while the seminar supports participants to develop independent social innovation research projects.

  • The two-hour workshop links social innovation theory, business practices learned throughout the business degree and new strategies for defining, delivering and measuring social impact. Students will learn about global and regional approaches to social innovation, how to develop a social innovation process, and how to measure and communicate the impact of that process. Students will engage with defining, delivering, and measuring impact, carrying out impact investing and tapping into different sources of social finance.  Each semester, there will be a term test and participants will complete a team project.
  • The one-hour weekly seminar addresses the capstone element of the module. It is dedicated to conducting independent research. This takes the form of completing a research proposal and rapid systematic literature review in the first semester, and a piece of independent social innovation research in a management discipline that follows on from the findings of the rapid systematic review in the second.

Learning and Teaching Approach:

This module has two main elements: ‘content’ and ‘skills’.  The ‘content’ element is achieved through the Social Innovation and Social Impact lectures, seminars and group assignment that span two semesters.  The core learning activity is the application of knowledge to the practice of delivering social impact through working with existing or proposed social innovation projects and organisations via the ‘Social Innovation and Social Impact” (SISI) project.  Students will work in teams with social innovators and/or organisations to propose specific initiatives aimed at increasing the social (and/or environmental) impact of their work.  Lectures will introduce students to the core ideas and approaches underpinning social innovation, impact and finance and students will be given the opportunity to discuss and debate different SISI strategies that might apply to their project (or not).  Seminars will be held on a bi-weekly basis and will be structured as workshop time for students to develop, present and receive/provide feedback on their evolving projects.

The ‘skills’ element of the module are achieved through the independent research seminars and assignments that are designed to train students in social science research, with an emphasis on the management disciplines. This element of the module enables students to pursue their own SISI-related research interest, while learning relevant research skills such as systematic literature review, research proposal writing, methodology, data analysis, etc.  Students will produce two pieces of independent research: a systematic literature review and a research project relating to topics in Social Innovation, Social Impact and/or the SISI project in which they participate.

Learning Outcomes:

The seven module level learning outcomes include the taught programme delivered to all students in BUU44620, BUU44621 and BU44622 (LO1-LO4) plus the learning outcomes specific to students enrolled in BUU44620 (LO5-LO8):

  • LO1 Describe and apply the key theories / frameworks / debates in the field of social innovation, social impact and social finance and its role in bringing about social change
  • LO2 Evaluate social innovation in an Irish / international context with respect to the potential for sustainable impact and systemic change
  • LO3 Apply principles of social innovation, impact measurement and social finance to problem solving, analysis and social impact evaluation;
  • LO4 Demonstrate the capacity to understand, assess and address social and environmental challenges locally and globally
  • LO5 Identify approaches to formulating and clarifying a research topic and developing a research proposal
  • LO6 Design and execute a rapid systematic literature review
  • LO7 Undertake independent social innovation research in a management discipline

Recommended Texts/Key Reading:

Required core course textbook(s): 

  • Saunders, M., Lewis, P. and Thornhill, A. (2015) Research Methods for Business Students, 7th Edition, Harlow, England, UK: Financial Times/Prentice Hall. ISBN13:9781292016627 (The required readings from this text are provided on Blackboard).
  • Boland, A., Cherry, G. and R. Dickson (eds.) (2017). Doing a Systematic Literature Review: A Student’s Guide. (€24 eBook, €28 paperback; multiple copies available in Library – will announce once available to borrow)
  • See BUU44621 and BUU44622 module outlines for workshop readings.

General Supplemental Readings:

There are a range of readings drawn from relevant academic and ‘grey’ literature which will be provided to students via the Blackboard site. Indicative reading for each SISI lecture topic are provided in the relevant module schedules under BUU44621 and BUU44622.

Student Preparation for the Module:

The main preparation for this module is the completion of the Business programme to date, coupled with an interest in working with a socially innovative organisation and undertaking independent research.  Students are also encouraged to begin to think about what topics within Social Innovation and Social Impact are of particular interest to them as preparation to undertake the first assignment in the research skills element of this module.


  • Semester 1 Term Test: 15% - Will be held online, in January assessment week
  • Semesters 2 Term Test : 10% - Will be held in end of year assessment period
  • Semesters 1 (25%) and 2 (25%) Independent Research
    • Research Proposal (not graded) due 9:00am Wednesday 12th October (week 5) Semester 1
    • Systematic Literature Review due 5:00pm Friday 2nd December (Week 12), Semester 1
    • Research Report due 5:00pm Friday 7th April (Week 11), Semester 2.
  • Semester 1 Team Project: 10%
  • Semester 2 Team Project: 15%