BUU44621 Designing Social Innovation

(5 ECTS)


Prof. Gemma Donnelly-Cox

Email: gdnnllyc@tcd.ie 
Office Hours: By appointment, via online meeting 


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

Module Content:

Social innovation is the creation and implementation of a novel concept, idea or organisation, that benefits society and is achieved through community, business, institutional and/or behavioural change  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. Whether you want to change the world, or help make your neighbourhood a better place to live, your desire to make a difference needs to be matched with the knowledge and skills to develop workable solutions, to deploy them effectively and to assess their impact. This module will guide you in understanding how processes of social innovation work and how to develop yourself to play a role within them. You will learn how processes of social innovation are used to address key societal challenges This module introduces concepts for and approaches to social innovation and value creation, linking social innovation theory, business practices learned throughout the business degree and new strategies for defining, delivering and measuring social impact.  You will learn about global and regional approaches to social innovation, how to develop a theory of change and use logic models, and how to intervene in a process of social innovation.  You will learn how to engage with key individuals within the fields of social innovation and social change in Ireland and abroad, including academics, practitioners and activism.

Learning and Teaching Approach:

The core learning activity in the module is gaining the knowledge needed to assess the development of social innovation and apply it to the practice of delivering social impact. Classroom work is team-based, with participants working in randomly-assigned teams comprising capstone students, students taking BUU44621&2, and visiting students.Teams will work on a ‘Communicating Impact’ project for a socially innovative Irish social enterprise or nonprofit organization. Workshop participation is supported by pre-class preparation – reading, video clips featuring core concepts and ideas - and workshop time is used for teambuilding, case discussion, and debating strategies that might apply to featured social innovations.  The end of semester examination tests knowledge and critical understanding of theory and concepts introduced during the semester.

Learning Outcomes:

  • LO1 Describe and apply the key theories / frameworks / debates in the field of social innovation and social innovation’s role in bringing about social change
  • LO2 Evaluate a social innovation in an Irish / international context with respect to the potential for sustainable impact and systemic change
  • LO3 Analyse the hybrid models of organization that are emerging as boundaries between private, public and nonprofit sectors blur, and evaluate the role of structure in enabling social innovation
  • LO4 Demonstrate the capacity to understand, assess and address social and environmental challenges locally and globally

Textbooks and Required Resources:

The required readings are drawn from relevant academic and ‘grey’ literature which will be provided to students via the Blackboard site. The readings for each lecture topic are provided in the module schedule below.

A book of readings on social innovation from which readings will be assigned during the course is available as a pdf under a creative commons license, which means you can download it free of charge below.

  • Nicholls, Alex; Julie Simon and Madeleine Gabriel (2015). New Frontiers in Social Innovation Research. Palgrave MacMillan. Download here.

Student preparation for the module:  

The main preparation for this module is the completion of the Business programme to date, coupled with the interest in working with, in the second semester, a socially innovative organisation to maximise their social impact.


Team Work (40%)- You will join a team this semester.  Class members will be randomly assigned to a project team after four weeks of seminar time, comprising capstone students, students taking BUU44621&2, and visiting students. Teams will be assigned a socially innovative social enterprise or nonprofit organization that has previously worked with a team of MBA students.  You will receive a copy of the report MBAs have completed for your assigned organization. Your team will:

  • In a five-page report submitted on Thursday 27th October at 9:00am, identify social impact, by:
    • specifying the theory of change guiding the organization’s social innovation process;
    • Developing a logic model for the organization’s social innovation process, illustrating the process by which outcomes and impact are achieved from activities and outputs.
  • In an infographic submitted on Friday 25th November and presented on Tuesday 29th November, communicate the impact of the social innovation.

Term Test (60%) – This essay-based exam will either be a two-hour in person exam or a five-hour online exam. This will be confirmed by Reading Week.

Late Submission Policy: Unexcused assignments submitted after the designated submission deadline may be penalised by 10% of the grade awarded for each working day late, or part thereof. Assignments beyond 5 days late will not be accepted. In the event of a non-medical reason for non-submission of a term-assignment a student should consult with and receive prior approval from the lecturer concerned. Students unable to submit a term assignment for medical reasons must produce a medical certificate to the School of Business Studies office within three working days of the missed submission date. Certificates received after that time will not be accepted.