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BUU44620 Social Innovation and Social Impact

(20 ECTS credits incorporating a significant piece of independent research)

Module Outline based on 2018/19 15 ECTS Module and currently being updated


Professor Mary Lee Rhodes and Professor Gemma Donnelly Cox

Module Content

We are in the middle of some of the most interesting times for innovation and organizing. Amidst market implosions, environmental crises, on-going transitions of government and the jostling for position amongst developed and developing economies, the drive to innovate for better (or worse) is impacting our societies and economies. In this course, we will examine how processes of social innovation can drive social change. We will observe the ways in which social innovation can be a driver of societal stability and change – variously stabilizing, unsettling and transforming the organizational landscape. Major themes addressed in this course will be the emergence and development of social innovation, the development of hybrid organizational forms, theory of change, social impact, social finance and sustainability.

This course draws on nonprofit, public, social enterprise and generic organization theory from the disciplines of economics, sociology and history as well as on the functional business, innovation and entrepreneurship literatures.  It addresses issues of management and organization in the nonprofit, public and commercial sectors, drawing on Irish and international research and analysis, empirical studies and in-depth study of topical themes.

Students will have an opportunity to integrate and apply their knowledge, skills and creativity in a yearlong project analyzing opportunities for generating social impact through existing or new organizations and potentially competing on a global stage with their ideas.


While some of the theoretical content of this course will be new to business studies students, the module is integrative of the study of organizations and management that participants have developed over the previous three years and during their Senior Sophister year.  As such, it builds on participants’ functional knowledge of human resource management, finance, marketing and operations as well as strategy, organization theory and behaviour.  Social Entrepreneurship (BU3690) or its equivalent, while not a pre-requisite, is very relevant to this module.

The assignments and class discussion will provide participants with opportunities to apply their functional knowledge to the domain of social enterprises and propose actionable recommendations for the creation of social value. 

Module Short Title


Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

  • Remember, understand and apply the key theories / frameworks / debates in the field of social innovation and its role in bringing about social change
  • Analyse the hybrid models of organisation and finance that are emerging as boundaries between private, public and nonprofit sectors blur, and evaluate the role of structure in enabling social innovation
  • Evaluate a social innovation in an Irish / international context with respect to the potential for sustainable impact and systemic change
  • Design practical interventions in a socially innovative organization, in collaboration with organizational personnel and project mentors
  • Understand social entrepreneurship, philanthropy and civic engagement strategically, with a view to maximizing impact and bringing about systemic change;
  • Apply principles of social innovation to problem solving, analysis and social impact evaluation;
  • Demonstrate the capacity to understand, address and assess social challenges locally and globally.


Module Pre Requisite

BUU33591 or BUU33690 or equivalent

Module Learning Aims

The education aims of the module are:

  • To enable students to grasp and engage with the key theories, frameworks and debates in the field of social innovation and social impact and to apply them to the analysis of organisational and management practice.
  • To integrate and apply ideas, theories and techniques learned in this module and in others in their course programme.
  • To integrate and synthesise learning gained outside the formal taught courses, such as previous learning, professional experience, and personal knowledge

Recommended Texts/Key Reading

The module will draw from a diverse range of sources and as such no individual text will suffice.  However, the following texts will provide a useful nucleus for the module:

Publications from the TEPSIE Project – Exploring the Theoretical, Empirical and Policy Foundations for Social Innovation in Europe – full list available at

Kickull, J and Lyons, T (2012) Understanding Social Entrepreneurship: The Relentless Pursuit of Mission in an Ever Changing World, Routledge