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BUU44620 Social Innovation and Social Impact 2021/22

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


Prof. Gemma Donnelly-Cox 


Office Hours: by appointment, online only

Module Content

Social innovation is the process of 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 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.  Students 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.  The first stage of the SISI group project and the first independent research assignment will be completed in the first semester and these will be developed in the second, linked module, “Delivering Social Impact”.

Building on the new concepts and approaches to social innovation and value creation introduced to students in Semester 1: “Designing Social Innovation”, the second semester “Delivering Social Impact” links social innovation theory, business practices and new strategies for defining, delivering and measuring social impact.  Students will learn about global and regional approaches to defining, delivering and measuring impact, how to apply different theories of change to social innovation initiatives, what impact investing is and how to tap into different sources of social finance.  The SISI group project (begun in the preceding module) will be developed further to enable students to apply their knowledge to a practical example of social innovation and to reflect on their own role in generating impact.  The independent research project defined in the first semester will be completed in this semester alongside the group project.

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.

In addition to the project and research work, students will be asked to reflect on their own and other groups’ learning and engagement with the core ideas of the module and practical implications of these for the selected social innovations. 

Learning Outcomes

The eight 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 a 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 Describe the nature of social innovation, social impact and social finance research, and identify approaches to formulating and clarifying a research topic 
  • LO6 Design and execute a systematic literature review 
  • LO7 Develop a research proposal 
  • LO8 Undertake independent research in a management discipline

Module Pre Requisite

BUU33690 Social Entrepreneurship or equivalent

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 
  • Jesson, J.K, Matheson, L., Lacey, F.M (2011) Doing Your Literature Review: Traditional and Systematic Techniques, London, UK: Sage Publications. ISBN 978-1-84860-153-6 
  • See Social Innovation texts for BUU44621 

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 assesment period

Semesters 1 (25%) and 2 (25%) Independent Research

  1. Research Proposal (not graded) due end of week 7 in Semester 1.
  2. Systematic Literature Review due at the end of Week 12, Semester 1,
  3. Research Report due one week after the end of Semester 2 teaching weeks – Date to be announced.
  • Semester 1 Team Project: 10%
  • Semester 2 Team Project: 15%