- This guest blog has been kindly written by Professor Tony Wall and Dr Adam Shore of Liverpool Business School, Liverpool John Moores University. It is the third in the current series of blogs produced for HEPI by the NCEE.
- Earlier blogs from this HEPI / NCEE series as well as the 2022 series can be accessed here.
Higher education institutions play a critical role in shaping the next generation of leaders and professionals. As society becomes increasingly aware of our social and environmental challenges, universities must adapt to meet these challenges. One way to do this is by adopting a social value lens when designing new strategies and programmes.
Social value is an organisation or activity’s positive impact on society beyond financial gain. By embedding social value into higher education, universities can ensure that their programmes and activities are aligned with the needs and priorities of society. This alignment also means engaging with social organizations and initiatives, such as Business in the Community and Principles of Responsible Management Education, which have social value as a core focus.
This thought piece explores how higher education can utilise a social value lens to design new strategies and programmes that create a positive impact on society.
Liverpool Business School has launched pioneering guidance about how universities can better generate the kinds of impacts that positively impact people’s lives. The report focuses on teaching as a direct driver of societal impact, rather than on research where impact management is much more developed.
This report has far-reaching consequences for the more than 2.5 million students across the UK university sector, and its largest disciplinary area of Business and Management (accounting for 412,815 students or 16.3% in 2019/20, far greater than those studying subjects allied to medicine (see the British Academy’s research).
The report provides a global perspective of how universities and social organisations can practically collaborate for impact – whether it be stakeholder mapping, co-delivering innovative courses, working in-situ, in communities or using well-established tools to help understand what communities value, and by how much. It recognises the need for wider support to facilitate such transformation, including lobbying governments to accelerate change towards managing meaningful social value impacts, social movement organisations working collaboratively to raise awareness of social impact management practices and expanding national and global capacity through communities of practice which share tools, practices and case studies.
Live projects are one way universities can embed social value into their programmes. By engaging in real-world projects where students work with organisations to create solutions to real-world problems, students gain valuable skills and experience and contribute to creating social value for the organisations they work with and the communities they serve. By working with universities, organisations can benefit from the expertise and fresh perspectives of students. Organisations also benefit from the solutions that students create, which can be implemented to solve real-world problems.
In addition to live projects, universities can adopt a range of strategies to embed social value into their programmes. For example, universities can provide opportunities for students to engage in community service and volunteer work. They can also offer courses that focus on social value and sustainability and they can incorporate social value into their admissions and recruitment policies.
To achieve the desired impact, universities need to adopt a holistic approach that involves all stakeholders. This includes students and staff as well as external partners such as social organisations and businesses. By working together, universities can ensure that their programmes and activities are aligned with the needs and priorities of society and that they generate social value for the communities they serve
The report can be freely downloaded here. It highlights good global practices useful for impact management through teaching including:
- increasing integration of social value into strategic vision and mission statements;
- significant data, data collection and monitoring capabilities; and
- established reporting and communications mechanisms.
However the report also calls for a range of more university-wide, joined-up thinking and strategy to manage impact through teaching, including for example:
- creating roadmaps to facilitate social value transitions alongside environmental management transitions;
- building capability in using tools for social value assessment and impact management; and
- designing teaching and learning to develop social value impact mindsets.
In order to facilitate such transformation, the report recognises the need for wider support such as:
- lobbying governments to accelerate change towards managing meaningful social value impacts;
- social movement organisations working collaboratively to raise awareness of social impact management practices (for example, see the Social Value International guidance here); and
- expanding national and global capacity through communities of practice which share tools, practices, and case studies.
The report was a result of global symposia for social value in 2022, in which more than 130 people from 12 countries collaborated in-person and online for a two-day event hosted by Liverpool Business School and Social Value UK.
The event and report were supported by a Liverpool John Moores University Quality Research Grant, and various professional bodies and learned societies globally including: the British Academy of Management (Sustainable and Responsible Business SIG); Principles for Responsible Management Education (Working Group on Poverty); the University Vocational Awards Council; Social Value International; the Academy of Business in Society; the American International Accreditation Association for Schools and Colleges; and the National Society for Experiential Education.
As a result of the event, vice-chancellors, directors, academic and community regeneration experts in the UK and abroad continue to report changes to their practice, including new collaborations for deeper impacts in their communities.
The CEO of Social Value UK, Crispen Sachikonye, says:
Liverpool Business School and Liverpool John Moores University are our first university partner and we are already using the guidance to rethink how we drive the social value movement through wider educational systems as a result. We have established a new thought leadership group to drive this impact.