Social innovation in higher education
Yarbrough, Ambra Ann
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Social innovation connects diversity, access, and inclusion to social change in the community and must be explored further within the context of higher education and student affairs. The purpose of this research study is to develop a better understanding of how universities can lead and develop an interdisciplinary approach to social innovation education on campus. Specifically, this study analyzed a socially innovative new student orientation program at a mid-sized private university to understand how the collaborative, social justice initiative manifested itself over time. The guiding questions for the study included: What catalyzed the institution to focus on social innovation education? What was the developmental process for the socially innovative initiative? How did the campus community respond to the social innovation? The Social Change Model for Leadership Development served as the theoretical framework to guide the study. Despite higher education’s central purpose of serving and enhancing the public good through education, and the advancement in practice of social innovation, scholars have very little practical knowledge about what makes an organization good at social innovation. The study was situated in literature surrounding the public good mission of higher education, the emerging field of social innovation, and social innovation in higher education. Through an exploratory and descriptive case study, this study explored what social innovation looks like within a student affairs and higher education setting through the descriptive lens of the Social Change Model of Leadership Development. I categorized the research findings through four thematic categories: Change, Individual Values, Group Values, and Community Values. Many parallels exist between the language used within the field of social innovation and the Social Change Model of Leadership Development, along with conversations about the development of personal and social responsibility within college. Through a case study examination, five key findings illuminate lessons that administrators need to know about infusing social innovation into student affairs and higher education. They include fostering means to identify social needs on campus, developing a collaborative culture, cultivating leadership among all levels of the university, recognizing the process takes time, and generating and integrating scholarship to complement practice.