Embedding social innovation and social impact across the disciplines: identifying "Changemaker" attributes

Bethany Alden Rivers, Cesar Alejandro Armellini, Ming Nie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose - This paper proposes an attributes framework for embedding “Changemaker”—a university initiative for promoting social innovation and social impact—across the disciplines at the University of Northampton.

Design/methodology/approach - The study is based on the authors’ (2014) phenomenographic study that proposed five different conceptions of Changemaker held by academic staff: 1) Changemaker as institutional strategy; 2) Changemaker as critical thinking, perspective shifting and problem solving; 3) Changemaker as employability; 4) Changemaker as social betterment and 5) Changemaker as personal transformation. The present study explores pedagogic literature to identify skills, behaviours and attributes associated with each of these five categories. Findings—Findings from this literature review inform a taxonomy of Changemaker attributes, which offers a catalogue of skills and behaviours associated with the five conceptions of Changemaker.

Research limitations/implications - The conceptions of Changemaker, that form the basis of the Changemaker attributes, represent the beliefs of teaching staff at the University of Northampton. Despite inherent limitations, the approach of using practice-based empirical findings to develop pedagogical tools may be of direct benefit to other education providers as they develop their own models for teaching and learning.

Practical implications - The Changemaker attributes will be used by the University of Northampton during the design, approval and review of courses to ensure that social innovation and social impact is embedded across the disciplines. Academic staff can refer these attributes when designing assessments and for inspiration toward innovative teaching practice.

Originality/value - The findings of this study will provide a point of reference for other higher education institutions as they look for guidance on embedding social innovation and social impact into their curriculum.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHigher Education Skills and Work Based Learning
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2015


  • Changemaker attributes
  • social innovation
  • social entrepreneurship
  • phenomenography
  • conceptions
  • pedagogy
  • learning design
  • employability
  • problem solving
  • transformative learning


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