Social Impact Learning

A Tailored Balancing Act between Social Impact and Student Learning

Dr. Netta Avineri (Link to biography) worked alongside the CSIL team in 2016 to develop an action-based resesearch report on the education model of Social Impact Learning. For the complete academic report, please contact 

This paper focuses on collaborative action research conducted with Ambassador Corps, a social entrepreneurship program that matches undergraduate and graduate students with international social enterprise NGO’s in developing countries. The paper proposes “social impact-learning” as a partnership-focused educational model balancing meaningful student learning with organizations’ social impact, for mutual benefit. We see “social impact-learning” as a novel approach to civic engagement that combines relevant elements of critical service-learning (Mitchell, 2008) and social entrepreneurship, integrating critical inquiry (Stringer, 2013), intercultural communication (Byram, 1997, Dervin, 2010, Piller, 2010), nested interculturality (Author, 2015), and ongoing partnerships (Hall, Tandon, & Temblay, 2015). The six pillars of social impact-learning are adaptability, inquiry, commitment, partnership, narrative, and reflection, which were analyzed in-depth in relation to how members of social impact-learning partnerships conceptualize their practice. The author was involved in curriculum creation (e.g., pre-departure training curriculum, manual; research-focused webinars, online reflection components; reentry “Stories Summit”) and program evaluation (e.g., intern and partner organization questionnaires, informal interviews with interns) with 16 interns and 16 partner organizations. Through coding and content analysis of these data, the following were recommended to facilitate program success: a robust academic framework; partnerships and “mutual matches” involving individualized curation and connections to other partner organizations and interns; in-depth discussion of intern roles in partner organizations; comprehensive information about intercultural competence knowledge, skills, and attitudes for specific regions and organizations; reflection component options being customized for different students’ learning preferences; and storytelling to multiple audiences being highlighted as a meaningful skill set for social impact-learning. This study demonstrates how social impact-learning is not a ‘one size fits all model’, but instead one that is tailored to the particular talents, needs, and growth areas of both students and organizations.


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