New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 14

Accepted Abstracts

Exploring Opportunities for Embedding Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship in University Curricula

Marlene Amorim, University of Aveiro (Portugal)

Marta Ferreira Dias, University of Aveiro (Portugal)

Diego Galego, University of Aveiro (Portugal)

Maria Sarmento, University of Aveiro (Portugal)


Recently we have witnessed the growth of social innovation initiative as a viable approach to address many challenges of contemporary societies across the social, cultural, economic and environmental domains. Social innovation sets up to develop alternative, and sustainable, solutions to social issues by means of organizational models that rely on strong civic engagement and participation across private and public sectors. As such, social innovation holds a strong potential for the transformation of societies and has attracted a growing interest from researchers, practitioners and policy makers around the world. A key domain of concern is the need for developing adequate models and methodologies for the qualification of individuals for social innovation.  Social innovation can build on a diversity of activities in the nonprofit, social entrepreneurship, social economy, services sector, and in corporate social responsibility practices, and is calling for specific competences to enable their promoters to set up sustainable models that guarantee the continuous engagement of communities. To this end, this article sets up to explore the needs and opportunities for the development of an academic curriculum for social innovation. The work builds on the collection of data about the state of the art of education and training for social innovation across a sample of 10 Latin American and 5 European universities, in the context of the Erasmus+ project Students4Change. The aim of this project is to integrate social innovation in curricula and learning environments at universities of Latin America, improving the quality and relevance of its academic programs in relation to the skills that ought to be developed by students in order to solve the social problems affecting the region. This research offers a first building block to that end, as it undertakes an overview and an analysis of the existing offer and needs as expressed by university representatives. Overall, the results suggest that many higher education institutions have already drafted education answers to this end, by means of punctual activities and training, but there is a generalized feeling about the need of formalizing a program specially design to promote social innovation, and to qualify the universities for that endeavor.

Keywords: Social innovation; entrepreneurship; universities; education; Students4Change;

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