We are working with Christ Church Business School (CCBS) to introduce SocialPlaNet into Undergraduate programmes.
Social PlaNet is a ‘serious game’ for teaching social enterprise to small groups, combining ‘real world’ research with online group tasks. As the output of the TIHR led Erasmus+ project, ‘Social Seducement’ (2014-2017), SocialPlaNet was initially designed for voluntary sector delivery and to train people facing exclusion from the labour market. Now, by drawing on CCCU’s established knowledge exchange relationships with its local business and social enterprise communities, we are working together to adapt the game to the higher education sector, as an important teaching and learning innovation in the social enterprise field.
Elizabeth Cory-Pearce (TIHR) and Antonio Sama (CCCU) recently co-presented a paper on the thinking behind the pilot and its progress to date, at the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) 2018 as part of a symposium at Glasgow Caledonian University. Their paper discussed how it is widely acknowledged in research and scholarship on social enterprise, that entrepreneurship skills (and social enterprise in particular) cannot be taught within the confines of the classroom. Experiential approaches are required to deliver the strong tacit dimensions of entrepreneurial capacity. Played in small groups of up to six, SocialPlaNet is based on real pan-European case studies and provides players with a risk-free simulation of the start-up process, enabling those with a social enterprise idea to develop it into a viable business model. At the same time, the game allocates leadership responsibility to players, enabling them to not only experience but to ‘test out’ and ‘play with’ through game-play their own awareness of role, leadership and authority in groups. Accordingly, the game develops both direct knowledge of the social enterprise creation process and key soft skills such as team-working, problem-solving and conflict management which can be difficult to convey in a lecturing format.
Studies also show that social entrepreneurship skills should not be taught as a stand-alone topic, but benefit from stronger integration within mainstream education. Embedding the SociaPlaNet game in CCBS’s established degree programmes places this social enterprise training within an integrative business education environment, including CCCU’s established partnerships with businesses in the Canterbury locality and South East England, offering the potential for real case studies. Students in placements with local enterprise and using the game could, it is expected, be able to create more advanced case studies and with a business plan for assessment. They will find a real-life problem in their region, conceptualise it, and develop their work both digitally and directly by placement in the industry in the surrounding area.
Final year CCCU undergraduate students already have project placements in which they are required to understand business planning and accounting. The SocialPlaNet pilot would extend this work to Social Enterprise budgeting and accounting, and to exploring social return on investment, and other such qualitative differences between enterprise and social (or hybrid) enterprise. At the same time, the local business sector and specific social enterprises offering placements will also be benefiting from this knowledge exchange partnership.
Going forward, as we pilot the game during the 2018-2019 academic year, the TIHR/CCBS partnership aims to design, deliver and evaluate an elective module in the programmes of the Business School. This, in turn, will allow us to establish whether the game is compatible with the UK higher education sector and with similar degree programmes internationally, representing a potentially important example of cross-sectoral collaboration and knowledge exchange.