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Exploring value through international work placements in social entrepreneurial organisations: a multiple case longitudinal study
Date: 1 September 2015
University of Exeter
EdD in Education
Universities and their partner organisations are promising that short-term work placements in social entrepreneurial organisations will increase student employability, leadership skills, and knowledge of socially innovative practice, while providing students meaningful opportunities to ‘change the world;’ yet theory and empirical studies ...
Universities and their partner organisations are promising that short-term work placements in social entrepreneurial organisations will increase student employability, leadership skills, and knowledge of socially innovative practice, while providing students meaningful opportunities to ‘change the world;’ yet theory and empirical studies are lacking that show what is beneficial and important to students, how students develop, and what influences their development through these cross-cultural and interdisciplinary experiential learning programs. This is the first study to explore the value of UK and US students participating in international internships and fellowships related to social entrepreneurship from a socioeconomic perspective. For this study, a value heuristic was developed from organisational models in the social entrepreneurship and educational philosophy literature followed by a qualitative longitudinal multiple case study. Fifteen individual student cases were chosen from two programmes involving two UK and three US universities, taking place in eleven host countries over five distinct data collection intervals. Findings across cases show a broad range of perceived value to students: from research skills and cross-cultural understanding, to critical thinking and self-confidence. Findings also show how student perspectives changed as a result of the placement experience and what ‘internal’ and ‘context-embedded’ features of the placements influenced students’ personal and professional lives. However, the ambiguity of social impact measures raises ethical questions about engaging students with limited knowledge, skills, and preparation on projects where they are unprepared to create long-term value for beneficiaries. This study contributes to the literature on higher education and international non-profit and business education by: providing an expansive matrix of value to students engaging in international placements; initiating a ‘hybridisation’ theory of personal value; creating a rigorous methodology transferable to similar programmes; outlining embedded features that programme developers can integrate in order to improve their own social and educational impact; raising ethical questions related to theory and practice; and including the researcher’s own multi-continent journey into the substance of the work.
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