Purpose – This empirical paper examines the use of income generation projects as a pedagogic method to assess students’ learning about social enterprises. We are interested in how and why this innovative approach might improve students’ understanding of the different aspects and attributes of social entrepreneurship.
Design/methodology/approach – our study used thematic analysis of qualitative data comprising the reflective logs of 87 students on an undergraduate entrepreneurship module in a university business programme. The major attributes of social entrepreneurship were identified from a review of literature, and we used the logs to judge whether students had learnt about these attributes.
Findings – results show that students developed an understanding concerning social enterprises’ diverse stakeholder environment, market needs, social enterprises’ ideological foundations, resource mobilisation processes and performance measurement – both social and financial. In addition, they developed skills in reflection and self-awareness, communication, empathy and the generation of new ideas.
Research limitations/implications – our study is limited in that it focused on only one cohort of students, undergraduates. We cannot claim that our findings are generalisable to other students or contexts.
Practical implications – students are better able to understand the needs and values of social enterprises. However, this is a resource intensive process for educators with implications for curriculum design and management.
Social Implications - This study sheds new light on how experiential learning helps to raise students’ awareness of social enterprises.
Originality/value – this study sheds new light on how experiential learning in the form of income generation projects helps to raise students’ awareness of social enterprises. Its value lies in helping to develop a novel and effective pedagogy for entrepreneurial learning