Social impact in business research: what, why and how?


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There is increasing evidence that business schools are interested in conducting social impact research. Indeed Stanford university made the claim in 2018 that the future of higher education is social impact (Gameron 2018) while Oxford university states that societal impact of research is a central concern for the higher education sector (de Jong and Balaban 2022). Accreditation organisations such as AACSB now have societal impact of research as one of the key outcomes business schools must demonstrate to maintain or gain accreditation (AACSB 2023). Universities are launching new majors in social impact and offering grant funding while academic conferences are including social impact as new tracks. Governments are increasingly requiring universities to demonstrate the impact of research and requiring impact beyond science (see ARC 2022, ERC 2022). Despite this rising interest in social impact from business schools, little is available to guide business researchers with business specific social impact frameworks, evaluation processes, case studies or guidelines.

In this special issue we seek to provide business researchers with the theoretical frameworks and tools to design, deliver and evaluate business research that achieves social impact. In doing so we adopt the definition by Aiello and colleagues (2021) that social impact is the improvement in a specified social goal based on research findings by the scientific community. Specifically social impact is NOT the dissemination of results or knowledge transfer to policy or business procedure (Aiello et al 2021), these are stages in the pathway to social impact. In other words, social impact in business research is the observed change in a socially-beneficial phenomena that has resulted from scholarly business research.

In this special issue we take a strengths-based approach to business stakeholders experiencing vulnerabilities at the micro, meso or macro system level (Kabadayi et. al. 2023, Raciti et. al., 2022). We encourage research at different levels of the business ecosystem and across the ecosystem and from any of the business disciplines.


List of topic areas

  • What is social impact in business research and how is this different to social impact in other fields?
  • What are the stages in the pathway to business research social impact?
  • How might we evaluate the social impact of business research?
  • What works and what doesn’t when co-designing social impact programs?
  • How can social impact in business programs be evaluated?
  • How is social impact in business research similar and different to social impact in other disciplines?
  • What is best practice for designing and delivering business research social impact programs?
  • What are ethical considerations and risks to be considered when designing business research social impact programs?
  • How might academics work with practitioners to create social impact with business research?

Guest Editors

Professor Rebekah Russell-Bennett, 
University of Canberra, Australia 
[email protected]

Professor Mike Reid, 
RMIT University, Australia  
[email protected]


Submissions Information

Submissions are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts. Registration and access are available by clicking the button below.
Submit your paper here!
Author guidelines must be strictly followed.
Authors should select (from the drop-down menu) the special issue title at the appropriate step in the submission process, i.e. in response to “Please select the issue you are submitting to”. 
Submitted articles must not have been previously published, nor should they be under consideration for publication anywhere else, while under review for this journal.


Key Deadlines

Opening date for manuscripts submissions: 18 July 2024
Closing date for manuscripts submission: 31 October 2024



AACSB (2023) AACSB and Societal Impact: Aligning with the AACSB 2020 Business Accreditation Standards, AACSB International,, accessed 4 July 2024
Aiello, E., Donovan, C., Duque, E., Fabrizio, S., Flechas, R., Holm, P., Molina, S., and Oliver, E. (2021) “Effective strategies that enhance the social impact of social sciences and humanities research”, Evidence and Policy, Vol. 17(1), 131-146 
ARC (2022) Statement of expectations,, accessed 4 July 2024
De Jong, S.P.L. and Balaban, C. (2022) “How universities influence societal impact practices: Academic’ sense-making of organizational impact strategies, Science and public policy, Vol. 49(4), 609-620
ERC (2024), “Upcoming report assesses the impact of the ERC’s first years of research”, accessed 4 July 2024
Gameron, A, (2018), “The future of higher education is social impact”, Standford Social Innovation Review,  May 18, accessed 4 July 2024
Kabadayi, S., Livne-Tarandach, R., and Pirson, M. (2023) “A dignity-vulnerability approach framework to maximize well-being outcomes by transformative service initiatives (TSIs)”, Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 37(9), 1151-1166
Raciti, M., Russell-Bennett. and Letheren, K. (2022), “A strengths-based approach to eliciting deep insights from social marketing customers experiencing vulnerability”, Journal of Marketing Management, Vol. 38 Nos 11/12, pp. 1137-1177.