Curriculum Enhancement for Employability and Social Impact (CEESI)

by bethanyaldenrivers

CEESI is the University of Northampton’s new and exciting HEA-funded project!

See for more information.


  1. Background

The University of Northampton (UN) is proud of its commitment to developing students’ capacities for social innovation and social impact. In 2013, the University was awarded status as the UK’s first ‘Changemaker’ campus by AshokaU—a global network of universities who catalyse positive social change.

This year, UN is leading a multi-faceted campaign to embed principles of social innovation and social impact across the disciplines. This is a challenging project, as it requires the University to achieve several objectives: 1) to establish a shared discourse around Education for Social Innovation and Social Impact, 2) to create mechanisms for sharing good practice within and beyond the Institution, 3) to develop and embed tools, resources and staff development into UN processes and 4) to propose a robust, sustainable framework for embedding Education for Social Innovation and Social Impact across the disciplines.

To date, this project has yielded important research findings, including a conceptual understanding of the different ‘ways of knowing’ social innovation and social impact (Alden Rivers, Nie and Armellini, in press) and a set of 14 Attributes for Positive Changemaking (Alden Rivers, Armellini and Nie, in press). Additionally, two mechanisms for sharing good practice have been created: 1) a case study publication called Changemaker in the Curriculum Case Studies 2013/2014 and 2) a web area for Education for Social Innovation and Social Impact.

A recognised opportunity…

Through this work, the project team has recognised an important opportunity to bring together a separate, yet interrelated, discourse on Employability Attributes and Outcomes (Irwin, 2014), which currently underpins an array of extra-curricular and co-curricular activities across the Institution. The two sets of attributes (for Positive Changemaking and for Employability) are inextricably connected, and it is important to the University that teaching and learning activities reflect these skills and behaviours as key learning outcomes. Moreover, it is a priority within the University’s Teaching and Learning Plan to engage staff and students in the reconceptualisation and redesign of taught provision for 21st century learning. The team has recognised a significant opportunity for an integrated and embedded approach to Positive Changemaking (i.e. Social Impact) and Employability—referred to in this document as Employability for Social Impact—to drive curriculum enhancement.

  1. Project aims

The Curriculum Enhancement towards Employability for Social Impact (CEESI) project aims to embed employability and positive changemaking across the disciplines in a meaningful way.

The CEESI project achieves this aim by working towards the following objectives:

Objective 1—Drawing on recent research findings and existing frameworks, to develop an integrated model of graduate attributes and outcomes for Employability for Social Impact [Work Package 1]

Objective 2—To engage staff and students in a pilot programme of curriculum enhancement for embedding Employability for Social Impact into teaching and learning activities, as a way to pilot the draft framework and to enhance current taught provision [Work Package 2]

Objective 3—To share good practice toward Employability for Social Impact emerging from the curriculum enhancement pilot programme within and beyond the Institution [Work Package 3]

Objective 4—Through insights gained from Work Packages 1-3, and in collaboration with the Higher Education Academy, to develop a toolkit for Employability for Social Impact that is of benefit within and beyond the Institution [Work Package 4].

  1. Methodology (including milestones, timeframes, quality measures and risk)

3.1 Work packages

Work Package 1: Integrated framework

This work package addresses Objective 1 by reviewing and bringing together two separate, yet interrelated, pieces of work on Attributes for Positive Changemaking and Employability Attributes and Outcomes. This work package aims to achieve a shared understanding of an integrated approach, referred to as Employability for Social Impact.

Work Package Leadership

Dr Bethany Alden Rivers, Wray Irwin and Chris Durkin will lead this work package.

Work Package Deliverable(s)

The key deliverable of this work package is an integrated framework of attributes and outcomes for Employability for Social Impact (similar to that shown in the Education for Sustainable Development (2014) publication, pp. 10-12). This will be achieved through a mapping and reframing workshop facilitated by the three leaders, with input from the rest of the project team.

Work Package 2: Curriculum enhancement programme

This work package aims to engage staff and students in the reconceptualisation and redesign of existing curriculum. The University’s current curriculum development workshops (called CAIeROs: Creating Aligned Interactive educational Resource Opportunities) are a well-researched and integrated feature within the Institution’s HEA-accredited professional development scheme.

A set of CAIeRO workshops dedicated to embedding Employability for Social Impact will offer an important opportunity to engage staff and students in using the draft framework delivered in Work Package 1. CAIeRO workshops, typically, are two-day events that engage several members of a programme team, as well as students, in creating a constructively aligned ‘storyboard’ of their course. The second day of the CAIeRO process focuses on creating aligned learning activities for use across multiple modes of delivery. These are referred to as ‘e-tivities’ but, in face-to-face settings, they are referred to as ‘activities’.

There is a risk that programme teams will not engage with this enhancement programme. However, the University enjoys a fairly high rate of engagement in the CAIeRO workshops, and these are embedded in the the University’s Validation and Review processes for academic programs. As an incentive to programme teams to participate in this particular project, they will be invited to showcase their work in the University’s annual case study publication and will be recognised in the Employability for Social Impact Celebration event (both of which are deliverables of Work Package 3).

Work Package Leadership

Dr Rachel Maxwell and Professor Ale Armellini will lead this work package.

Work Package Deliverable(s)

  • Four dedicated CAIeRO events (for four separate programme teams and students) that focus on embedding Employability for Social Impact.
  • A resultant set of ‘e-tivities’ or ‘activities’ (depending on the mode of delivery) that can be shared across the Institution (as part of Work Package 3).
  • Evaluation of the draft framework for Employability for Social Impact (from Work Package 1) by CAIeRO participants.

Work Package 3: Sharing good practice

This work package runs alongside Work Package 2 by capturing the case studies and e-tivities (or activities) emanating from the curriculum enhancement programme. These case studies will form the 2014/2015 Case Study publication, continuing the established annual report from 2013/2014. Also, as part of this work package the University plans to host a celebration event to recognise its work towards Employability for Social Impact. The celebration/dissemination event will take place post-project, in September/October, when staff and students have returned to the campus for the Autumn term. This will give the team enough time to print the Case Study Publication and Toolkit Publication, and to plan the event. Also, it will provide maximum impact at the start of an academic year, rather than at the end of or between the academic year(s).

Work Package Leadership

  • Dr Bethany Alden Rivers and Dr Sue Allen will compile the case studies.
  • Professor Ale Armellini and Wray Irwin will lead and host the celebration event (post project).

Work Package Deliverables

  • A case study publication resulting from the curriculum enhancement programme
  • A celebration event to disseminate good practice within and beyond the Institution (post-project deliverable)

Work Package 4: Toolkit

This work package reflects the culmination of learning from the previous work packages. The toolkit is a key project output and a way of communicating the University’s work toward embedding Employability for Social Impact. Contents of the toolkit will include the validated framework (Work Package 1), the Case Studies and set of e-tivities/activities (Work Packages 2 and 3).

There is a risk that delivery of the Toolkit will extend beyond the end of the project. To minimize this risk, the Toolkit will be compiled in draft form alongside Work Packages 1-3.

Work Package Leadership

Dr Bethany Alden Rivers, Professor Ale Armellini, Wray Irwin and Rob Howe will lead this work package. However, it will be reviewed and require input by all members of the team.

Work Package Deliverable(s)

A toolkit jointly produced by the University of Northampton project team and the Higher Education Academy.

Project milestones


Activity/milestone Date to be achieved
Submit bid to the HEA 13 January 2015
Bid approved/project begins Week of 26 January 2015
Call for programmes to participate in curriculum enhancement workshops (WP2) Week of 2 February 2015
Draft framework delivered to team to review (WP1) Week 16 March 2015
Draft framework in place for WP2 Week of 30 March 2015
Orientation sessions for participating programmes (to become familiar with the draft framework and aims of project) Week of 13 April 2015
Dedicated CAIeRO workshops to take place (WP2) Week of 13 April through 25 May 2015
Evaluation of CAIeRO workshops and draft framework and input for case study To be collected by 5 June 2015
Draft Case Study Publication to team for review By 12 June 2015
Draft Toolkit to team for review By 19 June 2015
Final Case Study publication in place By 30 June 2015
Final Draft of Toolkit in place By 30 June 2015
Celebration/dissemination event September 2015 (post-project)

Apart from the final deadline for the Case Study publication and the Toolkit (30 June 2015) all other deliverable operate within a tolerance of +/- two weeks.

  • Quality measures

The project will be quality assured by the Changemaker Core Group, which is an established steering group within the University. The Case Study publication will be peer reviewed by colleagues within the Institution. The Toolkit will be a collection of items that have been previously peer reviewed and evaluated, through the work on this project. Changes to existing programmes or modules arising from the curriculum enhancement workshops (CAIeROs) will need to be approved through the University’s Change of Approval Panel. Dr. Bethany Alden Rivers is Chair of this panel and, as part of her normal role, will offer advice and guidance to the four programme teams through this process.

3.4 Risk management

Risks and issued will be managed through the project management protocol. Dr. Bethany Alden Rivers will serve as project manager. She is a qualified and experienced PRINCE2 Project Management Practitioner.

  1. Anticipated impact

The CEESI project aims to embed employability and positive changemaking across the disciplines in a meaningful way. The anticipated impact of this will be realised over time, as programme teams continue to develop a shared discourse around Employability for Social Impact. By piloting the draft framework (from Work Package 1) in these dedicated CAIeRO events, the project team will be able to validate the framework while, at the same time, embed attributes for employability and positive changemaking within four existing academic programmes. The case studies and repository of e-tivities will provide useful examples for other programme teams, and will be a source of pride for the University as it shares its work and commitment to social impact beyond the Institution. Ultimately, however, this project establishes a framework for further embedding of Employability for Social Impact through curriculum enhancement workshops.

  1. Alignment with the framework

The CEESI project aligns with Stages 1 and 3 of the HEA’s Employability Framework (Cole and Tibby, 2013). We anticipate that our work will help to refresh the framework as we enhance our definition and shared understanding of employability (in terms of social impact) and as we learn from our curriculum enhancement programme.