The Framing

If studied in combination with the Alanus University MA Philosophy of Social Innovation this postgraduate programme has been developed as a combination of course work and (mini) dissertation masters, which will run over two years, with a maximum of 21 participants and three tutors.


The Coursework is divided into six modules (and makes up the first two years of the programme):


1. Social Development Frameworks and Approaches:
In this module we explore various theoretical approaches to social practice, drawing from current dominant social theory whilst also generating an understanding of an alternative approach that has as its foundation holistic or organic thinking. Our intention here is never merely intellectual content but the ability to think with intelligence and heart.


2. Reading and Making Meaning of Social Situations:
We see this module as foundational for the programme; the module around which all the other modules revolve. We present approaches and practices where students are given experience and understanding of how to read – and make meaning of – social situations so that through this understanding, this reading, they attain a very real sense of appropriate ways of actively engaging with the situation (guiding from the inside rather than imposing from the outside). Beyond ‘thinking about things’ (an ‘intellectualist’ approach) is a way of ‘engaging with and reflecting on experience’, a realm of knowing which – when accessed – provides the most powerful and accurate way of understanding our world. A very strong focus in the programme is to provide opportunities for students to understand what ‘reading and making meaning’ enables in their practice, and at the same time to build their capacity to become ‘readers’ in this sense. (And not only to read but also to convey, so as to enable others to see and read living process as well, in the understanding that any effective approach to social change has at its root such an ability to see.)


3. Researching Social Practice:
This module too is foundational for the programme – a unique aspect of this MA programme brings together both the academic and the professional dimensions of reflective social practice. We have therefore emphasised the balance and the relationship between theory and practice and developed creative ways of building this link into an MA degree. We use action research as the methodology for this particular module, and students are required to find authentic and real situations in their professional life where they may intervene within the framework of the action research cycle. This module emphasises the importance and value of becoming rigorous reflective practitioners; actors and researchers of own practice.


4. Self in Practice:
Since this programme is envisaged as a journey of becoming and transformation, and since – in our understanding – each person is their practice, it is important for students to deepen their understanding of themselves, and to stretch their inner worlds. We want them to understand that their practice is as deep and insightful and skilled as they are as human beings, and so becoming a reflective social practitioner means becoming more full and more fully human. We never push students beyond where it feels safe for them to go, but we encourage a focus on the inner aspects of self as a fundamental dimension of meaningful intervention in any social situation.


5. Frameworks and Principles for Professional Practice:
In this module we look at the principles which ensure ethical professional practice, which enable students to develop a sharpened sense of their own professionality, to build rigour and clarity of purpose into their professional practice, to acquire a sense of quality within which they might judge their own work according to their own professional and personal values, and to practise accordingly. As well, to question the prevailing emphasis on professionality within the social sector and the manner in which this emphasis may diminish social activism itself. In other words,
to develop a real sense of discernment with respect to professionalism, activism and the needs of social justice and social intervention.


6. Morphology and Organisation
Most social practitioners do their work either working in, or through, the field of organisation. How practitioners work with organisations depends to a large extent on their understanding of the development processes that result in organisations functioning the way they do. This module will explore the morphology of organisations seen as holistic living organisms – as opposed to seeing organisations as mechanisms or mechanical systems – and will investigate the manner in which organisations develop the forms, structuring and practices that characterise them as they develop. Students will explore the metamorphosis, or organic movement, of one moment and form into another, and will learn to appreciate genesis, movement and stuckness in the life of organisations.


As is probably clear from even a brief reading, the boundaries between each of these modules are extremely porous. Our intention has been to design an MA programme which is holistic and integrated in process and content. And for the purposes of an academic programme it is necessary to develop clear ways of differentiating (and assessing) the various aspects of the programme. While each module is complete and coherent in itself, all the modules knit and weave together into one integrated whole. They are completely interdependent. For this reason, each residential (there are six) comprises every module, with a focus on a specific (and different) module at every residential. Our design therefore reflects the intention of the programme – that students are always immersed in a holistic endeavour (and never have a sense of a fragmented programme with separate modules running at different times). At all times it is vital that students are aware of the relationship between the modules so that they experience this relationship as a living whole.



Interested in the Full Alanus University MA Philosophy of Social Innovation: Reflective Social Practice
For participants who wish to take the full MA Philosophy of Social Innovation: Reflective Social Practice will need to have completed three small general studies modules:

  • Research Methods,
  • Ethics and Professional Practice,
  • Consciousness Studies

and conduct a research project exploring an aspect of the heart of reflective social practice which is written up in a dissertation.