Challenging the corporatist logic of social impact
Society and impact are the two definitive constructs that make up the concept of social impact.
Yet, this very nature of social impact that is guided toward the question of social good and the role of knowledge in contributing to social good is increasingly obfuscated from corporatized metrics for measuring social impact and from the benchmarks put forth by university administrators speaking to this corporatized structure of Universities globally.
In this narrowly corporatist view, social impact is defined and measured in instrumental metrics that serve the interests of transnational capital. The guiding principles for articulating and evaluating social impact are narrowly constrained within corporatist agendas.
Metrics such as industry engagement, patents, and revenue generated are thoughtlessly calculated and put forth as metrics of social impact. Inherent in these uncritical adoption of corporatized metrics is the fundamental rift between social impact and the corporate agenda.
Not all forms of industry engagement are socially impactful. While indeed some forms of industry engagement might generate local jobs, strengthen employment, and contribute to social good, many other forms of industry engagement might actually be harmful to society and social good. Consider for instance the engagement of a Communication professor with Phillip Morris. While this engagement does qualify as industry engagement, it is broadly harmful to human health.
In other instances, social impact of academic work in terms of working with the poor, with migrants and refugees, is not countable in terms of metrics of patents and industry engagement. Yet in other instances, the social impact of scholarly work is precisely in its debunking of the corporatist logic and countering of the corporatist influence on policy making.
As we push for greater accountability of knowledge production to communities, we simultaneously need to debunk the narrowly corporatist logic of social impact.