RSM2640HY Leading Social Innovation

Nouman Ashraf

Applicable Major:

Leadership and Change Management (c)

Sustainability (c)

Business Design (r)

Nouman Ashraf is an Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream within the Organizational Behavior area at the Rotman School of Management. He possesses a broad range of professional, academic and research interests, with a specialized focus on enabling Integrative Thinking practice within organization life. For the last decade and a half, he has held progressively senior roles at the University of Toronto. He is a recognized thought leader in governance and has taught thousands of directors in the national Rotman program on Not for Profit Governance in partnership with the Institute for Corporate Directors since its inception in 2007. Winner of multiple Rotman Teaching Awards, Nouman focuses on the integration of three-dimensional leadership in the classroom. This innovative approach to learning actively encourages students and asks that they step out of the traditional role and actively engage in shaping course content.

In addition to his teaching work, Nouman advises the Ontario Ministry of Education on governance renewal for all of their school boards. His other consulting clients include Telus, Cliffs Natural Resources, Bayer, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Ontario Trillium Foundation, United Way Toronto, and numerous post-secondary and healthcare institutions. At lunch time, he can be found at Massey College within the University of Toronto, where he mentors exceptional post-graduate students in his capacity as Senior Fellow.


Students interested in leadership, social innovation, the social economy and sustainability will find this course valuable. Students who are interested in the application of core course concepts to real-life problems will also benefit from this course, as students will have the opportunity to work directly with not-for-profit organizations to solve unique business and social challenges.

Leading Social Innovation introduces students to the practice of deep learning and offers opportunities to engage in deep learning in two ways. First, from having an open dialogue with diverse social entrepreneurs and leaders in the social economy and second, by working with and learning from existing not-for-profit organizations on current issues they are facing. This is an essential course for any second-year student who wishes to apply and integrate insights from various disciplines such as finance, strategy, organizational behavior and leadership to the social economy.

The most successful participants will be those curious about understanding emergent models of leadership, impact measurement, stakeholder engagement and systems-wide change. Previous experience in the not-for-profit and public sectors is not necessary; however, passion and curiosity for integrating across traditional silos to solve wicked problems a key asset. The course also emphasizes a business design orientation to thinking through these important issues.


This course is offered in an intensive format over two weekends: May 25 & 26, June 8 & 9. Students are strongly advised to reserve a week of their time after the last class (June 9) to complete their final group project. Successful delivery of the final project will require meeting and collaborating in person with group members after the last classroom session.


In this course, students will explore conventional and emerging models of problem finding, framing and solving as it applies to the social economy. Students will hear from social entrepreneurs leading teams in the not-for-profit, public and private sectors. The course cumulates with a group project, where students will work with a partner organization on balancing a social disequilibrium.

This course is designed to broaden students’ ability to amplify organizational impact. Students will leave with an understanding of the unique challenges faced by organizations operating with a dual mandate of making a positive return on financial and social investments. The focus of this course is on broadening your integrative abilities across disciplines by utilizing recent case studies, panel discussions with thought leaders and engaging in active reflection through peer-based learning. By the end of this course, participants will have the tools necessary to be able to effectively tackle the range of issues and opportunities that confront leaders daily and which impact society at large. Students will also leave with the skills that allow for continued learning outside of the classroom setting.


Class Participation10%
Learning Journals25%
Midterm Assignment25%
Final Assignment
(Group-based Consulting Project)


Martin, Roger L and Osberg, Sally R. Getting Beyond Better: How Social Entrepreneurship Works. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2015. Print. ISBN-10 1633690687. ISBN-13 978-1633690684.

Brown, Tim and Wyatt, Jocelyn. Design Thinking for Social Innovation. Stanford Social Innovation Review. Winter 2010