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Public Value Leadership Academy

A group of students on a community campaigning walk with councillors
Students on a community walk with local councillors to campaign for safer streets.

The Society and Economy module, delivered to all first-year Business Management (BSc) students, teaches value-led leadership and looks at what grand challenges mean to our local community.

The module incorporates the Public Value Leadership Academy (PVLA). The PVLA takes learning out of the classroom and students engage with and take action on local community issues. Student-led actions as part of the PVLA, have resulted in social change within the Cardiff community.

The two-semester module is delivered by Dr Deborah Hann, Dr Marcus Gomes and Dr Luciana Zorzoli and is taught to approximately 300 students each year.


The module aims to explore the complex relationships between society and the business economy.

In semester 1, lectures address theoretical underpinnings which help students understand different capitalist societies, how they are governed, and the actors who can affect change within them.

In semester 2, the module switches from a theoretical to an applied, empirical approach. Sessions on cutting-edge research are delivered, focusing on grand challenge issues such as low pay, gender mainstreaming, institutional racism, and environmental movements. These help students understand key challenges within the systems discussed in semester 1.

A group of students and staff at a community litter pick
Students organised a litter pick with councillors to discuss long-term solutions to litter in the area.

Public Value Leadership Academy

Whilst the lectures speak directly to public value and challenge students to begin to think about the types of value they feel businesses could or should pursue, it is the tutorials where the public value strategy really comes to life.

The fortnightly tutorials have been named the ‘Public Value Leadership Academy’ (PVLA).

The PVLA has been co-created with Citizens Cymru Wales and local community members, based on the principles found in community organising.

“We want students to understand that business can play a key role in developing social and economic wellbeing and we look to give students the leadership skills to achieve that. We develop learning by doing as well as learning by listening to deepen our understanding of how change can occur and who can affect that change.”
Dr Deborah Hann Reader in Employment Relations

Social change and community organising

The PVLA helps students understand the relationship between the abstract grand challenges that are discussed in the classroom with the practical local issues being experienced on a daily basis by many living in Cardiff.

Students learn about the 5 steps to social change. They look at key leadership skills: active listening, teamworking, planning and project management, communication, and negotiation. They are asked to apply their learning and develop these skills in practice focused on a community issue in semester 2, with the aim that they will undertake action for change.

A large group of students campaigning for the Living Wage outside the Senedd in Cardiff.
Students campaigning for more local businesses to pay their staff the Living Wage.

"We look to build managers of tomorrow who lead through values, listen to their employees and local communities and not just the shareholders when considering an issue. We hope to create a culture of decision-making embedded in social relations. These are skills applicable in any part of life – work, university, community - although within the module we focus on the community of which the business school is part – the city of Cardiff."
Dr Marcus Gomes Senior Lecturer in Organisation Studies and Sustainability

Students listen to and work with community members to co-create activities that speak to their interests and local community need.

So far, students have:

  • campaigned for more local employers to pay the real Living Wage
  • set-up voter registration drives amongst the student population
  • organised litter picks with local councillors to discuss collaborative long-term solutions to issues of litter in the area
  • organised neighbourhood walks with councillors to discuss solutions on improving the area for young people
  • organised community walks to campaign for safer streets
  • run a large-scale accountability assembly
Students campaigning for people to register to vote
Students encouraging others to register to vote.

Creating change

In some cases, our student’s actions have started to help to create change. For example, there has been:

  • an increase in the number of registered voters in the Cathays ward for local elections
  • an increase in the accreditation of local employers as Living Wage employers, leading to a pay rise for over 2000 local people

“The module embeds the business school within its local community. Our students go out into parts of Cardiff they would never normally visit as students and community members come into the university to share their experiences. For many of our undergraduates, the city they come to as 18-year-olds will be a city they call home for years to come and we look to embed them in that community and develop them as community members.”
Dr Luciana Zorzoli Lecturer in Employment Relations