Social Change and Innovation

Social Change and Innovation

The Department of Social Change and Innovation prepares students to lead and drive positive change in communities, organizations, businesses and government.

Strong communities and organizations are in need of big-picture thinkers who can solve problems while supporting the needs of individuals. More and more social workers are taking on that role, becoming the voice that helps large entities thrive without losing sight of those who depend on them.

As a student in the Department of Social Change and Innovation at USC's online MSW, you will study subject areas such as:

  • Organizational leadership
  • Business and community environments
  • Policy and advocacy
  • Juvenile justice
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Social justice

Department of Social Change and Innovation graduates are prepared to work in a range of settings:

  • Advocacy organizations
  • Community-based organizations
  • Corporations
  • Employee assistance programs (EAP)
  • Foundations


The Social Change and Innovation curriculum focuses on social change and innovation as applied to global systems. You will explore evidence-based research in either business or community development by choosing classes that focus on either area of study. Community Development and Social Change courses teach you to think critically about communities and organizations, and to develop strategies and programs that facilitate change. Social Work and Business courses prepare you to develop corporate social responsibility initiatives and guide business toward positive community relationships.

You will complete seven core courses, three electives and fieldwork. Explore the Social Change and Innovation Curriculum Snapshot.


Evaluation of Research: Community, Organization, and Business Innovation
Students learn how to systematically develop, implement and evaluate social service programs and interventions building directly upon the concepts of social work research methodology. This course also introduces spatial analysis through Geographic Information Systems (GIS) as a tool for decision-making, understanding community resources, addressing human needs and evaluating program outcomes. Students are exposed to a range of methods used by macro practitioners, including performance measurement techniques and cost effectiveness/cost-benefit analysis.

Social Policy for Managers, Planners and Community Organizers
(Community Development and Social Change)

This course focuses on social policy and the politics of reform and advocacy, including ideas about how to "reinvent" public social services to better serve the needs of diverse populations, especially those living in multicultural urban environments. It provides a skill-based approach for advanced macro practitioners who may need to 1) formulate, implement and evaluate policies at local, state and federal levels and 2) combine policy analysis with ways to utilize social media to facilitate legislative change, build collaborative relationships and advocate to raise awareness about a social issue.

Management and Organization Development
This course examines the methods and principles of management in human service programs and organizations with primary emphasis on strategic management, finance analysis, diversity issues in resource development and innovative project development.

Direct Practice and Behavioral Health Services
Drawing upon clinical evidence-based models, this course prepares students for micro-level practice and evaluation to improve individual/family well-being within diverse work-related practice environments.

Social Work and Business Contexts and Policies
(Social Work and Business)
This course explores emerging trends in employee assistance programs, managed behavioral health, organizational change and development, and corporate social responsibility, with an emphasis on the increasing globalization of service delivery. Students also learn to analyze and apply international, national and state organizational policies to problems that currently impact the workplace.

Organizational Practice and Development in Business Environments
(Social Work and Business)

This course prepares students to become organizational change agents who promote the well-being of individuals and families, workplaces, employees, employers, unions and communities. Students learn to apply the social work process to organizational-level change; assessing organizations' and stakeholders' needs; applying organizational theories; and planning, implementing and evaluating change efforts. The class includes an opportunity to research and design an organizational-level change initiative, an employee service program or corporate social responsibility program.

Advocacy Practice and Innovation for Social Change
(Community Development and Social Change)

Emphasizing social change and advocacy, this course prepares students to promote successful administrative, organizational, community and social transformation with the aim of enhancing social justice and equity.

Leadership in the Social Work Profession and Organizations: Theory and Practice

Practice in Workplace Behavioral Health Services

Grant Writing & Program Development

Sample Electives

  • Consultation, Coaching and Social Entrepreneurship
  • Domestic Violence
  • Global Dimensions in Social Policy and Social Work Practice
  • Global Violence Against Women
  • LGBT Pscyho/Social/Political Issues
  • Media in Social Work
  • Spanish for Culturally Competent Services
  • Substance-Related and Behavioral Addictive Disorders and Recovery

Field Placement

As a student in the Department of Social Change and Innovation, you will complete one of your field placement requirements at a site in or near your community that supports your career goals. You can learn more about field placement here.

Program Tracks

You may choose to supplement your program with the following tracks:

You will be required to complete two additional courses in your chosen option.