Innovations That Inspire

CSR Issues as Video Documentaries

Recognition Year(s): 2017
School: Business School, Universität Mannheim
Location: Germany

Innovation Statement

By interviewing experts and practitioners and then creating video documentaries, groups of Mannheim graduate students empirically explore current questions related to corporate social responsibility. Together students explore ways in which diverse communities and stakeholders are or are not treated fairly, thereby addressing relevant life issues within the community.

Call to Action

Creating video documentaries on corporate social responsibility (CSR) topics in this class for graduate students, taught by professor Laura-Marie Schons and her assistant Lisa Rothen, has two main motivations.

The class strives to take an innovative approach to pedagogy. The filming process enables students to use modern technologies while experimenting with a form of media that is becoming more relevant both in research and in practice. Due to the high individual responsibility and freedom in designing their documentaries, students gain experience in managing a complex project and are encouraged to be creative and inquisitive. At the same time, students must coordinate highly interdependent work efforts within their group, thereby increasing their skills in teamwork and communication. Concurrently, the class aims to increase connections to local businesses, exposure across diverse communities, and collaborations with other disciplines.

An example of such efforts as they relate to diverse communities occurred in fall 2016. During this semester, students specifically investigated why corporate and private donations are unequally distributed between various social causes, and how stigmatization relates to this.

By interviewing experts and practitioners on current aspects of corporate responsibility, students explore ways in which diverse communities and stakeholders may be treated fairly, thereby addressing relevant real-life issues and connecting to local communities. In the data collection process, students use methods including qualitative research and a grounded theory approach. Additionally, students borrow from psychological theories, such as attribution theory, to explain their empirical findings. As such, the class points to the possible applications of methods and theories from other disciplines.


The innovation lies in the design of the class itself. Rather than memorizing facts or writing papers based on literature, students are encouraged to explore real-life problems in the settings in which they occur. By creating video documentaries, students are more deeply inserted into the topics they explore, which is expected to increase both student-related outcomes (such as learning and satisfaction) and the value of the generated information (new and engaging insights on current topics related to CSR, which may then be communicated to a diverse audience).


In this class, students create video documentaries based on their empirical work regarding CSR. This class may be considered innovative in several ways:

  • Communication strategies: In the process of creating films that engage an audience, students gain experience in communicating complex information and in tailoring communication strategy to a target group. This may prove valuable for future careers both in research and in practice.
  • Media and technology: By creating video documentaries, students gain experience in working with modern technology. Assisted by a local film producer, the entire production of the documentaries lies within the students’ own responsibility, thereby providing opportunities to explore the usage of cameras, camera equipment, editing software, and more.
  • Pedagogy: By allowing students to take an active and open approach to highly relevant topics, participants of the class are inspired to follow up on aspects that truly interest them and to identify with their own work. Hence, students in the class are highly motivated and are expected to have high learning outcomes.
  • Contributing to interdisciplinarity: Students are encouraged to use methods and theories from different disciplines, especially the social sciences, which may create a deeper understanding for the opportunities that interdisciplinarity provides.
  • Contributing to real-life issues: By providing insights on current issues related to CSR not only to the students but also to a larger audience invited to the screening of all videos, this class may enhance awareness for current problems and potential solutions.

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