Course 2022-2023 a.y.


Department of Management and Technology

Course taught in English
Go to class group/s: 31
DES-ESS (6 credits - I sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07)
Course Director:

Classes: 31 (I sem.)

Mission & Content Summary


The organic food movement is redefining how some products should be manufactured. Would you advise entering such a market, even if the supporters of the movement are against your company‘s current activities? A group of LGBTQ+ activists has started an online protest to boycott the products of a company whose CEO has expressed personal opinions against gay rights. Suppose you were a competitor of such a company. Would you try to exploit this situation to your advantage by actively supporting the homosexual movement, but at the same time exposing yourself to the criticism of those customers who might have a different opinion on this matter? These are just a few of the issues this course explores. Much of the social change we have witnessed during the last several decades can be attributed to social movements, large and small. Environmental movements, student protests, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, animal rights, #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, and Fridays For Future are a sampling of such phenomena. As we move into an era of heightened activism (e.g., public protests, boycotts, and shareholder activism) targeting companies and amplified by media attention, the goal of this course is to understand the strategic responses of firms to social movements’ challenges and demands.


The course is organized around three main sections: 

  1. In the first section (Social movements), students are introduced to the analysis of social movements: the different kinds of social movements; how they develop; how they are organized; their strategy and evolution. 
  2. In the second section (Companies), we analyze the strategic options of companies to the actions fostered by social movements: the corporations as targets, opponents, or participants in movements; the interplay of movements with organizational identities, images, and reputations; how companies mobilize resources, networks, and audiences for the construction of new competitive arenas and new entrepreneurial identities. 
  3. In the final section (Markets and Industries), we explore the relations between social movements and competitive arenas: the origins of critique and transformation of industry and economic regimes; the movements’ processes in the creation of new industries and categories; the construction of new entrepreneurial firms and the legitimation of institutional and competitive alternatives.

In this course, students learn that social movements are not only a permanent feature of politics in the modern world, but they also have a large impact:

  • On firms, by threatening the financial performance as well as the reputation of those companies that are criticized for their policies and practices and are the targets of anticorporate activism, or by offering the companies that are aligned with the demands of activists the opportunity to tie their fortunes to social movements and to enter new segments and exploit different market positioning strategies.
  • On markets, by reducing the legitimacy of some industries (e.g., the tobacco or the nuclear energy industry) or by creating new industries and niches (e.g., the organic food industry, the open-source software, the sharing economy, or the marijuana industry).

During the course, students are exposed to different social movements and explore such interactions through the analysis and discussion of case studies of different companies and industries. While privileging a management and business perspective, the course is situated at the intersection of economic/political sociology and social movement studies and is of special interest also for students who are majoring in economic, social, and political sciences.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO)


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Understand the logics of activism and social movement organizations.
  • Recognize the different strategies of social protest.
  • Identify the main issues regarding anticorporate activism and companies’ response options.
  • Comprehend how social movements create new industries and/or market niches and how companies affect the configuration and evolution of such competitive arenas to their advantage.


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Evaluate real-life company situations and exhibit structured methods in strategic decision making through critical application of theories and tools of analysis.
  • Interpret social and competitive dynamics within diverse political and economic contexts and make appropriate recommendations for companies to act both proactively and defensively. 

  • Recognize strategic situations that present ethical challenges and meaningfully debate socially responsible issues with insight.
  • Demonstrate organizational and teamwork abilities as well as presentation and communication skills.

Teaching methods

  • Face-to-face lectures
  • Case studies /Incidents (traditional, online)
  • Individual assignments
  • Group assignments


This course is based both on lectures and on the discussion of business cases. Weekly analyses of cases focusing on the particular topic being discussed in lectures provide valuable insights into real firm situations and allow students to apply theoretical and other insights in practical real-world settings. Digging into the details of cases and taking the perspective of different players are critical. Students are expected to figure out how to navigate a wide variety of contexts in a variety of ways, identifying common themes throughout each. Special attention is given to the development of student voices, in class discussion, through individual assignments, and during the group presentations. By welcoming exchange of ideas among students, this course aims at nurturing curiosity and shaping the students’ engagement with the world.

Assessment methods

  Continuous assessment Partial exams General exam
  • Written individual exam (traditional/online)
  • Individual assignment (report, exercise, presentation, project work etc.)
  • Group assignment (report, exercise, presentation, project work etc.)
  • Active class participation (virtual, attendance)
  • Peer evaluation


Attending students are evaluated on the following (individual or group) components: 

  • Case memo (individual): students should submit one or two memos based on the cases discussed during the course.
  • Presentation (group): teams of students are formed at the beginning of the course and they are asked to deliver a presentation based on a specific topic relevant to the course.
  • Peer evaluation (individual): each student is expected to evaluate the contribution of the other team members to the group presentation.
  • Class participation (individual): students are expected to politely discuss relevant topics in class, and to be periodically called upon to answer or provide inputs for discussion.
  • Written exam (individual): the written exam is based on the course materials and it includes a set of open questions.



Non-attending students are evaluated on the following components: 

  • Term paper: students should submit an informed analysis of social movement dynamics and actions affecting the competitive strategies of companies and/or industries. The topic of the paper should be approved by the instructor.
  • Written exam: the written exam is based on the course materials and it includes a set of open questions.


Teaching materials


  • Lectures slides
  • Cases


  • Selected readings and/or books (see detailed syllabus available on the course e-learning platform )

Last change 30/08/2022 16:43