Close up of student work during service design workshop

This year’s MBA elective in Designing Better Futures at Said Business School took place 17-21 July. This included a two-day intensive, hands-on collaborative workshop working on a contemporary challenge – reducing carbon impact by changing travel behaviours.

Following last year’s successful project involving students taking my elective and students from London College of Communication, this year we are again worked with students from that course, as well as an industry partner and a local authority to take part in some rapid idea generation and prototyping around services for more sustainable travel.

Over two days, students worked  in small teams to explore issues around reducing car usage and generate and visualize solutions for new services for the Oxfordshire town of Bicester in 2015 that might involve changed behaviours, new forms of data usage and new models for service systems.

Concepts we worked with included: behaviours and practices, shareable services and open data. Combining concepts and theories from management, design and innovation, the project was unusual in using a collaborative design-based approach to imagine future services. We repeatedly emphasized that the service concepts had to work across all four of these aspects of practice:

  • Material: artefacts, infrastructures, built environment
  • Symbolic: meanings, identities, norms
  • Affective: emotions, feelings, mood, atmosphere
  • Procedural: skills, know-how


Read the full details of the workshop are here.

Students taking part

– 34 MBAs from Said Business School: a mixture of EMBAs (part time executive MBAs) and students on the full-time MBA

– 19 students taking the MDes Innovation and Creativity at London College of Communication, University of the Arts, led by Alison Prendiville

– and several MSc Environment Change & Management students from Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute

With input from the travel planning team from Oxfordshire County Council we situated the collaboration in a specific future context: reducing car usage in the Oxfordshire town of Bicester in 2015. Two design researchers from Samsung Design Europe joined us for the workshop. Consultancy Taylor Haig lent us their service design card deck to support the collaboration.

The brief

We asked students to focus on achieving a modal shift from car to sustainable travel, focusing on employed people who are car owners.  Their brief was: What prompts and interventions can you create within the service ecology to change the practices of employed people who are car owners, that result in them using their cars less often?

Over the workshop students used methods such as research into users’ practices, visualising the service ecology and creating service blueprints to propose new services that would reduce car usage.

Guest speakers at the workshop included Dan Lockton (Design with Intent blog), mobilities researcher Tim Schwanen (Transport Studies Unit, University of Oxford) and Chris Parker (Geovation at Ordnance Survey).


What the students created

A short film (4 minutes) presents some of the ideas the student teams generated. It offers a way to think about behaviour change in car usage that draws on ethnographic observations of everyday life, focusing on combinations of meaning and narrative, skills and know-how, emotions, and the artefacts and infrastructures involved.

Behave: New services to change travel behaviours from Lucy Kimbell on Vimeo.

The film and workshop were financially supported by Samsung Design Europe.