Design for Innovation and Change elective: 42 full-time MBA students during Trinity term

Six week project: Using design thinking to support 10 social entrepreneurs via the Emerge Venture Lab and Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship

Guest speakers: Rachel Jones, Instrata; Stuart Thomason, Young Foundation; Joel Bailey, head of service design, Capita.

Social design mentors: 

  • Ella Britton, Programme Lead ‘Early Years Health and Wellbeing’, Design Council
  • Rakhi Rajani, Founder Human Editions
  • Martin Saunders, Founder TBC Digital
  • Jonas Altman, Founder Social Fabric
  • Kelvin Cheung, Founder FoodCycle
  • Mike Smart, Design Strategist, Design Council

Studio visits: IDEO London, Razorfish, Nokia


This elective achieved two things. It gave MBA students an overview of the main approaches and methods used within design thinking. And it enabled them to try them out by setting up collaborations between the students and social entrepreneurs so that the students’ developing skillset was put to use straight away.

Week 1 kicked off the elective with an intense workshop teaching the basics of design thinking and design methods.

During the Week 2 class, students paired up with social entrepreneurs and began the processes of what would be a 6 week collaboration. Methods included visualising drivers of change and helping the ventures create personas based on their current assumptions about customers or beneficiaries.

During week 3, students and entrepreneur developed a user research plan based on the principles of ethnographic research and then went off to carry it out.


During week 4, students shared insights from their user research interviews and field visits, and gained input from others via peer review. They then visually mapped out the service ecology for each venture, resulting in a holistic understanding of the configuration of resources around the actors involved.

In weeks 5 and 6, with additional input from volunteer mentors, students and entrepreneurs developed and tested prototypes of new concepts they had developed together.



During week 7, a workshop with Stuart Thomason from The Young Foundation introduced the students and entrepreneurs to the Social Business Model Canvas that he and I developed. This enabled the students and entrepreneurs to shift from thinking about users’ interactions with products or services to sustainable businesses.

During week 8, students reviewed the implications of developing design as an organisational capability.