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Solution Designs for Sustainability Transitions

Maastricht Summer School
Netherlands, Maastricht
Maastricht Summer School Netherlands, Bonnefantenstraat 2, 6211 KL Maastricht, The Netherlands
Tuition fee €599 one-time
More information



Course Description
This course will offer in-depth insights into how systems thinking, solution design frameworks, and the design thinking approach can be applied by individuals, organisations, and policymakers to address contemporary societal challenges. These elements will be brought together in several skills building exercises, wherein students make a case for systemic change (e.g., change in organisational behaviour, change in public policy, other forms of innovation, etc.) in the form of solution design briefs and a Pecha-Kucha-style presentation of a social or public policy initiative.

First, students will learn to represent any context as a part of a complex evolving system by identifying key economic actors, their inter-relations, their conflicting and complementary objectives, and other systematic characteristics. Students will learn to link these frameworks to technology, innovation, and public policy.
Second, students will be introduced to solution design. They will also learn about the design thinking methodology and discover how it is different from traditional forms of research. They will have an opportunity to apply solution design techniques such as stakeholder mapping and characterisation to case studies of contemporary problems.
Third, students will focus on the meso-level, at how individuals and organisations can use design thinking as strategic tools for sustainability transitions. They will get more opportunities to apply solution design frameworks on case studies dealing with diverse SDGs. Students will appreciate the value of building a ‘Theory of change’ for road-mapping transformations, co-evolving strategies with outcomes and evaluating projects.
Fourth, students will explore the potential of the integration of design thinking in policy innovations. They will gain insight on becoming efficient co-designers of tomorrow’s sustainable society. Students will demonstrate their ability to apply the solution design frameworks to formulate their own theories of change.
This is a unique opportunity for students to understand how contemporary societal challenges can be understood and addressed. The solution design approach recognizes the need to work together, which means recognizing the relevant stakeholders, their social responsibilities, and the engagement costs. In this context, this course is to help understand and develop practical skills in collective thinking and collective solution design. The goal is to become efficient co-designers of tomorrow’s sustainable society.

• Apply the central concepts of solution design techniques to represent the systemic features of a societal challenge context and rationalise possible solution designs.
• Explain and rationalise the design and implementation of private and social initiatives as well as public policy using solution design frameworks.
• Provide examples to illustrate how solution designs-based methodology integrates observations of typical and atypical users, addresses negative externalities and non-economic responses such as emotional one to design successful solutions.
• Explain how design thinking methodology is different from more traditional problem-solving approaches.
• Provide examples to explain the advantages and limitations of design thinking and public policy for sustainability transitions.

Recommended Literature
1. Ramani, Shyama V. “An Introduction to SDG 11 and Conceptual Frameworks for Transition Management1.” In SDG 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities, pp. 1-15. Routledge India, 2022.
2. Rittel, H. W., & Webber, M. M. (1973). Dilemmas in a general theory of planning. Policy sciences, 4(2), 155-169.
3. Johansson‐Sköldberg, U., Woodilla, J., & Çetinkaya, M. (2013). Design thinking: past, present and possible futures. Creativity and innovation management, 22(2), 121-146.
4. Brown, Tim, and Barry Katz. “Change by design.” Journal of product innovation management
5. Brown, Tim. “Design thinking.” Harvard business review 86.6 (2008): 84.
6. Young, Grant. “Design thinking and sustainability.” Zumio Meaningful Innovation 61.0 (2010): 1-27.
7. Brown, Tim, and Jocelyn Wyatt. “Design thinking for social innovation.” Development Outreach 12.1 (2010): 29-43.
8. Shapira, Hila, Adela Ketchie, and Meret Nehe. “The integration of design thinking and strategic sustainable development.” Journal of Cleaner Production 140 (2017): 277-287.
9. Kemp, René, and Pim Martens. “Sustainable development: how to manage something that is subjective and never can be achieved?” Sustainability: science, practice and policy 3.2 (2007): 5-14.
10. Thomas, Angharad. “Design, poverty, and sustainable development.” Design Issues 22.4 (2006): 54-65.
11. Dorst, Kees, and Nigel Cross. “Creativity in the design process: co-evolution of problem–solution.” Design studies 22, no. 5 (2001): 425-437.
12. Tomai, Maria, 2022, Elevating consumer engagement in a circular economy: a framework for cities to plan the process, 130-155; in: Shyama V. Ramani, Hiroshan Hettiarachchi, Eds. SDG11, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Routledge, India.
13. Curran, Thomas P., and Orna O’Sullivan. “How Ireland Reduced its Active Landfills: A true tale of policy-driven change.” In Shyama V. Ramani, Hiroshan Hettiarachchi, Eds. SDG11, Sustainable Cities and Communities, pp. 58-79. Routledge India, 2022.

Teaching Methods
Lectures, Assignments, Presentations, Research, Work in subgroups

Assessment Methods
Portfolio: ▪ Assignment ▪ Attendance ▪ Participation ▪ Presentation ▪ Take home exam

Course Coordinators
Shyama V. Ramani
Maria Tomai

Programme structure

Hybrid Lectures:
During the first week the teacher will be onsite and during the second week she will be online. Each week, the class will be held for 4 days and on each day, there will be a class of 2 hours. On the fifth day, the students can ask any questions during the contact hours.

Content and Structure:
• Systems and stakeholder representations corresponding to any societal problem.
• Sustainability Transition Frameworks.
• Identification of necessary and enabling conditions for sustainability transitions.
• Introduction to design thinking.
• Frameworks for the implementation of solution designs.
• Application of solution design frameworks to identify possible paths for sustainability transitions.
• Opportunities and limitations of economic actors (government, firms, social sector actors) to effectuate sustainability transitions.

Apply now! Maastricht Summer School 2023/24
Application deadline
24 May 2024, 23:59:59
Central European Time
Studies commence
24 Jun 2024
Apply now! Maastricht Summer School 2023/24
Application deadline
24 May 2024, 23:59:59
Central European Time
Studies commence
24 Jun 2024