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Complex Societal Challenges


Admission requirements

Admission is conditional on submission for the minor Innovation, Co-Creation and Global Impact
A knowledge of Dutch is not necessary. You should have obtained your propedeuse before starting this minor.


Confronting complex societal challenges requires us to think differently. Innovation could serve as a means to turn problems into progress and opportunity (Lund declaration, 2009). However, this often requires you to take up new perspectives and look across disciplinary boundaries.
In this course you will be though the basic principles of interdisciplinary research and trained in applying methods in participatory action research and design science. Further, you will reflect on ethical and societal consequences of innovation from a perspective of responsible innovation.

Course objectives

After this course you will be able to:

  • Analyse a complex societal challenge from an interdisciplinary perspective;

  • Apply participatory action research methods in conducting your analysis;

  • Propose an innovative intervention on the basis of design methods;

  • Recognize ethical and societal consequence of a proposed innovation;

  • Execute a rough stakeholder and issue analysis;

  • Analyse and learn from relevant projects with similar intentions;

  • Define a challenge and develop a vision and mission.


Sep 13/ 10h-13h: Introduction to Complex Societal Challenges
Sep 20/ 10h-13h: Problem identification: Understanding complex emergent systems
Sep 27/ 10h-13h: Problem definition: Fact finding and framing
Oct 4/ 10h-13h: Design research methods
Oct 11/ 10h-13h: Strategies for interventions
Oct 18/ 10h-13h: Unintended consequences
Oct 24/ 10h-13h: Monitoring and evaluating impacts

Mode of instruction


Course Load

This is a rough breakdown of the 140 hour course load:

  • 21 hours are spent on attending lectures and workshops;

  • 21 hours are spent on preparing for the seminars;

  • 8 hours to prepare an individual presentation;

  • 16 hours to write an individual essay;

  • 16 hours to write a group report.

Assessment method

Assessment and grading method:

  • Individual essay assignment 60% of final grade

  • Group report 40% of final grade

  • Obligatory attendance of the seminars (Pass or Fail)

Rounding off grades to 0,5 decimales is subject to class participation.



Reading list

  • Brydon-Miller, Mary, Davydd Greenwood, and Patricia Maguire. "Why action research?." Action research 1.1 (2003): 9-28.

  • Cross, Nigel. "Designerly ways of knowing: Design discipline versus design science." Design issues 17.3 (2001): 49-55.

  • Klein, Julie Thompson. Interdisciplinarity: History, theory, and practice. Wayne state university press, 1990.

  • Laurel, Brenda. Design research: Methods and perspectives. MIT press, 2003.

  • Reason, Peter, and Hilary Bradbury, eds. Handbook of action research: Participative inquiry and practice. Sage, 2001.

  • Van den Hoven, Jeroen. "Value sensitive design and responsible innovation." Responsible innovation: Managing the responsible emergence of science and innovation in society (2013): 75-83.
    The order of the literature varies and is subject to change, please check Blackboard for the latest update.


You have to register for both the minor and the course in Usis. Registration for this course only is not possible.


Thomas Baar


This course is part of the minor in Innovation, Co-Creation and Global Impact. You can only take the course as part of this minor.