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Social Innovation in Action


Admission requirements

This course is an (extracurricular) Master Honours Class aimed at talented Master’s students. Admission will be based on academic background, GPA and motivation.

This course is aimed at students who are interested in learning how societal challenges can be tackled using entrepreneurial tools to achieve positive social change. You are not required to have any past business acumen, but must have an interest in (social) business modelling.


We have no idea how the job market and the cities of the future might look like in 2050. It is generally agreed that Artificial Intelligence and robotics will change almost every line of work- from producing yoghurt to teaching yoga. However, there are conflicting views about the nature of the change and its imminence. Some believe that within a mere decade or two, billions of people will become economically redundant. Others maintain that even in the long run automation will keep generating new jobs and greater prosperity for all.
The problem with all such new jobs, however, is that they will demand high levels of expertise, and will therefore not solve the problems of unemployed unskilled labours. During previous waves of automation, people could switch from one routine low-skill job to another. In 2050, a cashier losing their job to a robot will hardly be able to start immediately working as a data analyst, a drone operator or as part of a human-AI banking system.
With more automated jobs and digital cities: how would education at universities of the future look like? What are the skills we need to develop as individuals? How can we start preparing the universities and the individuals in training these skills for tomorrow?
In this dynamic course, you are tasked with finding a solution that can start working today, to a challenge faced by the city of Leiden. This course requires creativity and innovation to quickly connect with beneficiaries, to connect theory into practice, and to bring possible future problems into today’s reality.

Course objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  1. apply design thinking and lean startup principles to a complex problem;
  2. apply theories and tools to assess complex societal challenges;
  3. evaluate the needs and preferences of your beneficiary;
  4. identify your own assumptions and find ways to rapidly test them;
  5. critically assess ideas by conducting rapid assumptions tests;
  6. develop and test your experiment;
  7. present your solutions and answer questions effectively;
  8. work within a group of students with diverse backgrounds in a hybrid environment;
  9. reflect on your personal progress and role within your team.


This course runs from 2 November 2020 until 12 March 2021.
Classes are held on Mondays online from 17:00 to 18:30 and Wednesdays at PLNT from 17.00-18.30.


PLNT, Langegracht 70, 2312 NV Leiden (Rooms are subject to change)


The course is broken up into three phases; understanding, developing, and delivering. This is based on the triple diamond principle of design thinking. By adopting this process, you will first look at a societal problem, then generate ideas to solve the problem and finally pick, develop and test whether your idea solved the initial problem.

Below is an overview of the weekly classes and their respective topics. To prepare for every session please complete the weekly reading and video watching beforehand.

Week 1:
Monday, 2 Nov 2020 (17.00 - 18.30) online
Introduction to the course
Wednesday, 4 Nov 2020 (17.00 - 18.30) at PLNT
Introduction to the challenges

Week 2:
Monday, 9 Nov 2020 (17.00 - 18.30) online
Wednesday, 11 Nov 2020 (17.00 - 18.30) at PLNT
What type of Social Innovator are you?

Week 3:
Monday, 16 Nov 2020 (17.00 - 18.30) online
Understand the problem
Wednesday, 18 Nov 2020 (17.00 - 18.30) at PLNT
Team formation + Ecosystem

Week 4:
Monday, 23 Nov 2020 (17.00 - 18.30) online
Bias and how to ask questions
Wednesday, 25 Nov 2020 (17.00 - 18.30) at PLNT
Research and empathy

Week 5:
Monday, 30 Nov 2020 (17.00 - 18.30) online
Complex systems thinking
Wednesday, 2 Dec 2020 (17.00 - 18.30) at PLNT
Bootcamp with stakeholders

Week 6:
Monday, 7 Dec 2020 (17.00 - 18.30) online
Theory U
Wednesday, 9 Dec 2020 (17.00 - 18.30) at PLNT
Validate your problem

Week 7:
Monday, 14 Dec 2020 (17.00 - 18.30) online
Define your problem
Wednesday, 16 Dec 2020 (17.00 - 18.30) at PLNT
No class / Christmas dinner

Week 8:
Monday, 11 Jan 2021 (17.00 - 18.30) online
No class: catch up with your team
Wednesday, 13 Jan 2021 (17.00 - 18.30) at PLNT
Come up with your HMW

Week 9:
Monday, 18 Jan 2021 (17.00 - 18.30) online
Successful social interventions + SE
Wednesday, 20 Jan 2021 (17.00 - 18.30) at PLNT
Ideation and selection

Week 10:
Monday, 25 Jan 2021 (17.00 - 18.30) online
Impact measurement
Wednesday, 27 Jan 2021 (17.00 - 18.30) at PLNT
Pitch training

Week 11:
Monday, 1 Feb 2021 (17.00 - 18.30) online
No class: work on your solution
Wednesday, 3 Feb 2021 (17.00 - 18.30) at PLNT
Pitch solution

Week 12:
Monday, 8 Feb 2021 (17.00 - 18.30) online
Types of Experiments
Wednesday, 10 Jan 2021 (17.00 - 18.30) at PLNT
Build a low fidelity prototype

Week 13:
Monday, 15 Feb 2021 (17.00 - 18.30) online
No class: validate, validate, validate
Wednesday, 17 Feb 2021 (17.00 - 18.30) at PLNT
Coaching sessions

Week 14:
Monday, 22 Feb 2021 (17.00 - 18.30) online
No class: validate, validate, validate
Wednesday, 24 Feb 2021 (17.00 - 18.30) at PLNT
Coaching sessions

Week 15:
Monday, 1 March 2021 (17.00 - 18.30) online
Innovator dilemmas
Wednesday, 3 March 2021 (17.00 - 18.30) at PLNT
Guest + Pitching in teams

Week 16:
Monday, 8 March 2021 (17.00 - 18.30) online
No class: work on your individual assignments
Wednesday, 10 March 2021 (17.00 - 18.30) at PLNT
No class: work on your group assignments

Week 17:
Monday, 15 March 2021 (17.00 - 18.30) online
Evaluating your learning experience
Wednesday, 17 March 2021 (17.00 - 18.30) at PLNT
Final presentations + dinner

Course load

This course will be virtual. It is a 10 ECTS course. As 1 credit counts for 28 hours of work, you are expected to work a total of 280 hours.

Every week you will engage in the following activities:

One 1.5 hr online lecture about that week's main topic (fixed time - Monday evening each week)
One 1.5 hr physical session with the team to understand and work on the different tools (fixed time - Wednesdays evening each week)

Own responsibility:
Work on your idea (team discussion)
Contact and interview people related to your idea
Individual reading, video watching and journaling (own time)


Team assessment:

  • Ecosystem map (22 Nov) - P/F

  • Empathy map and Jobs to be done (6 Dec) - P/F

  • Design experiments (16 Dec) - P/F

  • HMW statement (17 Jan) - P/F

  • Brainstorm one pager (26 Jan) - P/F

  • Assumption map & experiment plan (14 Feb) - P/F

  • Report Diamond 1 (17 Jan) - 15%

  • Pitch Diamond 2 (3 Feb) - 15 %

Individual assessment:

  • Final Video (17 March) - 20%

  • Participation (on going) - 10%

  • Expectation letter (8 Nov) - P/F

  • Learning journal and reflection (17 March) - 30%

  • Combined P/F assignments - 10%

Brightspace and uSis

Brightspace will be used in this course. Students can register for the Brightspace site two weeks prior to the start of the course.

Please note: students are not required to register through uSis for the Master Honours Classes. Your registration will be done centrally.

Reading list

Bloom, P.N. and Dees, G. (2008), Cultivate your ecosystem. Stanford social innovation review, 6(1), pp.47-53.

Johansson-Sköldberg, Ulla et. al (2012). “Design Thinking: Past, Present and Possible Futures.” Creativity and Innovation Management 22(2):121–146

Judit Kertesz (2017) Introduction to empathy maps. RealTimeBoard. Accessed: 29 January 2018. Available at:

Monarth, H. (2015) The Irresistible Power of Storytelling as a Strategic Business Tool. HBR
Twersky, F., Buchanan, P., & Threlfall, V. (2013). Listening to those who matter most, the beneficiaries. Stanford Social Innovation Review, 11(2), 40-45.

Peredo, A. M., & McLean, M. (2006). Social entrepreneurship: A critical review of the concept. Journal of world business, 41(1), 56-65. (Available online)

Bloom, P.N. and Dees, G. (2008), Cultivate your ecosystem. Stanford social innovation review, 6(1), pp.47-53.

Alter, K., 2007. Social enterprise typology. Virtue Ventures LLC, 12, pp.1-124.

Twersky, F., Buchanan, P., & Threlfall, V. (2013). Listening to those who matter most, the beneficiaries. Stanford Social Innovation Review, 11(2), 40-45.

All reading, videos and templates are available online, or will be made available to students. Other possible literature, videos and useful and relevant material will be announced in Class or via Brightspace.


Enrolling in this course is possible from 14 up to and including 27 September through the Honours Academy. The registration link will be posted on the student website of the Honours Academy.


Sjoerd Louwaars

Betty Huerta