This toolbox was created to help support HEI teaching staff on the development of a challenge-based social innovation course.

If you are planning to actively involve your students in a process of creating solutions to today’s greatest societal challenges by collaborating with local and national partners, then this toolbox is for you.

A bit of context…

This toolbox was developed as part of the Expand program, a 3-year Erasmus + EU project. This is a challenge-based accelerator program & toolbox for university students and teaching staff, focused on tackling major societal problems. The program was implemented at ESSEC Business School and ESADE Business School.

The program in numbers…

55 Students enrolled in Paris and Barcelona

11 Solutions developped

15 partners involved

Who is it for?

  • Teaching staff who have previous expertise in Design Thinking (user-centric approach) and wish to create from scratch a social innovation course.
  • Teaching staff who include social impact challenges as part of their Innovation and/or Design Thinking courses.
  • Social Innovation incubators or accelerators, NGO’s, public and private organizations who wish to work with Higher Education Institutions to collaborate in the development of social impact courses.

What’s in it for you?

  • This toolbox will help you conceptualize social innovation through a design thinking course.
  • Test and assess your idea, develop and/or consolidate your solution and measure your impact.
  • Provides useful instruments to use in each phase of developing a social innovation

How to use this toolbox?

  • Program Overview: you will find the program description, pedagogical goals, and structure.
  • Program Components: including the challenge description, the implementation guidelines, and the evaluation process.
  • Resources and relevant materials.

“10 weeks to develop a social innovation project”

Format : hybrid

Evaluation :
Assignments during the course: 60%
Final project outcome and presentation: 40%
Peer evaluation: +/-

Duration: 10 weeks

Time investment :
25 hours of sessions
75 hours of individual and group work)
Total: 100 hours

ECTS credits : 4

Target :
Master’s degree or Bachelor’s

This course is an idea accelerator program for future entrepreneurs tackling systemic problems in society. It will allow students to learn and apply the Design Thinking methodology to tackle a social innovation challenge in 10 weeks. Students will develop creative thinking skills and the ability to move from conceptual thinking to taking action.

After this course Students will be able to:

  • Apply Design thinking to social innovation.
  • Understand the complexity of a social challenge : analyze an ecosystem, understand the context and the impact on the territory…
  • Identify innovation opportunities throughout the system.
  • Turn your ideas into desirable solutions.
  • Carry out experiments to validate these solutions.
  • Present your project in an impactful way in order to convince stakeholders (pitch).
  • Develop essential soft skills such as leadership, storytelling, empathy, teamwork… think their way through abstract problems, work in teams, distinguish good information from bad, or speak a language other than [their own].
XX videos (X hours) with key theorical content
10 sessions of 2h30 with the teacher
Team work between sessions (X hours)
Group mentoring sessions (X hours)
Field work


Week 0 : Introduction
  • Presentation of the course.
  • Challenge choosing and presentation. Groups definition.
Week 1 : Understanding the challenge – ethnographic research 1/2
  • Learning goals 1
  • Learning goals 2
Week 2 : Ethnographic research 2/2
  • Learning goals 1
  • Learning goals 2
Week 3 : System thinking for social change
  • Learning goals 1
  • Learning goals 2
Week 4 : Field data processing
  • Learning goals 1
  • Learning goals 2
Week 5 :  Problem statement
  • Learning goals 1
  • Learning goals 2
Week 6 : Ideation
  • Learning goals 1
  • Learning goals 2
Week 7 : Prototyping ½
  • Learning goals 1
  • Learning goals 2
Week 8 : prototyping 2/2
  • Learning goals 1
  • Learning goals 2
Week 9 : Business Models
  • Learning goals 1
  • Learning goals 2
Week 10 : pitch
  • Learning goals 1
  • Learning goals 2


How to define the challenge?

Many social challenges are resistant to be solved through conventional approaches, i.e. through the markets or Government. Poverty, unemployment, unequal opportunity, racism, and malnutrition are examples of social challenges. So are substandard problems such as housing, employment discrimination, and child abuse and neglect.

A challenge brief is a document that outlines a specific problem or opportunity that requires a creative solution. It  provides information about the background, objectives, and requirements of the challenge, and invites potential solutions from student teams (in this case).
A key element of the “ideas accelerator” program is the challenge brief. The challenge brief is useful to the academic team who will learn and engage stakeholders through the process of building it, as well as for the students to review it before they start the course.
To do a good briefing for social challenges, we recommend to follow 9 steps

1. Identify the social challenge
2. Define the challenge
3. Prepare the outline
4. Research
5. Identify stakeholders
6. Assess existing solutions
7. Identify opportunities for innovation
8. Interview and engage stakeholders
9. Collaborate with a “challenge owner”

Following this steps you will be addressing social challenges in a systemic way, wich involves taking a comprehensive and integrated approach to solving complex social problems. This approach recognizes that social issues are interconnected and interdependent, and that they cannot be effectively addressed by isolated interventions or individual actions.
By addressing social challenges in a systemic way, lasting and meaningful change can be created that benefits everyone in the community.

CTA 1 : Download “Challenge Brief examples”
CTA 2 : Link to the Desk research & stakeholder mapping


Course Methodology:
Paragraph explaining the learning and teaching methods used :
Ethnographic research,
Systems Thinking,
Design Thinking

The Course program includes the following pedagogical approaches:

E-learning :
Library with video titles, speakers and description.
CTA=  Contact us to download the videos (contact form)

Onsite Sessions
1 paragraph explaning how to (dynamics in class, class structure – see slide 11 course plan + speakers profiles)

CTA 1 = Download master course plan (PPT)

Fieldwork (include recomendations with : DO/DONT )

NGO profiles examples
When do to the field work
How to collaborate with them – NGO language, sensibility, how to communicate with social issues without generate negative impact. -> EMILIA (SHEDIA) / ESPACITÉ

CTA = Ressources (examples of guide of interview)

Mentoring (include recomendations with : DO/DONT ) -> H-FARM / BETA-I
Paragraph including the mentoring structure, why mentoring, topics…
How to collaborate with entrepreneurs and experts.
CTA = Document mentoring framework :


– Create your evaluation plan:
1 paragrah : evaluation criteria
1 paragraph : assessment methodology (feedback form for students and teachers)

CTA : Download the feedback form template

Report outline (go to ressources)
Measure the impact of the program