Designing for Social Innovation

Daniëlle Ramp

Master Industrial Design
Eindhoven University of Technology

A warm welcome

Hi there! Allow me to give you a short tour through the set-up of my Final Master Portfolio. You will first find some text about my Vision & Professional Identity as a designer, to give you a frame of reference of whose portfolio you’re checking out. Then I’ll summarize my core development, highlighting the main things I have learned and what kind of activities contributed to this. I described each of them per semester afterwards, including reports and reflections. On the left side of each article, you will be able to find its basic information: the name of the activity, how it was graded, and what competencies it helped me to develop (illustrated with icons).

Have a nice read!



As a social designer, I aim to transform societal complexities into multi-stakeholder collaborations, including practice into strategy and vice versa. I am convinced that we can create more (social) impact if we operate both as a collective ánd as a collection of individuals. This means that we work towards shared societal goals, with respect for - and strategic use of - different perspectives. What might be true for one, might not be true for another, yet both perspectives can be part of the truth, for the truth can be situated. I believe design can play a significant role in empathizing with others, in learning how to shift and share perspectives. It allows us to embrace complexity, which I believe is essential if we want to deal with the increasingly complex character of wicked problems. We need to be open for transformation, to disrupt many of the structures and certainties that we have created over decades of time. Amongst others, we should redefine responsibility, accountability and ownership, in order to create new practices that respond to the needs of our societal challenges. I foresee a synergetic leading role for designers in this societal transformation, as designers are experts in handling uncertainty, complexity and creativity in a continuously changing environment.

Professional Identity

I am a social and enthusiastic person who is always looking for a challenge. This restless character shaped me into a designer who likes to deal with a high level of complexity. Whenever I feel like I can ‘easily solve’ a situation, I feel triggered to dig deeper, until I have buried myself into a situation I can’t easily get out of: that’s where I think the real fun starts.

I prefer to do this quest through complexity in collaboration. I am at my best in the presence of people that inspire me and make me laugh, which I seriously consider to be important for (long-term) collaboration. In that position I am able to do what I like most: searching for synergy; forming a strategy; creating value exchange and above all, enjoy what I’m doing.

Though I have broad interests, I am most intrinsically motivated to deal with societal challenges with a social character. As soon as I find out that I have the ability to help someone else, my altruistic nurture (or nature?) arises and I start searching for constructive and sustainable solutions. I am driven to empower people to rise above themselves, which is fuelled by a strong belief in synergy. I do this through a participatory design approach, in which I include multiple perspectives from people that are part of the problem and/or can be a part of a solution.

The more people I can help with this, the better. That’s why social impact has become a compass for my design process. In my research towards social impact assessment, I found that social impact is a situated concept, which means that the definition and value depend on the context. Therefore I redefine my compass every time the context changes, which matches well with my curious and reflective character.

Gallup's StrengthsFinder

Core Development

Over the time of my Master I have developed into a critical designer with an interest in societal transformation. My M1.2 research project in Kuwait was a gamechanger for this development. By working in an environment that was so different from my own, I learned to approach our Dutch society from new perspectives. I started to see relations between elements that I took for granted before I left. For example, the fact that we are organized as a participatory society, has a huge influence on our understanding of social impact. I was so triggered by these findings, that I dedicated my Final Master Project towards researching the interplay between design, government and wicked problems. Just like I perceived the Netherlands from a Kuwaiti perspective, I approached design from a governmental perspective too, as well as from the perspective of wicked problems. My work experience at Zet benefited greatly to this, as I got to experience in a multidisciplinary team what designing for wicked problems means in practice. This resulted in a holistic approach of my Final Master Project, which really is a synergy of the skills, knowledge and attitude I gained through projects, electives, work experience and extracurricular activities.

How this Master has changed me as a designer since the end of my Bachelor, is best illustrated using the following comparing statements:

End of Bachelor Industrial Design End of Master Industrial Design
User-centred design process Participatory design process
Creating a vision Operating from a vision
Wanting to become a social designer Employed as a social designer
Willing to learn how to position a design in a theoretical framework Critical and reflective attitude towards design theories
Multi-stakeholder projects Wicked problems
Reflective Reflexive and reflective
Frightened in front of a group Comfortable in front of a group
Aiming for social change Aiming for societal transformation
Focused on assumptions Focused on perspectives
Empathy as a gamechanger Situatedness as a gamechanger
Social Design as a guide Transformative Practices as a guide

Expertise Areas

Over the years I have developed my own interpretation of the Expertise Areas that are used within the department. Below I describe how I value the Expertise Areas in my design approach:

  • Design & Research Processes is about: having a reflective attitude; approaching a design process from different perspectives; embracing complexity; addressing a challenge from a societal and theoretical perspective; strategically shifting between an abstract mindset and a concrete skillset.
  • User & Society is about: participatory design; empathizing; sharing perspectives; researching situatedness; understanding through (inter)acting; creating social impact; ethics; reflecting on societal trends and challenges; shifting between the level of the individual and the collective.
  • Business & Entrepreneurship is about: creating win-win propositions; sustainable business models; thinking beyond monitory transactions; value exchange; new collaborative structures; stakeholder management; leadership.
  • Creativity & Aesthetics is about: making ideas tangible, visual, communicative; allowing people to engage with your ideas; allowing stakeholders to participate in the design process; strategically making use of the 1st 2nd and 3rd person perspective; speculation; experience.
  • Math, Data & Computing is about: using data to support arguments; identifying patterns; giving meaning to data; efficiency; strategically making use of quantitative and qualitative data; data visualization; informed decision making.
  • Technology & Realization is about: defining what role technology can play in dealing with wicked problems; new opportunities; efficiency; being complementary to human skills; functionality; mediating interaction; ethics.

M1.1 semester

Because I wanted to obtain my qualification as a Physics teacher, I prolonged my M1.1 to a year, as I needed more time than one semester to complete both my school internship, the core course Constructive Design Research and my M1.1 group design project. During this year, I also participated in the electives Design for Social Innovation and Human Aspects of Innovation, a course lectured at the department of Innovation Management. I intentionally emptied some space in my educational agenda, so that I had time to build up experience as a freelance designer next to my studies and to do other extracurricular activities, such as co-founding ID Connect, a network event at the Dutch Design Week that Lucid has hosted yearly since.

Project: URAN

Grade: Pass

For our M1.1 project we designed URAN: a Serious Game to empower children to develop a perspective on a sustainable society. By working together with groupmates with different backgrounds, I developed many new project management skills; a ‘consent over consensus’ approach helped me to turn the challenges into opportunities and create a constructive collaboration. I learned to frame our project within different theories about Serious Games, Storytelling and Learning Styles and translated various Sustainable Development Goals into a design concept. My main focus was creating the dynamics and aesthetics of the game from a user interaction perspective.

In collaboration with: Floris de Haan, Tim van de Puttelaar
Coached by: Ben Schouten, Nicolai Brodersen Hansen

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Elective: Constructive Design Research

Grade: 8

In this course we used a research through (provocative) design method: ‘Showroom’. We researched ‘the perception of consequences of Artificial Intelligence on Human to Human Interaction’ by means of a vending machine. We asked people whether they were willing to accept a certain AI technology, meaning that if they did, they later found out what consequences this would have for social interaction in the future, which we then discussed with them. I found out that this research method matches well with my identity: the characteristics of being both a control freak and a quick adapter were nicely reflected and extremely useful in this approach.

In collaboration with: Renee Noortman, Caro Heesakkers, Job van Gennip, Nasiruddin Abed
Lecturer: Stephan Wensveen

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Elective: Human Aspects of Innovation

Grade: 8

In this course I learned new theories about complex collaborations, creativity, stakeholder management, innovative environments and leadership. We also did a group project in which we researched ‘The Effect of Empowering Leadership on Team Cohesion and Team Performance in Geographically Dispersed R&D Teams’, in which I learned how to approach research from a quantitative perspective and how to interpret mediating / moderating effects. I found it rather hard to keep up with the others who had more experience with quantitative analysis, which disappointed me, yet I do like that I can now at least join in on the debate about this type of research.

In collaboration with: Florida Ahmetaj, Marije Baars, Stan Megens, Max Rooijakkers
Department: Innovation Management
Lecturers: Josette Gevers, Sonja Rispens

Elective: Design for Social Innovation

Grade: 8

It can’t be a surprise that I participated in a course named ‘Design for Social Innovation’. Thanks to this elective, I got familiar with the concept of a Social Impact Bond, which is an interesting (relatively new) business approach in a societal context. Entrepreneurs invest in social projects - once a certain amount of social impact is reached, the government pays these investors back. But how to define this certain amount of social impact? We researched this through a project about ‘Data-Enabled Inclusion’ and had extensive debates with multiple stakeholders about quantitative and qualitative data. We translated this debate into a prototype and an interactive exposition, in which we made use of the different perspectives to provoke discussions. I learned to apply ‘layers’ into my design process, working on multiple levels of abstraction simultaneously, which is a skill that had a major impact on the rest of my education.

In collaboration with: Eva de Bruijn, Allitze Faro, Sander Bos
Lecturer: Caroline Hummels

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Electives: School Practical & Educational Pedagogy

Grades: 8 / 8 / 8

Qualification obtained:
Physics teacher

I have completed a Minor program to obtain my qualification as a Physics teacher (15 ECTs in the Bachelor, 15 ECTs in the Master). Education had always attracted me, and since I liked tutoring so much, I wanted to experience whether I would like teaching too. I learned how to be (not only speak, but be) comfortable in front of a group, which meant a lot for my further development as a participatory designer. A big part of this comfort is experience in adequately responding to unexpected events. I learned to trust my intuition in doing so, also when it comes down to correcting behaviour. I looked into how to bring a design perspective in my Physics lessons, with the highlight of building Physics Escape Rooms with my class! I concluded that I might have a future in (part-time) education, but in the short term I have other fields of interest that I am more excited about to further explore.

Department: Eindhoven School of Education
Lecturers: Lesley de Putter-Smits, Antoine van den Beemt, Daphne Keller

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By dedicating an extra semester to my studies, I created extra time to build up work experience next to my Master – which I strategically made use of. I developed skills , throughout various jobs, freelance projects and committees at Lucid, in: coaching, coordinating, teaching, graphic design, data analysis, qualitative research and debating.

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M1.2 semester

I spent my M1.2 semester abroad, researching social impact assessment tools in Kuwait.

Project: Social Impact Assessment

Grade: Excellent

Research semester abroad:

Thanks to my research project at Nuqat in Kuwait, I have learned a lot about situatedness. Nothing was as expected: not the research topic, the collaboration, the culture, the research process.. After getting rid of my expectations, I dived into the complexity with an open mind and discovered that ‘social impact’ is a situated concept, meaning that not only the value but also the definition is depending on the context, which is also interrelated with the way of creating and assessing social impact. I learned how to apply different research methods, such as Intuitive Inquiry and the Delphi Method, which I used to compare Zet and Nuqat and their perspective on social impact assessment tools.

In collaboration with: Nuqat (Kuwait City), Zet – schakel naar sociaal resultaat
Coached by: Caroline Hummels, Cindy van den Bremen, Wakim Zeidan

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M2.1 semester

In my M2.1 semester I set up the brief for my FMP project, focused the role of design(ers) within governmental organizations. The timing was well aligned with the elective Design Leadership and Entrepreneurship, in which we amongst other things discussed about social and transformative leadership. In the elective Design Innovation Strategies I learned to approach my process from a more entrepreneurial perspective. Next to this, I ran an extracurricular project for Stichting MOVE about empowering children to be of value in their neighbourhood.

M2.1 project: Designing for Wicked Problems

Grade: Excellent

For my Final Master Project, we created a triangle construction, in which I was coached by Caroline and collaborated with Cindy in researching the role of designers in a society in transformation. I got triggered by the interview sessions we conducted with designers working at the government and started to explore the value and the friction between government and design. I mapped the status quo and reflected on the role of the designer in this interplay, which I concluded to be rather static. Also, I concluded that the main value of designers within governmental organizations is to help dealing with wicked problems, which are dynamic in essence. This triggered me to spend my M22 semester on exploring the interplay between design, government ánd wicked problems. Taking this step showed me how comfortable I have become with complexity since I went to Kuwait: where many fellow students would decide on this moment to zoom in and make things concrete, I decided to zoom out and take my project to a more abstract level.

In collaboration with: Zet – schakel naar sociaal resultaat
Coached by: Caroline Hummels, Cindy van den Bremen

Elective: Design Leadership and Entrepeneurship

Grade: 9

I signed up for this elective to both position myself within DLE and DLE within the department, by co-reflecting on what DLE actually means. To me, the greatest asset of being a DLE’er is the ability to shift and share perspectives. This makes me connected to the people I work with and adaptive to the context I work within. I think we had interesting discussions about Entrepreneurship (creating change short term) and Leadership (triggering change long term), but missed the role of design in this debate. I critically reflected on the set-up of the course and took responsibility for my own learning, by discussing this with the lecturers. I proposed an alternative set-up, which led to a redesign of the course. I reflected about leadership and formed my own preferred model: a diamond, with a pioneer up front, a great team in the middle and a shepherd in the back. I am able to play all these roles, but have a natural preference for the shepherd; the one with the overview, who keeps everyone together and steers where needed.

In collaboration with: Lei Nelissen, Claudia van den Boom, Ludo Kluver, Thom Jongen, Martijn Dekker, Julie Moens
Lecturers: Caroline Hummels, Lu Yuan

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Elective: Design Innovation Strategies

Grade: 8

In this course I learned a lot about Hypotheses Driven Entrepreneurship, which put extra emphasis on the agile way of working we usually have as designers. I learned to work with Minimal Viable Products (MVPs), to identify and test alterations for the business model of our client. We translated our hypotheses into quick prototypes, experiments, sketches and surveys and reflected on the business model on a weekly basis. I experienced that most MVPs were focused on output, since this provides ‘validation’ within a relatively short amount of time and effort. During this course I noticed that I am not only more interested in impact over output, but also way more intrinsically motivated to work in this. Since the elective DLE, I had been doubting about my future role in society, yet this course proved to me that I can take corporate entrepreneur off the top of my list and focus on social/transformative leadership instead.

In collaboration with: Marit Proper, Krishnaa Seck, Nesrin Günes
Lecturers: Ya-Liang Chuang, Alorah Harman, Ad van Berlo,


As a committee of ID students, we did a project for Stichting MOVE, which focuses on empowering children to make an impact in their neighbourhood. We facilitated a participatory design process for a class of 23 children, including them in doing field research, brainstorming and organizing an event.

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M2.2 semester

My last semester was primarily focused on my Final Master Project, which resulted in the concept of an accelerator program for wicked problems. Also, I have been preparing for my future after graduation and did an extracurricular project about ‘asking the right questions in a business context’, for which we were awarded with the first prize at ID Connect. Next to that, I did several projects for Zet that allowed me to build up experience in the context of my FMP, which helped me to strengthen my vision on how to deal with wicked problems.

M2.2 project: Designing for Wicked Problems

The interplay between government, design and wicked problem is a wicked problem in itself, which I researched over the previous and past semester. I developed two design methods that were to be used in a participatory setting, for which I have hosted 6 sessions this semester, in which 73 people participated in total. The sessions and the process in between taught me a lot about how to approach a wicked problem. I transformed these lessons into an accelerator program for wicked problems, which is primarily focused on learning how to deal with wicked problems, by learning with, from and for a learning community. It requires a certain short term commitment from stakeholders, which gives them a more informed idea of what kind of commitment is asked from them in the long run. I have discussed this accelerator program with (possible) future partners, which means that it is likely that we will start a pilot both at Zet and at the squad of Transformative and Inclusive Practices after graduation.

In collaboration with: Zet – schakel naar sociaal resultaat
Coached by: Caroline Hummels, Cindy van den Bremen

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I contributed to ID Connect as a participant this time. Together with Marije Baars and Marit Proper we did a design case for DLL, in which we were asked to design something that stimulates ‘asking the right questions in a sales conversation’. We designed a simple yet effective tool, that triggers a ‘why-that’s-why' loop in between the question and answer. We won the first prize with this proposal and were asked by DLL to take the tool in production, so that they can incorporate it in their top leadership program next February, where the top 50 of DLL worldwide will be trained with our tool!

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At Zet I have been doing several projects in different team settings, such as redesigning the entire process of the ‘K2 Prijs’. We gave the process an inclusive and participatory character and transformed it into the ‘K2 Challenge’. We were in the run with several other organizations to redesign the process, yet our disruptiveness made ours the winning concept. Also, we hosted multiple Social Design Tours during the Dutch Design Week with our team of social designers. Both scouting the projects and sharing these stories made us reflect as a team what social design means in the perspective of Zet.

Additionally, I have been working on an inclusive area development project in Breda, which is a crossover project between different domains of both the municipality of Breda and the Provence of North Brabant. This project was a huge source of inspiration for what conditions should be a part of my FMP, as we are collectively learning how to deal with the wickedness of this project on the level of social design, inclusive area development and the crossover governmental organization.

What's next?

After graduation I will start as a ‘kloio’: a design research position within both Zet and TU/e Industrial Design (Caroline Hummels). I will perform a continuous design research loop through practice and theory: I aim to build up experience as a social designer in client projects; create design interventions; test these in practice; reflect on them from a theoretical perspective; and share these insights in both an academic and societal context. Since I cannot foresee what my ideal balance between theory and practice will be, we agreed upon a one year contract to experiment with the time division of all these process steps. After that year, we can reflect whether we would like to transform this kloio into an official PhD position. We still have to discuss the topic of my research in more detail, but there is a big chance that it will be an extension of my Final Master Project, since both Zet and Caroline showed interest in piloting the accelerator program for wicked problems.

My gratitude

I would like to emphasize that participatory design is dependent on the involvement of others. I had the chance to involve many others into my design journey: people I worked with, was coached by, had occassional inspirational meetings with, participated in my design processes and those who simply got my back when I needed it. Thank you for being there, I think you are amazing.

Khalas, shukran.

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