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N.U.B.S. and Impactara are sparking positive impact.

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Newcastle University Business School (N.U.B.S.) and Impactara have found a unique way of providing creative solutions to business challenges faced by social sector organisations.

By incorporating Design Sprints in their Executive Masters of Business Administration (EMBA) programme, Newcastle University Business School are harnessing the collective power of a room full of executives to confront critical business questions from charities and social enterprises.

Effectively taking a proven framework for ideating, designing and testing solutions into the university setting, we’re delivering real-world, hands-on experience seldom found elsewhere. 

In the three-day design sprints, facilitated by Impactara, participants are guided through a series of structured collaboration exercises. These are designed to first frame the problem, then create, prototype and test potential solutions. Fashioned on Google Ventures Design Sprints our version is moulded to fit the EMBA programme’s educational goals.

The beauty of this type of intervention is that the participants all come from different sectors of business, different backgrounds, different stages in their careers and therefore bring wildly different perspectives. The ideas that are sparked during these intensive sessions may be way out of the realm of thinking of the organisation themselves, who are often ‘too close’ to the problem.

In October 2022 the challenge came from a local charity, Altitude Foundation. The most common issue for small charities is generating funds. Altitude Foundation offer support programmes for school-aged children in the North East with interests in technology education. They were looking for some new ideas for income generation. The EMBA teams devised opportunities for Altitude Foundation to deliver more value through extra-curricular activities and provided several options for improving their current offering.

The December 2022 challenge came from a community interest company (CIC) which operates for-profit and reinvests that profit back into the organisation to serve the community. Rethink Food CIC has a curriculum enrichment programme that assists schools in teaching food-based learning. Given two specific challenges – marketing to schools and corporate partnerships – the EMBA teams came up with inspiring ideas on incorporating accreditation and competition into their strategy and reframing their offerings to attract corporations who fully aligned with their core values.

This is a win – win – win situation. The EMBA students get hands-on experience working on live issues. The lecturers can walk the students through the practical process, locking in learnings at every step. The social enterprises receive the benefit of the wealth of combined experience and innovative thinking of the EMBA students.  On top of all that, the beneficiaries of the social sector organisations receive improved or enhanced services.

Here’s what the organisations had to say:

“Working with the EMBA group was a stimulating, thought provoking and engaging experience. It was fantastic for us to be able to hear the perspectives of professionals from a range of backgrounds, who provided us with supportive challenge and genuinely inventive thinking throughout. On a personal and organisational level, the process and outcome were thought provoking and have given us new avenues of enquiry to pursue.”
“It was a fantastic experience in which old ideas were developed and new ideas created. It is very important to us as an organisation to continuously learn and having input from the amazing students on the sprint has elevated our learning in the areas we chose to focus on. The experience was extremely enjoyable and professional throughout but most importantly we came away with actionable outcomes that will positively impact the communities we serve.”

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