The 2030 Agenda demands integrated approaches capable of delivering transformative results. This requires viewing development interventions through a holistic lens and assessing their impacts on the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development, as well as carefully considering the synergies and trade-offs produced by them. Traditional approaches to development programming that focus on individual sectors and patchwork policy-making are not enough to address the challenges facing the world today. Recognizing that employing the same approaches over and over again will not yield different results, the notion of sustainable development requires all-of-society to come up with novel, innovative and human-centred approaches. It urges us to go back to the drawing board to think creatively and be innovative.

The notion of design thinking focuses on the human experience. In essence, design thinking is a human-centred systematic approach to problem solving. When applied to sustainable development, it can result in local, collaborative, and participatory initiatives that are based on the local context rather than being retro-fitted to it.

Holistic, uninhibited, collaborative, iterative and visual, design thinking fosters integrative and cross-disciplinary thinking. 

This course will enable participants to understand and analyse the design of their organizational initiatives from the perspective of the “end user,” i.e. the people, and gain a better understanding of how initiatives can be designed to work in a local context. By guiding participants through the different stages of design thinking, this course will empower them to apply integrative and cross-disciplinary thinking in order to come up with human-centred solutions or reconsider existing organizational initiatives in support of the 2030 Agenda. Participants will also benefit from a design thinking toolkit that will encourage them to apply design thinking to their work.



Upon successful completion of this course, participants will:

  • Demonstrate a sound understanding of the notion of sustainable development, the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, its vision and principles; and the holistic approach of the 5Ps – People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnerships;
  • Demonstrate a sound understanding of the key principles and stages of the design thinking process, the concept of innovation and types of innovation;
  • Be able to understand and analyse development initiatives within the local context of where they are implemented, and be able to apply integrative and cross-disciplinary thinking in support of human-centred and sustainable solutions.

Course Methodology

Course Methodology: 

This face-to-face course combines inputs and lectures by high-level subject matter experts with opportunities for knowledge sharing and participatory exercises. Participants are led to apply their learning through application-oriented learning methodologies such as case studies, collaborative group exercises, team discussions and dialogues with speakers.

Course Contents

Course Contents: 

Sustainable development and the 2030 Agenda; vision and principles; key principles and stages of the design thinking process (empathizing, defining, ideating, prototyping and testing); innovation and types of innovation; collaborative design rooted in culture and context; and cross-disciplinary and integrative thinking. 

Target Audience

Target Audience: 

UN personnel and representatives from governments, civil society and the private sector

Cost of participation

Cost of participation: 

The course fee of $2500 covers the following:

  • Four days of training with a balance of presentations and group work on case studies and exercises.
  • Exclusive access to UNSSC's online social learning environment with training, supporting background materials and a design thinking handbook, as well as the opportunity to stay connected with colleagues.
  • All course materials, resources and contacts.

Participants are expected to cover all travel and lodging.

Certificates from the United Nations System Staff College will be awarded to participants upon completion of the course.

Special Discount for UN staff working in UN Resident Coordinator Offices (RCOs):

This course is part of the UNSSC Sustainable Development Learning Package offered to Resident Coordinator Offices (RCO) staff. We are offering a special discount of $1,000 to UN staff working in RCOs as part of UNSSC’s targeted support to the UN reform process through sustained and facilitated learning and leadership development programmes.

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