The Course for Human-Centered Design: How Might We Enable More Young People to Become Social Entrepreneurs?

The Course for Human-Centered Design (provided by and +Acumen) is a seven-week curriculum, which introduces the concepts of human-centered design and how this approach can be used to create innovative, effective, and sustainable solutions for social change.  This course has been developed to educate those, who are brand new to human-centered design. No prior experience is required. However, I would recommend this course for anyone looking to improve their human-centered design skills.

What is Human-Centered Design? 

Human-Centered Design (HCD) is a creative approach to solve any kind of problem. The process starts with the people for whom the solution is designed; and ends with e.g. new product or service that is tailor-made to suit these people’s needs. HCD is all about building a deep empathy with the people’s needs and motivations, generating a lot of ideas, creating prototypes, sharing the ideas and solutions with the people; and eventually taking the new innovative solution out in the world. Please see the below video describing the concept of HCD.

Our team and design challenge

Our team, SID Inspired (Tuomas Harviainen, Anne Hirvonen, Heini Kauppinen, Lavanya Prakash, Pamela Spokes and myself) started our seven-week HDC journey in February. The design challenge we chose to work on was “How Might We Enable More Young People to Become Social Entrepreneurs?”. We found this to be a timely topic considering the increase in social challenges around the world and the difficulties many aspiring social entrepreneurs face when trying to move beyond the initial idea phase due to e.g. lack of infrastructure support, access to networks, funding or mentors helping to scale the idea.

The HDC process

The HDC process utilized in this course is developed by It starts with a specific Design Challenge and goes through three main stages: Inspiration, Ideation and Implementation. The process will move the design team from concrete observations about people, to abstract thinking along with uncovering insights and themes, then back to the concrete with tangible solutions.

Adapted from the HCD process by


During the Inspiration phase, our team collected insights, stories and inspirations from people through planning and conducting a field research. We interviewed young people (students, under 30 years old) who were / were not interested in social entrepreneurship; social innovation and entrepreneurship teachers; experts from start-up communities and organizations fostering social entrepreneurship; and social entrepreneurs. We also used an online questionnaire and social media channels related to social innovation and entrepreneurship for gathering insights.

Ideation & prototyping

In the Ideation phase, we translated our learnings from the Inspiration phase into frameworks, opportunities, solutions, and prototypes. The key themes and insights we identified were:

  • Scalability: If you don’t have scalability, you won’t be able to attract investors. Scalability means bigger impact.
  • Resources and profit: There is a lack of funding and resources for social innovation.
  • Awareness and inspiration: People do not understand what social entrepreneurship and social innovation mean due to lack of knowledge, awareness, and lack of integration of social entrepreneurship into curriculum.

After identifying the key themes, we turned them into the following “How Might We” (HMW) questions:

  • How might we coach scalability in social entrepreneurship?
  • How might we attract investors to social entrepreneurship?
  • How might we raise awareness in organized and inspirational manner for young people?

These HMW questions formed the basis of our idea generation workshop. We selected the most innovative ideas by voting. The criteria used for selecting the ideas were how excited were we instinctively about the idea, how innovative and different does the idea feel; and how practical is the idea and does the implementation feel realistic.

Then we created a storyboard for the most promising idea visualizing the end-to-end experience a user (persona we defined) might have with our idea over time. For each step of the storyboard, we defined the most important question that we needed to get answer by testing and prototyping. We also defined the different possible ways we might test that particular question.

Determining what to prototype

Determining what to prototype

Our Solution: HIPCELERATE!

Our solution to the design challenge was a program for making youngsters (15-17 year old) aware of the possibilities of entrepreneurship: do it for a purpose, but with a profit. Based on our findings the entrepreneurship training is best based on the trainees’ own ideas. Therefore, they need to be inspired early on. The stages of our solution are:

Stage 1: Increasing awareness: organized social innovation clubs at schools with a competition. Develop a business idea with social impact as a team.

Stage 2: Making it real: The prize for the competition: Learning from the judges, who become mentors; and a meeting with potential investors. In addition, any judge may choose to sponsor a good idea that did not win. Professional assistance in drafting a business model along with seed money is offered, as well as coaching in scaling resulting business success with a significant social impact.

The key requirements for HIPCELERATE solution.

The key requirements for our HIPCELERATE solution.


The Implementation phase starts with realization of the designed solutions through rapid revenue and cost modeling, capability assessment, and implementation planning. This phase supports and will help to launch new solution into the world.

Due to the limited time for this course, we did not have the opportunity to implement our solution. However, we defined the roadmap for the future, as illustrated in the image below.

Check-out the HDC toolkit by with more details and tools for human-centered design and enroll for the next Course for Human-Centered Design.

Susanna Turunen, SID 2014

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