• logo
  • Te Pūkenga logo

Design Thinking for Sustainable Development

Learn how to use Design Thinking principles to develop innovative and user-centric solutions to complex issues of sustainability.

1,680 enrolled on this course

Design Thinking for Sustainable Development

Improve your decision-making skills

To tackle the global-scale problems of sustainability, we need original and creative solutions.

On this four-week course, you’ll discover how you can use the Design Thinking methodology for a human-centred problem-solving approach.

You’ll build confidence in your decision-making as you use Design Thinking techniques to overcome barriers in sustainability, with a focus on the people you are trying to help.

This course allows you to experience how Design Thinking works in a safe environment, before implementing these techniques to help develop sustainable solutions.

Explore the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

You’ll be introduced to the SDGs before choosing one to conduct high-level research to help you solve a sustainability challenge.

This practical exercise will help you understand effective techniques such as creating meaning from interview and secondary data and how to expand ideation.

Learn from the experts at Wintec

Guided by the specialists at Waikato Institute of Technology (Wintec), you’ll learn to identify each stage of the Design Thinking process to help you understand which stage a project is in.

By the end of the course, you’ll feel confident in your decision-making skills to help you develop solutions that advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and other areas of social good.


  • Week 1

    Design Thinking and Empathy

    • Introduction to the course

      To start with, lets find out a little bit about the course facilitator, Aidan Bigham, and what the course will cover.

    • Design Thinking and Sustainability goals

      This section will introduce you to the Design Thinking process and the 5 stages: Empathy, Define, Ideate, Prototyping and User Testing. We'll also introduce the Sustainability Goals as a topic to investigate using the process.

    • Empathy

      The first stage of the design thinking process is Empathy. In this stage we collect research from secondary sources and data from interviews and observations. This is a DIVERGENT stage.

    • Reflection

      Reflect on your learning in Week 1 and see what is in store for Week 2.

  • Week 2

    Define and Ideate

    • The Define Stage

      How do you make sense of data? Especially interview data? The Define stage helps us do this.

    • The Ideation Stage

      Now that we have clearly defined our challenge we can move into the Ideation stage.

    • Reflection of Define and Ideation

      What have we learnt about these two processes?

  • Week 3

    Prototype and User Test

    • Introducing Prototyping

      Prototyping is the fourth stage of the Design Thinking process - though we tend to iterate back and forth with User Testing. In this stage we are building a representation of our idea to gather feedback from our users.

    • User Testing

      User testing is the fifth stage of the design thinking process and is usually in iteration with prototyping. In this stage we test with our users to improve, refine, validate or throw out our ideas!

    • Reflection

      Reflect on your learning in Week 3

  • Week 4

    Refine and Reflect

    • Refine and Communicate

      Lets see how we can communicate our solution back to the stakeholders

    • Reflection's and next steps

      Congratulations and well done

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and learn at your own pace. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

You can take this self-guided course and learn at your own pace. On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone wanting to explore how Design Thinking can be used to drive sustainable change.

This course will help you experience the full process of the methodology and show you how Design Thinking can be applied to any business and role.

Who will you learn with?

I am a Principal Academic Staff member at WINTEC with 20 years experience in tertiary education. Most recently I have been successfully leading Design Thinking teams in solving industry challenges.

Who developed the course?


The Waikato Institute of Technology (Wintec) is a leading tertiary education provider and one of New Zealand’s largest Institutes of Technology. Established in 1924, Wintec delivers technical, vocational, and professional education across a broad range of qualifications, domestically and internationally.

Te Pūkenga

Te Pūkenga – New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology is the New Zealand governmental network of 16 subsidiary tertiary education providers, which were formerly known as institutes of technology and polytechnics. The network delivers world class professional, vocational, and applied learning from certificate through to PhD level.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps, but you can complete them as quickly or slowly as you like
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

Want to know more about learning on FutureLearn? Using FutureLearn

Learner reviews

Learner reviews cannot be loaded due to your cookie settings. Please and refresh the page to view this content.

Join this course

Start this course for free, upgrade for extra benefits, or buy Unlimited to access this course and hundreds of other short courses for a year.



Join free and you will get:

  • Access to this course for 6 weeks



Upgrade this course and you will get:

  • Access to this course for as long as it’s on FutureLearn
  • A print and digital Certificate of Achievement once you’re eligible


$279.99 for one year

Buy Unlimited and you will get:

  • Access to this course, and hundreds of other FutureLearn short courses and tests for a year
  • A printable digital Certificate of Achievement on all short courses once you’re eligible
  • The freedom to keep access to any course you've achieved a digital Certificate of Achievement on, for as long as the course exists on FutureLearn
  • The flexibility to complete your choice of short courses in your own time within the year

Find out more about upgrades or Unlimited.

Do you know someone who'd love this course? Tell them about it...