This programme will enable participants to understand the importance of innovation in implementing the 2030 Agenda. By guiding participants through the different stages of the design thinking process, this course will empower them to apply integrative and cross-disciplinary thinking in order to come up with human-centred solutions or reconsider existing organisational initiatives in support of the 2030 Agenda. Participants will also benefit from an ‘innovation toolkit for leaders’ that will encourage them to apply design thinking in their own context.


The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development demands innovative leaders who are capable of employing integrated approaches that deliver transformative results. This requires viewing development interventions through a holistic lens and assessing their impact 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 in a comprehensive way. Recognising 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 and think creatively, innovatively and comprehensively.


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 in the context of sustainable development, this approach can result in local, collaborative, and participatory initiatives that are founded on the local context rather than being retrofitted to it. Grounded on key thinking paradigms of being holistic, uninhibited, collaborative, iterative, and visual, the design thinking approach fosters integrative and cross-disciplinary thinking.



Upon successful completion of this course, participants will:


  • Demonstrate a sound understanding of the notion of sustainable development, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, 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 apply design thinking to analyse development initiatives within a given local context, and be able to apply integrative and cross-disciplinary thinking in support of human-centered 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 the speakers.

Course Contents

Course Contents: 

Sustainable development and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable development; vision and principles; key principles and stages of the design thinking process: empathising, 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: 

Heads of UN Agencies at country level and other senior UN staff, as well as senior public and private sector representatives. 

Cost of participation

Cost of participation: 

The course fee of 2500 USD covers the following:


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


Participants are expected to cover all travel and lodging costs related to their attendance of the course.


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

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