Lancaster academic designing future of business education

A Lancaster University Management School academic is helping to shape the future of business education through a successful global network partnership that promotes education as a human-centred design activity.

Dr Radka Newton co-founded the Service Design in Education network in 2019. It celebrates its second birthday this summer having positively engaged with the UK Government Department for Education, the Design Council, Innovate UK, professional designers, government representatives, academics, professional service staff and students.

Supported by Service Design Academy and V&A Dundee the education network has flourished in the past two years, delivering monthly practice-sharing events and a capstone weekend education design challenge, EDUJAM, that brought together 60 participants from all over the world.

Dr Newton, a Senior Teaching Fellow in the Department of Entrepreneurship and Strategy, established the network with Katie Lisa Murrie, from the Service Design Academy in Scotland, and HE service design expert Jean Mutton. Their goal is to create better educational environments for educators and students, working with them to make sense of a changing world.

“For the network, our main focus has been on raising awareness of service design and of the value of using design to approach complex issues in education,” said Dr Newton. “It’s about using creative thinking and problem-solving in what is a very complex operating environment, where problems or issues can sometimes be overpowering or daunting.

“We are showing a more creative way of approaching complex issues, working collaboratively to try to break the silos in universities, bringing people from different departments together, and empowering staff and students to transform education.

“We put a lot of effort into learning by doing; we don’t just want to talk, we want to look at the real challenges people have and demonstrate tools and techniques that will help promote this way of thinking and collaborating with others. They can experiment with us and experience the design-led approach to complex problems which they can take back to their institutions.”

The network’s success has seen them engage with various government bodies, and promote the use of service design more broadly.

“Through Enterprise Educators Network EEUK, we have partnered up with Innovate UK and the Design Council, who have recently launched strategies to empower people through design in business,” added Dr Newton, “Together, we have been able to raise awareness of the design principles and demonstrate the importance of their strategies in education? If we only ever focus on the business community or the economy, we are always playing catch-up. We need to start in education.”

Service Design in Education’s birthday event series in in June and July has brought together people from different departments in higher education, including students and professional services staff, to apply the service design principles in deciding how the network will operate moving forward. “We believe in the power of co-creation and our second birthday will help us define our value for the future of education, ” Dr Newton added.

Dr Newton is taking the service design principles to an international business school audience in September as part of an event with the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD). The Get, Set, Reset: Redesigning and Innovating International Strategies Challenge involves three weeks of interactive workshops looking at all aspects of international engagement – from recruitment to teaching to research and beyond.

“We will try to reimagine internationalisation through the new lens we have post-Covid,” said Dr Newton. “We will be able to encourage collaborations across institutions and countries, to find common passions and develop ideas we can all take back to our institutions.”.

“I don’t just talk about service design, I live it every day when thinking about curriculum improvements, staff development and student experience,” added Dr Newton, who applies the service design principles to her own teaching as director of the Lancaster MSc Management programme, consulting students every years to co-create the future of the course. Her commitment and drive for improvements were recognised recently by a LUMS Dean’s Award, emphasising the programme transformation and excellence.

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