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The Portuguese NGO help Images presented their work at the event:

Designing Positive Futures – Social Business Innovation – a Research and Development Project to Support Integration of Syrian Refugees

I initiated a R&D project with students from the master program M.A. Design Management at Macromedia University in Munich in order to create awareness of the opportunities of design thinking to support innovation processes for social businesses and non-profit organizations. I invited therefore Syrian refugees in Munich to volunteer for the qualitative research activities by master students and to actively participate in co-creation workshops.

We were kindly supported by various governmental agencies in Munich with our attempt to find suitable and motivated volunteers. Furthermore, we received funding by the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Media, Energy and Technology and support by bayern design, which coordinates and promotes all design-related activities in Bavaria. (

But why is Social Economy relevant?

The European Commission considers the Social Economy in the EU with its 2 million Social Economy enterprises as one of the key drivers of the economic and social development in Europe. The Social Economy already contributes significantly to Europe’s economy with 10% of all businesses in the EU and more than 11 million people involved. Cooperatives, mutual societies, non-profit associations, foundations and increasingly social enterprises contribute to several key objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy, such as smart, sustainable growth, social cohesion, environmental protection and high-quality employment. Social Economy enterprises’ primary objective is to integrate the constraints of the economy and social considerations and play an important role in the transformation and evolution of contemporary societies. ( / social economy – European Council)

This human-centred focus and approach, which puts people and the environment before profits, becomes the link between social economy and Design Thinking. Design Thinking has become internationally acknowledged as a successful approach to developing innovation that addresses the needs of the people who will consume a product or service and the infrastructure that enables it. This focus on people’s unmet needs and desires in combination with an emphasis on successful implementation supports innovation processes in any organisation, from product innovation, to services, to systems and management. Moreover, in the realm of social economy the methodology of Design Thinking with its unique set of methods is particularly suited to foster social innovation and social entrepreneurship.

Two teams of students from Macromedia University’s international M.A. Design Management master program under the supervision of prof. Oliver Szasz have been working on the task to apply their research and strategic design skills to develop solutions to support the integration of Syrian refugees in Germany.

In the event “Designing Positive Futures – Social Innovation Business” in the Designerwerkschau Munich they presented their approach and their proposed product and service solutions, incl. a business model, for the first time to a wider audience. During the second part of the evening speakers from economy and academia discussed objectives and challenges of social enterprises. Many thanks to our distinguished panel:


We installed also an exhibition that showed the process of research and co-creation processes. Furthermore the Portuguese NGO help Images presented their great approach and work at the event:

The results of the master student project have been highly promising and the proposed product and service solutions are currently being refined. The teams are in the process of starting a social business in order to realize their ideas and bring them to reality. Great!


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