Interdisciplinary workshop about a sustainable future and business models

New creative ways of working. Students from different education programmes and countries. University and business life. That was the scene earlier this term when a co-creation workshop about business models and the SDGs, Sustainable Development Goals, took place at Halmstad University.

”The work with sustainable business modelling fits well into Halmstad University’s profile area Smart Cities and Communities”

Maya Hoveskog, Associate Professor in Innovation Science

About 50 people are placed around the tables in the large venue: Students from national and international education programmes, teachers, researchers and business life representatives.

Groups of people working around tables.

The workshop took place at the Digital Laborative Centre at Halmstad University.

Co-creation for sustainability

The workshop is about realizing the UN SDGs, Sustainable Development Goals. In this Co-Creation workshop the participants work for a better future that is sustainable environmentally, socially and financially. The tool Flourishing Business Canvas is one of the most recent ways of creating business models for sustainability through visualising and supporting the process with a joint framework of different terms. Maya Hoveskog, Associate Professor in Innovation Science, is in charge of the workshop:

“One of the courses that I give within the Master’s Programme in Industrial Management and Innovation in based on students working with real life challenges. Our ambition in the programme is to create value for business life in the Halland-region. This year we collaborate with Coompanion, a support organisation for start-ups, that has connected us with different companies who want to develop their business models. Coompanion wants to learn about, and also adopt, the tool when coaching start-ups”, says Maya Hoveskog, who also does research on this way of working with business models and how different actors can learn about business models and sustainability in an early stage of business development.

To the left, woman with dark hair and clothes, on the right, woman with blond hair and dark red jacket.

Maya Hoveskog and Cecilia Björkén-Nyberg. ”The students and all participants are working for the future today. The business models they create for the companies concern year 2025”, says Maya Hoveskog.

Internationalisation and cross contact between the University’s Schools are positive consequences of the day. For students from the Master’s Programme in Industrial Management and Innovation the workshop is part of a course. Other students have registered out of pure interest. One of them is studying Culture and societal development. Cecilia Björkén-Nyberg, Senior lecturer in English, is the Programme Director:

“Students from various education programmes differ in some respects, and we wanted to test working with a heterogenous group. The students really grow into the task and they see different dimensions”, says Cecilia Björkén-Nyberg.

Participating education programmes

  • Master’s Programme (120 credits) in Industrial Management and Innovation
  • Master’s Programme (60 credits) in Nordic Welfare
  • Master’s Programme (60 credits) in Applied Environmental Science
  • Culture and societal development 180 credits) (in Swedish)
  • Master’s Programme (120 credits) in Strategic Entrepreneurship for International Growth
  • Master’s Programme (120 credits) in Digital Service Innovation

Blond woman with scarf, brunette with grey cardigan on the left hand side.

Lina Borghardt is the project leader and Kajsa Vik the executive manager of the business advisors Coompantion. “For those of us who are working with support and business development for entrepreneurs it is important to contribute to a sustainable business life and to introduce the global sustainability goals in the operational development. And at Coompanion we love collaboration, a day like this gives us a lot of inspiration!” says Lina Borghardt.

A joint framework

Maya Hoveskog points out that the canvas, the tool, is good to start off with in group work, it becomes a meeting place where people with different backgrounds have a joint framework to talk and cooperate around, across disciplines. The businesses at today’s workshop work with questions such as turning waste wool into a valuable product, high quality consumer products from local leather and also addiction prevention at workplaces.

“The aim is that the businesses get ideas about how to become profitable and at the same time develop social and environmental value. One way of doing that is to identify the SDGs and incorporate them in the business modelling process”, says Maya Hoveskog.

Via their education programmes, the students are oriented towards for example economics, environment, culture and health:

“They have different assets. What strikes me straight away is the story telling-aspect of this work, and the students find it interesting with the fictive story about the company. Parts of the programme Culture and societal development is built around storytelling and today the students also develop an understanding of what students do in other education programmes. It is fun, but difficult – and it can also contribute to the students increased respect for what they themselves learn and their own knowledge”, says Cecilia Björkén-Nyberg.

New perspectives

The students confirm the teachers’ view. Sanna Packalén Åkerblom studies Culture and societal development.

“The workshop seemed exiting, and also to be able to give alternative input compared to what students from other programmes might give. We have a different perspective and can add more ’soft values’, other students contributes with the ’hardware’. Instructive workshop”, Sanna Packalén Åkerblom ads and continues:

”We think differently when we work with the hexagon cards and the canvas. And to students with a variation of perspectives, that is the fun part. It is also the future for our programme, we are supposed to be the ones giving different perspectives on issues.”

Tre students, one man and two women, looking into the camera.

Francis Holmsten, on the left, studies Culture and societal development. “More than anything I came here because I was curious about the idea the company has. When we registered, we chose what role we wanted and what case we found most interesting. The day also has given insights connected with the education programme” he says. In the picture are also Fujan Amairzadeh and Sanna Packalén Åkerblom.

Fujan Amairzadeh studies Master’s Programme in Industrial Management and Innovation, and through the programme she is already quite familiar with the tool. She thinks that the interaction with more students has helped to develop the work further.

“Students from other programmes have helped us to see the tool in a new way, it has given us new insights and we have been able to develop our ideas. This is a good day”, she says.

World premiere

The workshop is led by Nicole Norris, manager of the Centre for Changemaking and Social Innovation, Georgian College in Canada, which brings together faculty, students and non-profit organizations to respond to complex issues and affect positive social change. She has also developed a “new generation” of Flourishing Business Canvas.

“Today is a world premiere for the new version”, she says.

Woman with dark hair and green jacket holding a big blue cube.

Around this time, similar workshops are also taking place in Belgium and Canada. “The tool makes global sustainable issues concrete for the students, they can better understand how they are being used and this can be used by organisations, including businesses. Both Maya and I have a passion for these questions, we believe in the tool and in a better world. We want students who graduate to have a broad understanding of sustainability. We contribute to how this can be done and simultaneously bring the classrooms out in the world”, says Nicole Norris.

”The work with sustainable business modelling fits well into Halmstad University’s profile area Smart Cities and Communities”, Maya Hoveskog comments.

Text and pictures: Kristina Rörström



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