Short Course

Are the SDGs really understandable? Make them!

Create SDG awareness in your company with provocative conversation starters.

Conversations that are not only about talking, but about empathising with the real problem in order to build better solutions.

Learn how to become a ‘critical maker’ by exploring early understanding of societal challenges by actively reflecting towards empathy with the problem at hand. The main focus of critical making is to develop a critical perspective on the current institutions, practices and norms of society, reconnecting materiality and morality.

In the light of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as adopted by the UN in 2015, it becomes more and more important to create a common understanding of our current and future global, and local challenges. This understanding should cut right across cultures, identities and personalities and therefore, talking about these issues alone is often not enough. Tangible conversation starters help to create a shared empathy for what the challenges are and what can be done about them.

In this intensive ‘goodcamp’ we encourage you to make conversational and provocative prototypes from the start. These prototypes serve as conversation starters and research tools. Without the making aspect, we believe one cannot work towards a full understanding of the challenge. And, with the right empathy for the challenge at hand, you will be ready to get the most out of your conversations and solutions.

What you will learn:

  • How to formulate specific local challenges that relate to global challenges and the SDGs
  • How to look for information that supports and feeds their challenge
  • How to translate these data into a provocative, conversation-starting prototype
  • How to reflect on the reactions coming out of these conversations
  • And finally, how to empathize and fall in love with the problem, not the solution.  

Covered DSS competencies:

  1. Applied Human Centered Design
  2. Interdisciplinary System Thinking
  3. Collaboration and Co-creation
  4. Create solutions for social impact

What you will do:

Pick an SDG focus
Get to know the SDGs and their history, and figure out which SDG is relevant to you and your team.

Create a challenge
Translate your global goal into a challenge that is relevant locally, creating a hands-on specific design question you can start with right away. 

Harvest data
Dive into qualitative and/or quantitative data round your challenge – collecting interesting insights and numbers for you to frame your challenge to your audience.

Visualise data
Experience different ways to work with your data and communicate this in a visually compelling way.

Make it tangible with a provocative prototype (conversation starter)
Use different prototyping methods to help people critically reflect on the challenge at hand.. How do you get people to empathise with your challenge and generate new surprising insight?

Reflect, test and learn
Test your final prototype with others and experience what conversations and learnings happen when you engage people with a tangible object. 

Methods used

  • Data visualisation
  • Empathy in action 
  • Lo-fi prototyping

Whom is this course for?

You are a professional (in the field of sustainability, public sector, creative industries), looking for different ways to engage with your partners, clients and stakeholders. 

You are a leader or employee who wants to know more about what SDGs can do for your organisation.

You are an aspiring change-maker looking for ways to reflect critically on your work and field, taking sustainability and ethics into account.


  • want to know how to translate Sustainable Development Goals into local tangible action;
  • Want to apply your knowledge of sustainability in a practical way;
  • Want to get inspired by different ways of approaching a challenge, focusing not on solutions but on reframing the problem.

Questions you may have

Q: What if I am not “creative”, or a maker, or a designer?
A: Perfect, then this is for you. We’ll show you that anyone can make things tangible with easy-to-implement tools and steps

Q: Data? What do you mean?
A: Don’t be scared! Data is nothing more than facts, numbers or stories about the issue at hand. For example: how many dropouts do schools have in a certain city, what is their home situation, what age group, etc. etc. You need facts to be able to reflect on the issue from a broader perspective.

Q: If I do not want to focus on SDGs alone, will this training still be able to teach me something for my own goals and context?
A: For sure! The methods and tools are applicable to any type of problem defining and innovation trajectory.

About us

Digital Society School is a learning community connecting design, technology and social innovation. At Digital Society School we invite you to direct your interests, knowledge and effort towards building a digital society. Because we believe that it can -and should- be inclusive, intelligent, and involve us all.

To this end, we have founded the Digital Society School. Through the school, we seek to research the impact of technology on society, develop the skills necessary to guide the transformation and pass on this knowledge and these skills to a new generation of professionals. They are ready to begin work on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. They will be the architects of transformation, across the world as well as in your organisation

We have been working with the UN Sustainable Development Goals since 2016, when we started directly collaborating with UNDP on designing for ánd with the SDGs. Learning from our international projects such as the Global Goals Jam (, we have developed a tailored methodology on how to approach global challenges from a local perspective, combining methods from the design and co-creation with the context of sustainable development.

Meet your instructors

Anneke van Woerden
Experienced trainer and facilitator working on the intersection between design, social innovation and sustainable development. I work on tools, events and content that bring in sustainability and social impact. I coordinate the Global Goals Jam and developed the Global Goals Toolkit. From time to time, I try to spark up teams with some energisers when needed and team culture tools.


Marco van Hout
Experienced trainer and design lead with over 15 years of experience. Co-founder of DSS and Global Goals Jam, community liaison for World Design Organization. I make sure that all DSS programmes result in engaging, meaningful and impactful (lifelong) learning experiences, for students and professionals. I integrate the Sustainable Development Goals, design methodology and the latest technology in our work.