From education to employment

Innovation students win prestigious design award from RSA

The challenge, set by the RSA, was to design a system, service or campaign to encourage or enable parents, employers or society more widely to embrace shared parental leave.

The Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship offers a four-year integrated master’s degree programme, a first-of-its-kind degree, that brings students together from 11 different disciplines (including computer science, anthropology, history and theatre) to study Innovation and Entrepreneurship alongside their subject specialism.

A team of three students – Frank Mavin (Management with Innovation), Riley Nicholas (History with Innovation) and Hamza Qureshi (Film and Television with Innovation) worked on the brief set by the RSA.

Explaining the background to their winning idea, they said: “Currently, less than two percent of eligible parents within the UK are taking shared parental leave (SPL).

“We took a human-centred design approach to solve the challenge, that is, we worked to understand the people involved in or impacted by the challenge before developing a solution.

“This included conducting research with parents eligible for SPL and a variety of employers. We also used data and information provided by the RSA and sources.

“Through this research, we found that parents in small firms feel uncomfortable taking leave knowing they’ll be letting down their colleagues and employers in their absence.”

The team wanted to change this with their Initiative – ‘MentorMe’ which links employers of parents looking to take leave with graduates in need of work experience. Graduates are trained during a period of mentorship by the parent to temporarily replace them while leave is taken.

In this way, the service supports the uptake of SPL while offering graduates the opportunity to gain valuable work experience.

Riley added: “We were really out of our comfort zones with this kind of project, most of the other submissions were very design heavy so we felt a little outmatched; it was great to hear that we could compete with artists and designers and give the judges something special.

“I’m interested in novel concepts and human focused design – so we were pretty hooked by our idea from the beginning. It’s the kind of idea you can explain in two sentences and it works.”

Hamza said: “Tackling the issues associated with Shared Parental leave, something none of us were familiar with, and creating a suitable solution for it is something we as a team are very proud of. Excited to be taking this project forward.”

Frank said: “We wanted to solve two societal issues with one solution. Firstly, we enabled parents to take SPL by reducing disruption to employers, therefore making them more likely to encourage its usage. And secondly by providing an opportunity for graduates to gain quality work experience.”

Dr Kirsten Cater, Academic Director for the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, said: “We are so proud of our students having achieved this RSA award in recognition of their fantastic idea.

“This award highlights the impact of the Centre’s transdisciplinary teamwork approach in order to come up with innovative ideas to tackle pressing social, economic and environmental issues.”

The aim of the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is to graduate the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs with the adaptability, agility, transdisciplinary and innovative thinking to make positive differences in an ever-changing world. 

Teaching has an emphasis on challenge-based, collaborative learning which allows students to draw upon their subject specialism while collaborating in multidisciplinary teams to deliver new and innovative solutions to a given real-world challenge. Through these challenges, students and staff work in collaboration with a wide range of industry partners, social ventures and start-ups, providing the opportunity for students to develop practical skills and gain real-world experience working on live projects.

In addition to the four-year programme, the centre also offers a one-year MSc in Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

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