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New Master Honours Classes on societal innovations

Social impact and circular economy. Two topics focusing on the future and bringing forward many concrete problems. Two Master Honours Classes, in which students tackle societal challenges, will start this fall.

‘Nowadays, you stand out as an individual when you can show that you already have experience or crystallised ideas’, says Sjoerd Louwaars (Director Entrepreneurship PLNT). ‘We attend to this particular development in our Master Honours Class.’ Together with Titus van der Spek (PhD Social enterprise management), Louwaars teaches Social Innovation in Action, one of the two new Master Honours Classes offered by Leiden University. Master’s students get the opportunity to work on concrete societal cases in an interdisciplinary setting. The goal is to find future-oriented solutions.

Waste flows

René Kleijn (researcher Institute of Environmental Sciences) teaches the other class: Circular Economy - from Challenge to Opportunity. ‘Circular economy is not a goal in itself, but a means to become more sustainable’, he explains. ‘It is about thinking differently and changing the relationship between producers and consumers.’ According to Kleijn, the goal must be that the producer cannot benefit from broken products anymore, for example through the improvement of lease constructions. ‘The manufacturers make the products more durable and the materials reusable.’

In Kleijn’s Master Honours Class, students learn to work with this in real projects of governments and companies with e.g. large waste flows. ‘These raw materials could, under certain conditions, be used for the basis of new products of another company’, he explains. Kleijn is looking forward to student teams containing mixed study backgrounds. ‘A case usually involves a technical aspect, but also a legal and social aspect. This makes it very important for different disciplines to collaborate.’

The Triple Diamond model, part of the Design Thinking method

Social entrepreneurship

Van der Spek and Louwaars’ class focuses on bringing together social impact and commercial success. Students work together on a social case in three different phases. They use the Design Thinking method in which the first step is to understand the case well. Van der Spek: ‘From this it must become clear who or what you are actually going to help with your solution.’ After this, the students will work on the solution under supervision, which will eventually be presented in the third ‘delivery’-phase. ‘A simple solution can even immediately be put into practice.’

Louwaars is working with the Gemeente Leiden to bring the right people together who can provide the students with relevant information. ‘Our goal is to make real problems manageable.’ He mentions the train station Den Haag Hollands Spoor as an example. Students from a previous course worked on a Humans of New York-inspired project to increase the sense of security around the station. Louwaars: ‘By thinking of and setting up such a project themselves, students can eventually become self-managing professionals.’

The Master Honours Classes will start in November and are accessible to motivated Master’s students with good study results. The classes make an appeal to the students’ creativity and originality, and the goal is for students to work independently on a project. Registration is open from 16 until 29 September 2019.

New classes 2020

Are you interested in one of the spring Master Honours Classes? In March 2020 two new classes of 5EC will start. One is about innovating health and well-being through entrepreneurship. The other is about exploring human relations with nature. You can find more information in the Prospectus.

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