The role of universities in SDGs solution co-creation and implementation: a human-centered design and shared-action learning process

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16 Scopus citations


Successful implementation of solutions to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) depends on harnessing synergistic interactions among SDGs and effective engagement among a diverse group of societal stakeholders. This paper presents a framework and case study for a design and engagement process in which the university takes the lead in the co-creation of SDG solutions. The model supports university-led efforts by leveraging three elements: (i) inherent synergies across SDGs, (ii) modes of solution identification, design, and implementation, and (iii) modes of stakeholder involvement and interactions. Using an integration of human-centered design (HCD) and shared-action learning (SAL), we document a case led by a large, public, research-oriented university on how different stakeholders participated in the co-creation process to find solutions. Based on the experience of about 50 students over 4 years in support of SDG implementation in Indonesia, the initiative leveraged synergies within SDG 1, 2, and 5 (related to increasing income-generating power for women and indigenous people) and SDG 7 (use of solar energy for fish preservation and crop processing). Throughout the process, interactions with stakeholders took place during design workshop courses, community consultations, mentoring and internships programs, partnering with companies and local universities and government, site visits, and immersions in local communities. The HCD-SAL model established a system for monitoring impacts across all stakeholders, particularly how the projects helped increase communities’ economic well-being. This model provides guidance for universities to develop genuine stakeholder engagement and support for finding and continuously improving SDG solutions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1589-1604
Number of pages16
JournalSustainability Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • Continuous improvement
  • Development competencies
  • Local community
  • Solution co-creation
  • University-led process

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Health(social science)
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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