01 April 2021

LiU Innovation and the human rights organisation Civil Rights Defenders have been working together for two years on new innovation processes. LiU students have played a central role in the work.

Karin Ackerholm presents the global goals for sustainable development.
Karin Ackerholm presents the Global Goals for Sustainable Development.
“We have focussed on social innovation, by which I mean creative ways to work with societal challenges. We have learned a lot through the collaboration, and developed new working methods”, says Karin Ackerholm, innovation adviser at LiU Innovation.

Knowledge about innovation processes

The LiU Changemakers programme offered by LiU Innovation been integrated into the InGenious course at the university. During the InGenious course, students work in interdisciplinary project groups to take on various types of problem and issues that are presented to them. Official bodies, companies and organisations describe the challenges they are facing. It is then the task of the students to try to find ways to approach these challenges, and possibly also solutions to them. The idea is that the students learn more about innovation processes, while at the same time the ideas and suggested solutions can benefit the client.

Lives at risk

LiU Changemakers has made it possible for Civil Rights Defenders to be one of the organisations that present their development needs to the course. This human rights organisation is active in around 30 countries throughout the world in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Balkans. Working to defend human rights may put your own and other people’s lives at risk. Activists are also often subjected to extreme pressure, and may need help with preventive measures to avoid burnout and depression.

Self-assessed mental health

Karin Göransson is taking the Graphic Design and Communication programme. She applied to the InGenious course because she wanted a broader perspective to her education – to learn more about entrepreneurship and experience her professional role in depth.
“Our project group was given the task of working with Civil Rights Defenders and the mental health of human rights campaigners. We drew up concept, a questionnaire, which the activists use to self-assess their mental health. This can make it easier for them to realise when they have crossed a mental health limit, and need to seek help from their organisation”, says Karin Göransson.

Increased insight of need

Wilhelm Hansson is also a student in the group working with the Civil Rights Defenders project. He is taking the master’s programme in industrial engineering and management.
“We haven’t come up with a completed product, and the Civil Rights Defenders organisation wasn’t expecting us to. But our help has given it deeper insight into the need to rapidly detect mental ill-health and the risk of burnout in employees”, he says.
The students call the concept they have developed Mindmate. They are continuing the work and developing a completed solution, maybe in the form of an app, that human rights activists can use to evaluate their mental health and seek help without delay.

The value of a diverse project group

Karin Göransson and Wilhelm Hansson have gained a lot from the InGenious course. This is not only from working in a project group with members from different study programmes, but also from working with tasks that can bring clear benefit to the lives of others.
“There is a large added value when the students in the group come from different programmes with different knowledge and ways of looking at things. It’s more difficult to work in such a group, but the end result is better”, says Wilhelm Hansson.

Decisive collaboration

Anna Pettersson Nulu has led the work at Civil Rights Defenders.
“Collaboration, such as the one with Linköping University, is incredibly important. We work together with thousands of human rights activists in some of the most difficult and dangerous regions in the world. One of our most important tasks is to increase their safety such that they can continue their work for human rights. We have had the opportunity to present the challenges that human rights activists face, and the students have been able to examine them from different perspectives. They have then been able to present possible solutions. This model for work with innovation processes is one that we truly believe in, and other universities have shown an interest in the way of working we have developed”, says Anna Pettersson Nulu.

Increased interest in social innovations

Together with Karin Ackerholm at LiU Innovation, she is positive to the idea of continuing the project, which has been financed by Vinnova, the Swedish government’s innovation agency.
“We see that our students have an increasing interest in social innovations. They want to contribute to solving societal problems related to the sustainable development goals of the UN. The effects on society can be huge”, Karin Ackerholm points out.

LiU Changemakers


Translated by George Farrants

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