Working with an innovation case provided by an external client (e.g. a private company, public institutions, NGOs etc.) may provide the foundation for the project work in an innovation course, in which external organisations provide real-life challenges, sparring and feedback to the students. A case description typically contains a problem description posed by an external client, background material and criteria of a solution to the described problem.
It is important during the preparation of an innovation case to make sure to that there is a clear connection between the content of the case description and the course learning outcomes. Often it may be challenging to design a case description which both fits the learning objectives of the course and the cooperation with external clients. The case description does not however have to be a static document, but can function as the foundation of continual negotiations between the students and the external clients regarding the understanding of the problem and the development of potential solutions.
The innovation case should provide the opportunity of establishing connections between an interdisciplinary issue from the real world and the competences that the students contribute with. Furthermore the case should motivate the students to engage themselves in the solution of the problem. This may be done by outlining different viewpoints and perspectives as well a by pointing out the dilemmas within the case. In addition the innovation case needs to be credible and authentic in relation to the external client.
You may find inspiration by reading the Q&A with teachers, in which several of the courses are based on collaborations with external clients.
The case description is drawn up in collaboration with the course responsible/course coordinator and a contact person from the external organisation, with consideration of the following:
- LEARNING OBJECTIVES AND PROBLEM POSED BY CLIENT
The problem needs to support the acquisition of the disciplinary content of the course and be relevant to the learning objectives.
- PRACTICAL CIRCUMSTANCES
The problem should be scoped so that the students are able to solve it within the timeframe of the course and with the available resources
- THE CLIENT’S NEEDS
The problem needs to constitute a real issue within the company/organisation/business.
When you are going to find a case partner and work out a case description, it may be a good idea to:
- Identify a number of organisations that are relevant and interesting in relation to the disciplinary field of the course
- Identify the right contact person in each organisation
- Make contact and try to understand the potential collaborator’s needs. It is advantageous if the students’ projects are communicated as valuable services, as this means that potential collaborators may become interested in following the projects and applying the results. In relation to this you may consider to include co-financing by the collaborators in order for them to participate.
- Estimate how many students/groups of students need to be matched with an external client. If the course has around 40 students you may choose to let 8 groups of students cooperate with 8 clients or let 2 groups share one client, in which case you only need to include 4 clients. You may also choose to let all students work with the same case posed by one external client.
- Make a case description in cooperation with the external client and make sure that it is ready before the course begins.
- Make sure to formulate the client’s specific challenge or problem in a way that is neither too narrow or solution oriented, but at the same time not too open or abstract. The external client may pose a challenge that calls for specific solutions and you need to try to avoid this by rephrasing it in a way that allows more room for the students to examine the possible solutions more broadly.
You can download a template for organising an innovation case as well as viewing more examples beneath. We recommend that you relate to all the themes of the template but work with the content in order to adapt it to your own course and context.