IA40620 Systemic Approaches, Interdisciplinary Solutions

Academic Year 2024/2025



The challenges of sustainability are inherently complex and beyond the remit of any one discipline or sector. The aim of this module is to develop your Sustainability Mindset: that will help you adopt a systems and design thinking approach to solving challenges and enable a sustainable future for everyone.

“The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them” Einstein, 1946

Overarching Content

You will be introduced to key concepts, theories and terms in Sustainability as well as the history of the field and key questions and schools of thought. You will explore challenges from environmental, economic and social perspectives, as well as consider various frameworks including the Sustainable Development Goals as we navigate into the future.

Focusing on the context in Ireland, you will gain an overview of a number of key sectors (e.g. food, transport, energy, and retail). and examine the challenges of Sustainability within each of them from Environmental, Economic and Social lenses, engaging with key stakeholders & users.

You will engage with Design Thinking and other Systems Thinking approaches - theories, methodologies, processes, tools - and apply them in your project.

You will also engage with the UCD Innovation Academy Sustainable Living Lab to learn tools to prototype and test various sustainable solutions.

Over the course of this module you will work in multidisciplinary teams on real-world challenges across different key sectors (e.g. food, transport, energy, and retail). You will use design thinking approaches to engage with complex challenges in order to co-create innovative, sustainable solutions.

You will also be expected to undertake significant self-directed study to gain a broad understanding of sustainability and of the challenges as relevant to your projects.

Successful completion of this module will allow you to be enrolled in IA40610 and complete the Graduate Diploma in Design Thinking for Sustainability.


Enrolment in an Innovation Academy module means a commitment to active participation and engagement, which necessitates attendance at scheduled classes. We limit our class size to 40 students or less. We require a minimum of 16 participants to ensure enough people for teamwork and a dynamic classroom environment.

Schedule Details & Assessment schedule will adjust based on the length and timing of each delivery of this module.

UCD Innovation Academy : About Us

At the UCD Innovation Academy, we are a group of Educator Practitioners with extensive real-world experience as academics, business and social entrepreneurs, tech thinkers, creative professionals and design thinking practitioners.
We take an action-oriented approach to learning, with a combination of individual, group and class tasks and activities, including discussions, presentations and reflection. All of our teaching is grounded in academic rigour, and our focus is on learning from doing in a real-world context.


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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

By the end of this module you will be able to:

a) Apply increased sustainability literacy to understand the systemic nature of the complex challenges of sustainability
b) Understand the Design Thinking process and in particular how it can be applied to the local and global challenges we face on this planet
c) Work effectively in a multidisciplinary team to apply design thinking and develop solutions to a novel real-world challenge
d) Effectively and meaningfully communicate and justify (in person and in writing) proposed sustainable solutions
e) Reflect upon your own learning to enhance your future approach
f) Bring awareness to possible future career pathways within sustainability

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Small Group




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
All Innovation Academy modules take a learning by doing approach, combining, individual, group and team activities, tasks and projects including presentations, discussion and reflection:

• Activity/task-based learning
• Peer and Group work
• Reflective Learning
• Enquiry & Problem-based learning
• Student Presentations
• Guest Speakers

Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Participation in Learning Activities: In class tasks and activities Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8, Week 9, Week 10, Week 11, Week 12 Pass/Fail Grade Scale Yes


Group Work Assignment: Group Project: Teamwork, Presentation and Report Week 1, Week 3, Week 5, Week 7, Week 9, Week 11, Week 14, Week 15 Pass/Fail Grade Scale Yes


Portfolio: Portfolio: Record of individual learning, Reflective Practice and short Presentation Week 1, Week 3, Week 5, Week 7, Week 9, Week 11, Week 14, Week 15 Pass/Fail Grade Scale Yes



Carry forward of passed components
Remediation Type Remediation Timing
In-Module Resit Prior to relevant Programme Exam Board
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Group/class feedback, post-assessment
• Peer review activities
• Self-assessment activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Individual Feedback will be given to students upon request. This will include feedback based on their participation during the module and their deliverables