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Author's profile photo Jackie Montesinos Suarez

NA Nonprofit newsletter: CSR partners take on Design Thinking

(Article Written by Merisa DiRocco)


As a global information technology leader, SAP is always trying to find ways to embrace new ideas and to be innovative.  Design Thinking is a tool that will do just that.  We offer Design Thinking as a unique problem solving experience that brings together Business Thinking with Design Thinking to create value for our customers and stakeholders.  It combines empathy, creativity, and rationality to discover new opportunities.  SAP has a group of employees who are trained in Design Thinking and work closely with our customers to solve business problems, sometimes even before they buy our products! We do this through joint design thinking workshops.

A Design Thinking workshop is comprised of four key elements:  1) Define the problem, 2)Create and consider many options, 3) Refine selected directions, 4) Pick the winner, EXECUTE.  You can argue that there are different techniques to Design Thinking, but the core of the process stays the same and is meant to deliver. 

If Design Thinking is a way to drive innovation to help our customers, why not take it a step further and work with some of our non-profit partners?  The Design Thinking team and the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) team have come together to put this process to the test and solve problems with our non-profit partners through this innovative method.  This is one of the ways we can work more closely with our partners and make a bigger impact in the

Design Thinking in Action


As part of our October Month of Service, SAP Canada partnered with the North York Women’s Shelter and GIRLsmarts, both long-time CSR partners, to implement a Design Thinking workshop on ways to improve their programs.  

The workshop for the North York Women’s Shelter was geared towards finding new ways to engage youth in conversations on gender violence.  The workshop was facilitated by SAP’s Sue Kennedy and Glen Moffat.  They worked with a diverse group of participants to discuss a variety of issues around: how to reach youth, how to break down the fear of talking about gender issues, understanding where violence comes from, and solutions to engage local
communities as a first step.  They utilized many of the Design Thinking tools to come up with ideas, and to customize an execution plan to help solve this issue of gender violence.  

Future plans include developing an app/site for students to use, working with community centers and leaders to create role models and spokespeople for positive gender relationships, and a “pay it forward” type concept where word of mouth and non-violence messages are spread via peers.

The Design Thinking session for GIRLsmarts will focus on developing a grade 7 program for girls who are interested in choosing careers in computer
science.  A team of SAP volunteers, inspired by the program, took part in this unique experience.  Together they brainstormed new ways they could turn this idea into a reality and are currently executing upon that plan in Vancouver.   


Most recently in the United States, Charlotte Bui, a trained Design Thinking professional at SAP, worked with the Franklin Institute (TFI) located in Philadelphia, PA.  TFI is a CSR partner and is one of the historic museums in the US focused on science education and development. 

With the use of Design Thinking tools, we explored new ways to help TFI generate ideas focused on their patrons; understanding them, exploring their needs, and addressing those needs while bringing value to TFI.  These ideas sparked conversations around social media, data analytics, design innovation, and humanizing challenges.  The next steps are to explore the ideas generated and evaluate a tie in with SAP solutions (mobility, Cloud, Netbase, etc…), in addition to executing on some of the action items from the meeting.

Working with these great organizations to create a skills based volunteer opportunity is one of the ways we leverage our talent and technology to make an impact in the community. We’ve got sessions lined up in the next weeks in Chicago and Palo Alto with several of our non-profit partners as well.

Want to learn more?

Design Thinking is a creative way to generate new ideas and encourage maximum input and participation. SAP continues to work with our customers, partners, and our community through Design Thinking to help them RUN BETTERWatch a short video to learn more about Design Thinking at SAP.  

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