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Enactus: Social Engagement With Design Thinking

Students from the student community Enactus joined a Design Thinking workshop to elaborate a strategy for generating innovations. They found creative ways of approaching challenges and visualizing ideas.

Making Knowledge Transfer Cool and Easy

Enactus is a worldwide, non-profit organization that enables students to employ entrepreneurial spirit to tackle societal challenges in their communities. Locally organized, interdisciplinary teams work together on projects to set up sustainable social businesses. The Enactus team at the University of Mannheim for example designed a gift box from regional souvenirs produced by disabled people.

In a student organization such as Enactus, there is a high level of fluctuation in the membership, as existing members move to another university or finish their studies. When moving on, every project lead has to hand over a lot of information to his/her successor, which means that excellent knowledge transfer is an important issue for all Enactus teams. To find a durable solution, two student groups from the Enactus groups Mannheim and Frankfurt joined a Design Thinking workshop at SAP’s Design- and Co-Innovation Center (DCC) at the SAP AppHaus in Heidelberg. The goal was to create a concept for knowledge transfer without friction, and to prototype a service.

Most of the participants in the workshop did not know each other, but this actually turned out to be something of an advantage: “In our daily work and life, certain habits, roles, and attitudes can become entrenched. Once people meet outside of their usual environment, however, they communicate in a new way and forget about expectations constraints.”

Dream Wild, Analyze Hard, Implement Fast

To really get into the mindset of the people whom the solution is addressed to, the Enactus team started with persona descriptions in order to define their target groups. The SAP AppHaus, the creative environment of the DCC located in a former tobacco factory, served as an inspiring place for new experiences. The large workshop space with a podium in the center is surrounded by working spaces for smaller groups. With countless colorful post-it stickers, whiteboards and movable furniture, the interior design was not the only thing that impressed the students: “The entire atmosphere was really cool, relaxed, and innovative! People are really working with you on your problems and it´s great that we can adopt these creative methods.”

SAP Design Thinking Coach Beate Riefer explains her favorite, the Disney method: “The characters “dreamer”, “spoiler”, and “realist” played an important role in our workshop: While the dreamer encouraged the students to think wild and to brainstorm ideas that build on ideas of others ─ such as a printer to download all knowledge from a human brain ─ the spoiler supplied the reality check: ‘Which problems do we need to consider?’ Again and again, ideas were critically assessed and aligned. The realist pragmatically examined the idea and evaluated the ideal solution.’’


Everybody Can Draw an Ideal Solution

What lessons learned can be shared from the different stakeholders? (including DCC team)“If people start having fun, they free their minds and stop reflecting about what they are currently doing!” is the experience of Sonja Lauth, SAP UX Design Specialist. The coach encouraged the students to visualize their solution proposal using a set of basic figures. A storybook was created in a very short space of time. Abstract black and white sketches were a good way of illustrating how an experienced student – represented by the old and wise Star Wars character Yoda – mentors a younger peer, and takes a a bus trip to an offsite training event. “Sketching is an ideal method for visualizing ideas. Everybody can draw, and everybody can contribute!”

The Enactus teams were impressed by the results of the Design Thinking workshop. Alumni advisor Corinna Kartzke, a former member of Enactus Mannheim, took the opportunity to broaden her horizons by taking up an internship in SAP’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) team. To improve time management, another workshop was organized for Enactus students at the University of Mannheim. Other team members joined the Sustainabilty Jam Heidelberg to create ideas, solutions, products and services that can impact the world and society with committed people.

“Design Thinking makes you think out of the box! It’s so practical and user-oriented, and has changed my view of SAP!”

Corinna Kartzke, former member of Enactus Mannheim, Alumni Advisor

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  • Very nice reading, thanks for sharing. It made me remember the DT project in which I participated with students of Universidade de São Paulo (USP) in Brazil last year. The experience of coaching students from different areas, specially from the University where I graduated many years ago, was very rich. I can imagine how nice it must be to have a workshop like that in the SAP AppHaus 🙂

    Looking forward to visiting it.

    Best regards,


    • Hi Raquel,

      Thanks a lot for your compliments! I am only the author 🙂 but the DT coaches from the DCC that I interviewed really enjoyed this workshop with the students, and I am happy that this is transported in my story.

      You are welcome to visit the AppHaus in Heidelberg!

      It´s a great place to work and co- innovate.

      Best regards,


      • Gloria Costa and Susanne Kreuz,

          Thank you both and also Ann-Sofie Ruf for inviting me. I was very happy last week to have the chance to finally visit the AppHaus! It’s an amazing environment, seems to be a lovely place to work. I loved the DT theme rooms. Customers must really enjoy co-innovate with you.

          I would like to thank the AppHaus team for receiving me and Heike van Geel for her support.

        Gloria, gostei muito de saber que há uma pessoa que fala Português no time 😉

        Best regards,