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University of Exeter Business School

Designing a Better Future for All

Module titleDesigning a Better Future for All
Module codeMBAM961
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Ms Jackie Bagnall (Convenor)

Professor Saeema Ahmed-Kristensen (Convenor)

Professor Fiona Charnley (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks

5 days

8 days

Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module will cover 2 core topics: Tackling Global Challenges and the Circular Economy Design Challenge 

We recognise the importance of identifying and tackling the systemic global challenges in all our futures and as a core value and goal of the Exeter MBA programme, this module launches the whole programme.  Based on our experience of the One Planet MBA and the increasing complexity of global environmental and societal challenges, this module engages with systems thinking to understand the nature of those challenges and draws upon design thinking to develop long term sustainable solutions.

You will interact with researchers from academia, practitioners from the corporate world and the range of sustainability and circular economy experts working at the fore of innovation in this critical area. This interaction happens in workshops, lectures, seminars, networking events and design studios. The important thing is that the theme and its implications is constantly revisited through the MBA

Module aims - intentions of the module

The aim is that you leave the programme as an ethical and responsible change maker with a set of theories, concepts, tools, design principles and personal values that you will apply in whatever working context you ultimately occupy.

Tackling Global Challenges aims to: (1) explore the global challenges and the risks they pose (2) provide an overview of ethical perspectives, progressive business thinking and frameworks that are relevant when addressing these challenges (3) introduce the cultural setting of the Exeter MBA to the cohort in order to build a strong team and learning environment (4) provide the foundations for academic work in the MBA and the creation of high quality student output.

The Circular Economy Design Challenge aims to: (1) apply circular economy thinking (2) successfully work across multiple subject areas at the same time (3) synthesise multi-disciplinary information in order to present implementable solutions (4) draw upon principles of design thinking to build creative confidence in a collaborative setting.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. identify the significance of emerging global risks and analyse their likely impact upon business, society and the environment;
  • 2. critically analyse the nature of complexity and its relationship to the global system that business operates within;
  • 3. analyse emerging business models (such as the sharing economy, the circular economy and the performance economy) and appraise their suitability to positively impact global risks;
  • 4. interpret ethical theories in order to critically reflect upon the ethical consequences of any course of managerial action.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. research and evaluate the ethical implications of contemporary global risks upon both business and society;
  • 6. critically analyse global risk reports in order to draw a considered conclusion on the implications for business and society;
  • 7. apply theoretical concepts and arguments to the proposed circular economy solutions in order to critically appraise their suitability;
  • 8. collaborate in a diverse team to explore, debate, design and propose circular economy business solutions against a client brief.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 9. take a global outlook: apply creative intelligence and ethical imagination to complex problems to ensure that environmental and social governance is taken into account;
  • 10. apply critical thinking: present and defend strategic analyses in multiple forms (written, verbal, digital) based on case material, desk based and empirical research;
  • 11. work with a collaborative mind-set: give and receive feedback at all levels in a confident and respectful manner. Work inclusively across multi-cultural groups to research, explore and prepare a persuasive argument against an assignment or client brief;
  • 12. develop an ethical perspective: improve personal effectiveness through consciously and diligently making decisions on behalf of all stakeholders, environmental, social and financial;
  • 13. demonstrate technological and digital literacy: identify and apply relevant technologies to source, process and communicate accurate information.

Syllabus plan

Tackling Global Challenges is a 5-day module which critically explores contemporary issues in global risk, the challenges are broken down into categories as typically used by the World Economic Forum.

Through a variety of contributors, the ‘challenges’ are explored and the risks they pose to business and society are discussed. This is complemented with an introduction to ethical perspectives that have a wider relevance to students’ MBA education. The ideas around such terms as; the sharing economy, sustainability, circular economy, purposeful innovation, and business model innovation are highlighted and discussed. The module deliberately uses a broad approach in order to form contextual understanding within the cohort. The module also has space set aside to coach the cohort on how to effectively communicate their perspectives and ideas, something that is also built into the formative assignment.  

The Circular Economy Design Challenge contains three parts, the first is a formative three-day Circular Design sprint that builds the participants’ capacity to engage with vital skills such as design thinking (DT), user experience design (UX), and circular design principles. We bring in guests from partner organisations and offer students a live case study and a client partner to work alongside. The second part of the module is a six-week online CE Masterclass, working alongside a larger cohort of corporate partners. The final stageis a five-day corporate design challenge building on the knowledge and design skills previously covered. This is a live challenge with a client partner and through weeklong mentoring support, each MBA design team will develop a client proposition to be presented on the final day which is then followed later by a more considered presentation report. 

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning & Teaching, Group design activities91Lectures, workshop and facilitated group discussions
Guided Independent Study109Reading, research, group work, design, writing

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
TGC - Workshop exercises, presentations, and discussions.In class presentation on ethics – 10 minutes.9-12Oral feedback
TGC - Draft Assignment (individual) – to give students early insight into programme requirements for assignment prep2,500 words1,2,4,5,6,9Written feedback
Design Challenge & design sprint discussions plus formative presentationsIn class - 15 minute group client presentation3,7,8,10-13Oral feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
TGC - Assignment essay (individual)502,50 words1,2,4,5,6,9Written feedback
MCQ Exam515 Qs MCQ 1,3,7Written feedback
Design Challenge: Team presentation with accompanying report against a client brief45Final client presentation report 3500 words plus slide deck and illustrations3,7,8,10-13Written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
TGC - Assignment essay (individual) (50%)TGC - Assignment essay (individual) (2,500 words, 50%)1,2,4,5,6,9Within 6 weeks of original submission
MCQ Exam (5%)MCQ Exam (15 questions, 5%)1,3,7Within 6 weeks of original submission
Design Challenge: Team presentation with accompanying report against a client brief (45%)Design Challenge: Team presentation report against client brief plus slide deck and illustrations (45%, 3500 words)3,7,8,10-13Within 6 weeks of original submission

Re-assessment notes

An overall module mark of 50% is required from across all three components.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Ellen MacArthur Foundation. (2015). Towards a circular economy business rationale for an accelerated transition. Retrieved from
  • World Economic Forum. (2019). Global risks report 2019. Retrieved from
  • Crane, A., & Matten, D. (2004). Business ethics: A European perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Bakker, C., den Hollander, M., & van Hinte, E. (2019). Products that last: Product design for circular business models. Amsterdam: BIS Publishers.
  • Fisher, C., Lovell, A., & Valero-Silva, N. (2013). Business ethics and values: Individual, corporate and international perspectives (4th ed.). Harlow: Pearson Education.
  • Raworth, K. (2018). Doughnut economics: Seven ways to think like a 21st century economist.  London: Random House.
  • Zolli, A., & Healy, A.M. (2012). Resilience: Why things bounce back. London: Headline Publishing Group.

Key words search

Global challenges, Business risks, Resilience, Circular Economy, Linear Economy, Ideation, Design Challenge, Business Solution

Credit value20
Module ECTS


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