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Humanitarian Innovation Challenge 2020

Creativity, Cooperation, and Coronavirus:

Six weeks of International Remote Collaboration to address Contemporary Challenges 


The Humanitarian Innovation Challenge takes a close look at the human condition by examining a world at a standstill, a world where personal and institutional plans have to be re-evaluated every two weeks compared to years or decades. The program is not looking to provide a panacea. Instead, it is interested in the small steps towards a better future and rethinking contemporary challenges. The core ideas or themes of the program will focus on expressing creativity, empathizing with loss, embracing ambiguity, visualising challenges, and synthesising ideas.

The novel program takes place across three continents (Lingnan University, Hong Kong; Rutgers-New Brunswick, USA; and University of Montpellier, France), globalising the student learning experience and connecting individuals from diverse learning backgrounds. Students will utilize evidence-centred design thinking to develop the skills necessary to solve a complex problem. They will also learn to recognize when a problem is worth solving. Participants will explore the nature of research questions which rely on acute observational data on the ground. The programme focuses on interpersonal competence: why people believe the things they believe, how to deal with opinion change, and why expectations and emotions skew judgments. The course highlights purposeful learning through multiple intelligences by curating innovative case studies of success in restoring the environment, resolving conflicts, curing diseases, overcoming poverty, and addressing other problems of social-environmental-injustice and economic stagnation. By the end of the course, each student will develop an original blueprint for an innovative research focus area: a creative proposal for solving a societal problem embedded within the arts and/or humanities.


  • Build an international community of scholars who work in interchangeable design teams on interdisciplinary ideas;
  • Engage students in uncertain times to provide them an opportunity to be change agents;
  • Facilitate the development of cognitive and metacognitive skills by learning across teams;
  • Enhance critical thinking for understanding complexities of the problem and solutions;
  • Promote the exploration of societal or ethical issues beforehand, in their in-situ relevant contexts, to equip students to generate judgements grounded in evidence;
  • Instil the confidence to tackle complex social-economic challenges through creative problem-solving
  • Provide more development aid, financial empowerment to regions in need for a more inclusive economy.

The program relies heavily on the completion of Problem Based Learning (PBL) outcomes and collaborative activities, assignments, and discussions of weekly topics. Students are expected to participate in weekly real-time online class sessions, course activities, and course assignments as outlined in the syllabus, weekly across multiple time zones.

  1. Climate risk and response: Physical hazards and socioeconomic impacts

  2. Social contract in the 21st century? Towards human-centered capitalism

  3. Artistic expression in age of Covid-19

  4. One Health

  5. Inequality

  6. Poverty trap and resiliency

  7. Behaviors and bounded rationality

  8. Resilient framework

  9. Social-Ecological Framework

  10. Competency model of creative thinking

Click here to register for the program

Program Summary


  • Online direct engagement of 90 mins for four days a week (Classes will start at 8/8:30 pm Hong Kong Time)
  • Mentors connect with students individually and with groups when groups are formed, at least twice a week
  • Two mentors will guide each group. Mentors will have a meeting once every two weeks;
  • 10 topics to be covered in the 6-week program each delivered by two 5-minute videos (10 minutes per topic) Additional supplementary online material will be provided for reference.
  • Three major assessments to be completed within the stipulated time frame:
    1. Problem framing and stakeholder analysis (due end of week 1)
    2. Innovation across disciplines embodied in arts and /or humanities (end of week 5)
    3. Bite-back (end of week 6)
  • One final group presentation (due on the 6th week)
  • Bi-weekly reflection blog (3)
  • Mid-term project video report (3mins video end of week 4)

For Lingnan students, the course is a three-credit free elective course (please check with OSL to see if you can receive the 3 credits).


Schedule (activities overview)

Week 1: Introductions, creativity, storytelling, and problem framing

Week 2: Mind-mapping, Design thinking, Biases, and grounded theory

Week 3: Power dynamics, Negotiations, unintended consequences, and team formation

Week 4: Empirical models, policy development and preliminary concept report.

Week 5: Multilateral idea exchange and final concept submission.

Week 6: Building a road map, visualising the idea and Path forward.

The student teams who come up with practical solutions with tangible plans will be inducted into programs in the respective universities which support innovative projects.

Click here to register for the program