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One switched-on lightbulb surrounded by switched-off lightbulbs

A fast-paced, extra-curricular innovation programme using Design Thinking to find solutions to challenges presented by the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): This is Game Changer.

Game Changer has allowed us to engage students with these goals on a mass scale, empowering them to be global citizens and leaders who use ingenuity, creativity and innovative design to deliver environmentally, socially and economically sustainable solutions. The programme has recently received international recognition by being named among UN "SDG Good Practices", a major success for Rachel Bickerdike and the team.

Innovative delivery and outstanding participation

The delivery of Game Changer follows the same spirit of creativity and innovation: we have experimented with and utilised collaborative online tools such as Padlet and Miro to their full potential. This has proven to be popular among students: take-up of the Game Changer programme has far exceeded expectations, engaging with over 500 participants, proving that there is an appetite among our students to actively contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals and to have an impact on the world they live in.

Working for real-world impact

We actively encourage students to consider if their ideas have value in the real world, creating a pipeline for our entrepreneurship activity. We have seen this deliver strong results, for example, a group of Game Changers set up the Durham Environment & Sustainability Association, promoting careers in sustainable industries. Events held by the group regularly attract over 100 online participants and high-profile speakers.

Another group of Game Changer participants pursued the idea they developed during the programme – an intelligent food waste app with integrated AI technology to monitor food consumption and tackle food waste. They reached the final of our business planning competition and are applying for the world-renowned Y-Combinator accelerator programme – fingers crossed!

What comes next

Game Changer is now becoming well known across the university, not just by students, but by academic colleagues. We are working to move Game Changer activity into the core curriculum so that every student has the opportunity to engage with the SDGs.

The concept of Game Changer is easily replicable, and we have created a toolkit to support colleagues in other institutions to trial this with their students and achieve a similar impact. This gives us lots of opportunities to collaborate with our colleagues across higher education.