Please note! Course description is confirmed for two academic years (1.8.2018-31.7.2020), which means that in general, e.g. Learning outcomes, assessment methods and key content stays unchanged. However, via course syllabus, it is possible to specify or change the course execution in each realization of the course, such as how the contact sessions are organized, assessment methods weighted or materials used.


After the course you have a real life hands-on experience on how societal problems are worked into design problems and tackled with design, agile, and lean startup methods. You learn to combine many of your previous studies into a realistic project setting: group work, facilitation, societal understanding, data analytics, software design, service design methods, business and strategy thinking, and creating an actionable solution towards a social problem. Also, you learn how to turn concrete project work into personal development and learning to help you become an even better professional.

Credits: 9

Schedule: 07.09.2020 - 30.11.2020

Teacher in charge (valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022): Risto Sarvas

Teacher in charge (applies in this implementation): Risto Sarvas

Contact information for the course (applies in this implementation):


Head assistant:


CEFR level (applies in this implementation):

Language of instruction and studies (valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022):

Teaching language: English

Languages of study attainment: English


  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    In the course the students work in a group on a real societal problem, based on UN's Sustainable Development Goals, together with a real organisation looking into solving that problem. The course is divided into three parts. First is the preparation phase where the project context and metrics for success are defined, as well as the personal learning goals for each student. The second part of the course is an intensive design project in the end of which the team presents a service concept. The third part of the course is about reflecting and learning from the intense and realistic project setting.

  • Applies in this implementation:

    Societal Design Project (SDP) is a revision of the Digital Service Design (DSD) that has run for 7 years and been rewarded practically every year as one of the best courses at Aalto’s CS department. Last year it was the best one :)

    Due to the pandemic, the lectures will be online on Zoom. We try our best to make them interactive and educating, and perhaps even fun :)

    During the course, students work in groups of 4–5 to create solutions for cases provided by 7 different client organisations. A key point of the course is to give students real projects, not academic exercises.

    NOTE! The course is intensive and requires everyone to commit to a specific schedule (it is 9 credits, after all). That is the secret of the course’s long success: students actually commit to the team work and the client case. In other words, please don’t think about doing the course only during the weekends.

    Read more about workload below.

    Read more from:

Assessment Methods and Criteria
  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    The teaching consists of lectures and workshops and group guidance. The grade is based on lecture participation, individual study diary on personal reflection, and final group presentation. The individual grade is mostly based on the group's grade, with +1 or -1 from the personal study diary.

  • Applies in this implementation:

    Teams will be graded on their final presentation by the course teacher after consulting the assistants and clients. Student's own grade will be the team's grade.

  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    48h lectures and workshops. 24h guided group work. 96h group work. 40h independent study. 32h final presentation. Total 240h.

  • Applies in this implementation:

    • Course starts Monday September 7th and ends in December. All lectures are mandatory.
    • Lectures/workshops every Monday from 14:15 to 18:00ish in Zoom.
    • Group meeting (circa 60 min) with team coach every Thursday (time to be arranged with each coach).
    • Weekly meeting with your client (ca 60 min) (exact time to be arranged with your client).
    • Additional team meetings (group work) on a weekly basis as required.
    • As mentioned, the course is going to be online. Each team and coach and client can arrange their own meetings in physical proximity as long as the rules for distancing & safety are applied.

    Overall, here is the minimum time required:
    Monday lectures 14-18.
    Thursday coaching (one hour)
    Weekly client meeting (one hour)
    Several team meetings every week (several hours).
    The weekly deliverable (every Sunday 23:59) in the course is a 2-3min video (unless told otherwise). Reserve time to do that as well.


Study Material
  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    Lecture materials, readings, tools.

Substitutes for Courses
  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    Substitutes CS-E5290 Digital Service Design, however if you have CS-E5290 as a compulsory course in semester 2020-21 then be in contact with Risto Sarvas.

  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    SCI-C1001 SCI project or MUO-C3006 Palvelumuotoilun perusteet or similar basic course on design and project work is required. CS-C1180 Verkkojulkaisemisen perusteet or similar basics of web and media design is recommended. TU-E6150 Technology & society or CS-E5610 Social Media or similar basics of technology and society, and or sustainable development is recommended. 

SDG: Sustainable Development Goals

    1 No Poverty

    2 Zero Hunger

    3 Good Health and Well-being

    4 Quality Education

    5 Gender Equality

    6 Clean Water and Sanitation

    7 Affordable and Clean Energy

    8 Decent Work and Economic Growth

    9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

    10 Reduced Inequality

    11 Sustainable Cities and Communities

    12 Responsible Production and Consumption

    13 Climate Action

    14 Life Below Water

    15 Life on Land

    16 Peace and Justice Strong Institutions

    17 Partnerships for the Goals


Details on the schedule
  • Applies in this implementation:

    7.9. Introduction and meaningful work.
    No teams yet, we focus on your own goals and values in design work.

    14.9. Society & Organisations.
    You meet your client together with your team.

    21.9. Societal Impact.

    28.9. Business Objectives.

    5.10. Customers & Insight.
    First round of interviews of potential customers/users.

    12.10. Value proposition

    19.10. Break week

    26.10. Customer Journey & Business Model

    2.11. Validation & Prototypes
    Second round of interviews of potential customers/users. 

    9.11. Scaling up & MVP.

    16.11. Final Presentations.

    23.11. Group retrospective.

    30.11. Individual reflections.
    (End of course)


Registration and further information