The below description of modules, or phases, of the PEOPLE project's Learning Cycle provides a roadmap for implementing the learning process in higher education curricula. The descriptions include a list of key intended learning outcomes and key elements of each phase, as well as selected readings and resources. While the modules have been – for the purpose of better clarity – neatly divided into four complementary and equally divided phases, in reality, the boundaries between these phases are not rigid and may overlap, merge, or iterate (e.g. between research and analysis of data).

Phase, phases, learning cycles, PEOPLE project, Erasmus+, roadmap, curriculum, problem-based learning, teaching approach


Phase 1: Preparation – Structuring the Issue

Training for studentsUnderstanding of people-centred development approaches
Training for industryProject design skills (research design, plan, timeline)
Training for universityTeamwork skills
Formation of student teamsInterdisciplinarity (problem formation, approach)
Team research plansAbility to explain SSH methods and approaches to industry/business partners
Formulating research questionsStakeholder analysis
Resource analysis and key readingsUnderstanding clients’ (industry) needs


The first phase sets the stage for the team research project. In terms of theory and methodology, the students are introduced to people-centred design and development approaches. As the problem that the teams will be addressing through their projects (case studies) had already been pre-identified in partnership between the HEI and the non-academic partner, they are also introduced to the specific theme of their challenge in the form of guest lectures, workshops, or key readings and resources. In terms of project work, the student teams are formed (4-5 students per team) and tasked with preparing a research plan, which includes identification of key research participants - stakeholders, designing the research timeline, formulating research questions, deciding on research methodology, establishing team communication.

HEI – industry cooperation

HEI – industry partnership plays a crucial role in the learning and teaching process: industry partners are involved in the activities from the beginning of the course onwards. In the first phase, they participate in the training programmes, both as trainees (Training for Industry) and as trainers (Training for University). Continuous discussion on research design and research plan is of key importance – industry partners provide feedback and contribute to shaping the student teams’ research plans by providing relevant content, information, sharing feedback, or raising doubts. This contributes to the learning process in terms of an understanding of the differences between “classical” academic research and applied research process done in collaboration with non-academic partners (“clients”). It also ensures an interdisciplinary dimension of problem framing and addressing – in this process, students experience the importance of being able to explain how and why their research approaches and methods (ethnography, participant observation, open-ended interviews etc.) are relevant for the development of products or services.

Suggested readings

  • PEOPLE Toolkit
  • PEOPLE Conceptual Framework
  • Blaikie, N. and J. Priest (2019). Designing Social Research: The Logic of Anticipation. Cambridge, Medford: Polity Press.
  • Ladner, S. (2014). Practical Ethnography: A Guide to Doing Ethnography in the Private Sector. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.


Phase 2: Research – Discovering the Unmet Needs

Qualitative researchTeam research management
Quantitative researchCommunicating research process to non-academics
Research reportsCommunicating preliminary research findings in a clear and understandable way
Team meetingsArguing for the relevance of people-centred research (thick data, qualitative research)
Quickly adapting to changed circumstances/new insights


Phase 2 is dedicated to carrying out the research part of the case study project – but as explained above, research and analysis form an iterative process, which means going back and forth between gathering data, analysing it, and using these analyses as inputs to the ongoing research process. In this phase, the student teams implement their research plans, experiment with their existing research methodology, and test people-centred research approaches in practice: they carry out fieldwork, conduct interviews, surveys, or experiments, make fieldnotes, supporting it with reading as needed. The key element is building relationships with key stakeholders (research participants, industry partners) and engaging them in the identified problem through research. The students take responsibility for sharing tasks between the team members and managing the research process. In team meetings (either in class or outside of class), they are tasked with sharing research progress and preliminary results with their team members and mentors in the form of short research progress reports or discussions.

HEI – industry cooperation

While academic mentors provide theoretical and methodological guidance to student teams, support the team’s reflection on carrying out research in applied project settings (e.g. in the form of intervision meetings, or workshops), industry mentors play the role of the “reality check” as “project clients”. It is important that industry partners remain engaged throughout the research process, by participating in intermittent meetings with the student teams. This allows the students to present the research progress, explain the rationale, and cross-check, re-align, or adapt the ongoing research process, which provides them with a valuable experience of clearly communicating the SSH research methodology and preliminary outcomes to a non-academic partner. Likewise, this provides the industry partners a closer insight into what kind of insights can be generated by people-centred approaches and thick data. It also ensures the co-ownership of the R&D project between the industry partner, HEI partner, and the students.

Suggested readings

  • Cefkin, M., ed. (2009). Ethnography and the Corporate Encounter: Reflections on Research in and of Corporations. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books.
  • Czarniawska, B., (2007). Shadowing: And Other Techniques for Doing Fieldwork in Modern Societies. Copenhagen: Liber, Copenhagen Business School Press.
  • Gunn, W., T. Otto, R. C. Smith ed. (2013). Design Anthropology: Theory and Practice. London, New York, New Delhi, Sydney: Bloomsbury.
  • Nolan, R. W., ed. (2013). A Handbook of Practicing Anthropology. Malden, Oxford, Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Phase 3: Analysis – Interpretation of Data

Analysis of research resultsTranslating between theory and practice
Interpretation of research dataWorking under time restraints (academic time vs industry time)
Co-creating solutionsExtracting key points from complex research
PrototypingTeamwork and co-creation (co-creation techniques)
Pragmatic attitude


As an ongoing dialogue between research and analysis, interpretation of data in people-centred design and development is a co-creative process. In phase 3, student teams place a strong focus on finding meaning in the often messy and complex set of thick data, which incorporates translating back and forth between theory and practice (consulting theoretical inputs, comparing relevant resources, identifying key themes, making choices and justifying them). If phase two was oriented towards discovering the “unknown unknowns”, the goal of this phase is to ask: what does the data tell us? And, importantly, what can we do with it? This phase therefore enters into the designing/developing of potential solutions. This is not only done as teamwork, but it also involves utilising co-creation techniques, with which the different stakeholders are engaged in this part of the team projects as well (e.g. workshops with research participants and industry partners, design studios, focus group discussions). The student outputs in this phase can include organising co-creative workshops with project stakeholders, identifying the need for carrying out additional research, or presenting research data and analyses to peers and mentors.

HEI – industry cooperation

Support from the HEI and industry mentors continues throughout the third phase. Academic support entails providing a space for theoretical and methodological considerations and translating between practice and theory (qualitative data analysis techniques, in-class presentations team data analyses, reading assignments etc.). Industry partners provide feedback on data analysis to student teams in the form of intervision meetings or similar. They are also an essential participant in the co-creative process – they might participate in co-creative workshops, where students-researchers could bring them in the same room with research participants (potential “users” of the developed solutions). This ensures that research outcomes are not interpreted by the research team in isolation, but that ideas and solutions are developed in partnership with a number of project stakeholders – research participants, as well as industry partners (“designing with, not only for the people”), keeping in check with “what is possible”, not only what is “desirable”.

Suggested readings

  • Dey, I. (1993). Qualitative data analysis: A user-friendly guide for social scientists. London and New York: Routledge.
  • Bryman, A., and Burgess, R.G., ed. (1994). Analyzing Qualitative Data. London: Routledge.
  • Buchenau, M. and J. F. Suri (2000). Experience Prototyping. Proceedings of DIS. New York: ACM. 424-433.
  • org (2015). The Field Guide to Human-Centered Design. (

Phase 4: Results – Conveying the Work

Fit-for-industry recommendationsWriting skills (fit-for-industry writing style)
Final reports (case study reports)Communicating research results to non-academic audiences
StorytellingDemonstrating the value of social sciences and humanities
PitchingTranslating research results into practice
Co-creation campEntrepreneurial skills (translating research into opportunities)


The final phase of the learning cycle is dedicated to conveying the student case study results outside of the core R&D team – to stakeholders and wider audiences. The student teams are tasked with providing concrete recommendations to industry partners, based on their research and co-creation process outcomes. The key goal of the final phase is twofold: 1) to acquire the knowhow on how to communicate research results and analyses to non-academic audiences; and 2) to be able to demonstrate – argue for – the relevance of SSH and people-centred approaches for the development of products or services, based on own case study. The students can be acquainted with the basic premises of science communication, provided with guidelines on what kind of presentation is expected in business environments, workshops can be organised on preparing and delivering efficient public presentations (e.g. the pyramid training, storytelling, pitching). The teams can implement different activities, further engaging their research participants – e.g. in living labs, roundtable discussions etc. In terms of academic outputs, the students may submit individual final project reports (reflecting on the learning process, experience, or case study outcomes) or incorporate their research findings in their theses. The case studies conclude with the student teams writing up their fit-for-industry recommendations and delivering a final presentation to the industry partner, while the learning cycle concludes with international teams of students, academic, and industry mentors sharing their experiences at the two-day Co-Creation Camp.

HEI – industry cooperation

The final phase is dedicated to the assessment of the learning process and the case study outcomes. Industry partners play an important role in providing feedback on the students’ results, the efficiency and style of their written recommendations and verbal presentations. HEI and industry partners are tasked with evaluating the collaboration in terms of carrying out the learning process (team case studies) and in terms of their own takeaways – how has the Learning Cycle impacted the industry’s perception and understanding of people-centred development approaches and the value of SSH for industry? How has it impacted HEI’s teaching approach?

Suggested readings

  • Olson, R. (2018). Don’t be Such a Scientist, Second Edition: Talking Substance in an Age of Style. Washington, Covelo, London: Island Press.
  • Joubert, M., Davis, L., and Metcalfe, J., eds. (2019). Stories in Science Communication (Special edition). Journal of Science Communication, 18(5).



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