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Northumbrian Water Group Executive Education course

Custom executive education course for Innovation Leads from across Northumbrian Water Group, UK.


The Creative Leadership for Inclusive Innovation 21 week programme was based on two of the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design core competencies and pillars: Inclusive Design and Creative Leadership. It sits within the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design’s Inclusive Design for Business Impact area, led by Dr Ninela Ivanova.

The course was delivered live from London via zoom for 34 innovation leads from within Northumbrian Water Group (NWG) from across organisational departments, including HR, operations and communication, amongst others.

The course was led by Dr Ninela Ivanova, Innovation Fellow and Rama Gheerawo, HHCD Director. Course facilitators included Ivelina Gadzehva, as well as RCA graduates Stiliyana Minkovska and Hemal Dias. Dr Melanie Flory - HHCD Research Director and Founder of neuroscience-based consultancy MindRheo - contributed content on the neuroscience of Empathy, Clarity and Creativity.

Course Structure

The programme ran between January and June 2022. It had a flexible format of synchronous and asynchronous learning activities, to offer an optimal learning experience.

The course included:

  • 5 building blocks in the form of live sessions introducing the pillars of inclusive design and creative leadership through lectures and facilitated group exercises
  • A virtual learning environment with online resources for self-practice and further learning
  • An inclusive innovation brief, for which over the course of 12 weeks participants deployed the new learning in practice to tackle six self-defined innovation challenges of relevance to their work in NWG
  • Group feedback to progress ideas from concept to solution prototypes.


The six innovation briefs spanned ideas and solutions that would enhance business impact both internally for NWG staff, and externally - for NWG customers and communities. Topics included:

  • Making the transition to hybrid working and return to the office more inclusive and enjoyable
  • Developing a programme for enhancing employee experience and advancing career progression
  • A platform for transferring of knowledge from existing to new managers
  • A series of solutions to supercharge NWG’s workforce diversity through more inclusive recruitment
  • Better gathering of customer data
  • Increasing registration to NWG Priority Services.

Employing a design thinking approach to address the innovation briefs encouraged participants to spend time exploring the problem space - with people and stakeholders - before jumping to conclusions or coming up with solutions.

Through working in cross-organisational teams, participants were also able to meet and collaborate with members of staff across organisational functions who they wouldn’t have met or worked with previously.

Participants report that they are already using the tools in their daily work and that they are committed to implementing the ideas in practice across NWG.

The programme culminated in a live event on the 7th floor of the new Rausing Research Building in Battersea. Award winning students, with graduate projects related to water sanitation, were invited to attend and present their research.

Further engagement

RCA Design Sprint, July 2022

Dr Ninela Ivanova, Innovation Fellow and Rama Gheerawo attended the 2022 NWG Innovation Festival and helped them run a a design sprint on Better Bills. Together, the design sprint teams explored how to advance customer engagement and experience around three main challenges, i.e. reducing water consumption, enabling everyone to pay their bills, and encouraging participants to choose tap water.

The Northumbrian Water Award for Inclusive Innovation

Awarded during the RCA annual degree show, as part of the Helen Hamlyn graduate student awards. The winning projects were:

2022 winner: FLOAT by Luisa Jane Charles (MA/MSc Global Innovation Design, 2022)

'Project FLOAT brings together technology with the need for real time water monitoring in some of the most remote and affected areas of the world. This idea could have global benefits.' Jennie Collingwood, Head of Marketing and External Communications, Northumbrian Water.

2021 winner: MO, Motion Oriented Playground by Natalie Bar-David Frenkel, MA/MSc Innovation Design Engineering

“The Creative Leadership for Inclusive Innovation programme was delivered to a cohort of our senior leaders and the impact has been significant; colleagues were able to develop their creativity and learn about inclusive design and innovation in a supportive and challenging environment using real business issues as stimulus. The projects that were scoped as part of the programme are progressing well within the business and will make a real difference to our customers and employees.”

Jennie Collingwood Head of Marketing and External Communications, Northumbrian Water

“The six projects were truly inclusive - from how the groups manifested the creative leadership values of empathy, clarity and creativity in their working together as a team, through to how the solutions that they propose have the potential to create real impact for NWG as an organisation.”

Dr Ninela Ivanova Course Leader

Key details


More information

Custom Executive Education Masterclasses and Workshops

Through our portfolio of innovation masterclasses and workshops, the RCA provides senior-level professionals and business leaders with critical business skills. We deliver courses for businesses, organisations and universities on design thinking, service design, creative leadership, disruptive innovation, entrepreneurship, human-centred design, artificial Intelligence and healthcare design.

We can tailor the curriculum for a day, a week, or several weeks over the course of a year with interrelated projects. Courses can be delivered online, on-campus, hybrid or at partner organisations. Previous courses have been delivered in Dubai, Japan, Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Germany and Mexico.

Find out more here.

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