Being Human unit

BS1 – Keir Williams 2021

Being Human Unit Resource Board with Feedback –

I have written and directed since 2017 at the Centre for Innovation, which teaches students to learn, apply, document, and reflect on participatory design and research methods for Innovation. We have ~120 students from thirteen different disciplines on the unit who work in transdisciplinary teams to solve ‘real world’ problems with and for people in Bristol.

Being Human: Design By Nature Awards

In the first year of our Innovation program at the Centre, students work in transdisciplinary teams of five people in the Being Human Unit and Design and Thinking units. Our assessment briefs this year were based on the submission for the Design By Nature: Student Design Awards. The awards focus on ‘inspiring innovative ways of living that are good for the environment. The brief asked :

‘Create an affordable, practical, and evidence-based prototype that brings the multiple benefits of Nature into the homes of low-income inner-city communities.’

In 2020/2021, we delivered the unit through facilitated online and blended workshops and structured teaching around a series of bi-weekly design and research challenges. We provided workshops and interviews with industry experts, including a documentary filmmaker, a sustainable futures researcher, specialist librarians and local community activists. In addition, we asked our guests to provide resources and help designs tasks for the team’s by-weekly challenges.

Each week in the unit we provide a facilitated teaching session, video lectures from teaching staff and industry guests, case studies, and library resources to help our students complete each challenge. These included:

  • Lecture Series – We provide a lecture video that will contextualise the facilitated session and share our guest’s professional practices.
  • Library Resource – The library skills resource, developed with our specialist subject librarians Dr. Marika Zeimbekis and Sarah Brain, provides the resources, skills, and confidence to use the library resources at the university for design-led research.
  • Professional Development Resource – These video series and resources support the professional development task.


The outcomes for the challenges included reflective writing, map-making, photography, and social media posts. At the end of the unit, we asked our student teams to submit their Design by Nature Awards submissions.

Our student team ‘Natural Plushies’ were shortlisted for the award and received funding to develop their design. This success demonstrates the value of my engaged approach to teaching in this unit.