Innovation Unit Design Academy

We are accepting expressions of interest for our one-year, part-time service design programme starting September 2023.


In 2021 at Innovation Unit we established our own in-house service design academy to provide high level design skills, confidence and experience for professionals working in social innovation and public service transformation.

All of our learners develop a mastery of service design methods and grow confidence in leading and facilitating service design work. Some have used the course as a stepping stone into a service design career, while others have used it to grow leadership skills, get promoted or take on more complex and ambitious projects.

What does the programme cover?

Our curriculum has been created by designers, for designers working in complex social change. We cover a range of design methods and thinking as well as building confidence and leadership skills.

Who delivers the programme?

The design academy is delivered by Innovation Unit’s service design team – global leaders at applying service design methods to create social impact, at scale. For the past 12 years our design team has been growing and evolving its practice, building expertise in a range of methods that blend design thinking, system change and service design.

Learners are welcomed into our design studio and will build a year-long relationship with members of our design team. This includes coaching and mentoring, as well as access ‘behind the scenes’ to some of Innovation Unit’s current projects with partners across NHS, local government and large VCSE organisations.

In addition, we bring in experts from around the globe to host masterclasses in their areas of expertise.

“As a kinaesthetic learner, the course is designed in a way where you learn through doing. I have enjoyed how real life examples are brought to the teaching, which makes the concepts more tangible.” 2022/2023 Participant

What’s the time commitment?

The programme runs from September to June and includes weekly sessions and workshops, accompanied by one-to-one coaching, design projects and group activities. Most of the learning is done virtually, as our learners are based in different parts of the UK. However there are a small number of days throughout the year in which we run in-person masterclasses.

The programme culminates in a three-month, self-initiated project for a real client organisation done on a pro-bono basis. The depth and length of the programme ensures that skills and knowledge are not only learned, but practised in a way that aligns to individuals’ interests and preferences.

Both contact learning and self directed learning time equates to roughly 40 days total, or one day per week.

What about accreditation?

The programme has been developed in collaboration with the Service Design Network, an international body that provides accreditation to service design practitioners.

Graduates receive a Service Design Practitioner certification, awarded by the International Service Design Network, as well as a two-year membership of the Service Design Network, including access to its publications and networks.

What sort of background do I need to apply?

The academy is recommended for researchers, coordinators and consultants who wish to become service designers, and for managers, commissioners and emerging leaders in public and third sector organisations who are interested in using design thinking to grow their impact.

“Before I was just knocking on the door of service design … and now I’m fully immersed in the world! It’s been a fascinating and practical experience.” 2022/2023 Participant

How do I find out more?

Our next course starts in September 2023. The application process will involve an interview and a presentation of past work. The deadline for applications is 30 June 2023 at 17:00.

Course fees are £8,500+ VAT. We offer a limited number of discounted places (25% off) for self funders.

If you are ready to apply, please visit the Innovation Unit Design Academy website. To learn more, or ask questions, please join us at our info events:

Info evening – Tuesday 23rd May 2023 at 18:00

Info lunch – Wednesday 7th June 2023 at 13:00