Faculty of Social Sciences
Creative problem solving

The UN provides PhD candidates at the UiB with a challenge

PhD candidates at UiB will be able to solve a specific SDG challenge provided by the UN Environment Programme. Through a new course in creative problem-solving, PhD candidates learn and apply methods that can help them establish connections across disciplines and solve problems that they could face in working life.

Kreativ problemløsning
Susan Johnsen, Birgit Kopainsky, Ingunn Johanne Ness and Hiwa Målen are preparing creative problem solving.
Torhild Dahl, UiB

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“Rapid and radical change has become the norm. In such a complex and uncertain world, the traditional problem-solving methods aren’t always enough. It is therefore vital that our PhD candidates learn to master more innovative methods involving inter-disciplinary collaboration so that they can contribute to solving societal challenges through collaboration.”

So says Hiwa Målen, head of the administrative centre of DIGSSCORE, and one of the initiators behind the course in creative problem-solving, together with Birgit Kopainsky and Ingunn Johanne Ness. 

Case provided by the UN

A new method developed by UiB provides the candidates specialist competence in solving problems creatively through collaboration with people from other fields and disciplines. 

“Innovation happens at the intersection between disciplines – and this is why it is crucial that PhD candidates learn how to work in interdisciplinary teams”, says Senior Researcher Ingunn Johanne Ness, who has conducted extensive research on creativity, innovation, and interdisciplinary teams and works as a Cluster Leader of Creativity, Learning & Technology at SLATE, at the Faculty of Psychology.

Participants are trained in systems thinking, innovation methodology, and project management. They will use these methods to work on a specific Sustainable Development Goal challenge provided by the United Nations Environment Programme, namely to design solutions – in the form of projects, technologies or business models – for the global challenge of aligning the interests of landscape, wildlife, and people. 

The competences that the PhD candidates gain from participating in the course will be highly relevant in their working lives. 

"We combine methods from fields such as system dynamics, innovation and business modelling, and at the same time we work directly with organisations in society outside the university, such as the UN. In this way, the course gives an effective approach to creative problem-solving that goes beyond existing courses. This will be extremely useful both before and after the doctorate is completed,” explains Birgit Kopainsky, professor in system dynamics at the Faculty of Social Sciences and academic responsible of the course. 

“From an institutional point of view, we are excited about this course. As the course provides research-based education to our PhD candidates, promotes interdisciplinary collaboration and contributes to solving societal challenges through knowledge transfer, it is perfectly aligned with the strategy of our university”, says senior advisor for innovation, Susan Johnson at the University of Bergen


The course will gather 20 participants from different disciplines. It begins with two days of training in and application of systems thinking and system analysis. Participants will also learn about innovation methodology and project management before they choose a specific aspect of the challenge that they will then work on in teams. After two weeks there is a "hackathon" in which the inter-disciplinary teams develop and present solutions for their challenges. 

The course is a pilot project that will be scaled up at UiB.