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Design thinking: a working strategy for the third sector

Tulsi Jayakumar (S.P. Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India)
Krishnakoli Das (S.P. Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India)
Neelesh Srivastava (S.P. Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India)

Journal of Business Strategy

ISSN: 0275-6668

Article publication date: 19 February 2019

Issue publication date: 3 September 2019

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to understand how non-governmental organisations (NGOs) can use design thinking (DT) as a strategic tool to improve organisational and societal outcomes.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper applies a case study design. Building on in-depth interviews with senior management, beneficiaries (villagers), the village headman and children in Karaliya village (Rajasthan), as also from secondary sources, the paper presents a model of using DT for NGOs.

Findings

This paper presents evidence of how Jal Bhagirathi Foundation, an Indian NGO working in the most water-distressed and densely populated arid zone of the Thar Desert, used a user-centric, DT approach to solve the water-scarcity problem in villages in the Marwar region. In doing so, several interconnected societal problems were also addressed, including those of sanitation, education – especially of the girl child – poverty and migration.

Practical implications

DT has been increasingly used by “for-profit” business organisations to derive competitive advantage. NGOs have lagged in the use of DT as a strategic tool to drive enhanced organisational and societal outcomes. Such NGOs can strategise to adopt a DT approach.

Originality/value

A literature search revealed that while the term “NGO” threw up 36,571 results, “NGOs and strategic management” had only 363 results, and “the use of design thinking in NGOs” had 0 results. This paper contributes to the limited research in the field of strategic management in the NGO space by looking at DT as an important strategic tool for NGOs.

Keywords

Citation

Jayakumar, T., Das, K. and Srivastava, N. (2019), "Design thinking: a working strategy for the third sector", Journal of Business Strategy, Vol. 40 No. 5, pp. 28-38. https://doi.org/10.1108/JBS-11-2018-0195

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited