^^nature^s way^^

What role can Service Design play in Nature based Solutions? A student reflection workshop

August 24, 2021
On the 28th of June, the Nature’s way research team hosted a digital workshop with students from MA Service Design, reflecting on their group projects that explored how to help people better connect with nature. As part of our larger research project, first year students were given a brief in January to develop projects that aimed to use service design and human-centred approaches to innovate place-based services as options for social green prescribing, supporting people and communities to rebuild relationships with nature for better health and wellbeing in a post-COVID world. Over the last two terms, the students explored a diverse range of societal issues that could be addressed by a better connection to nature, such as prenatal depression and loneliness, developing thoughtful services and interventions. 

One of the key things our research project wants to find out is the potential value that design could bring to those working in Nature-based Solutions for societal wellbeing. As designers who have just been through the process of working in this space, the students were in an amazing position to share some key insights. We also invited MA Service Design second year students, Ziwei Liu and Huizi Zhang, whose Naturebreak project looked at how to reduce stress from remote working through engagements with nature.   


For the 2-hour remote session, our design associate, Nina Cutler, created an illustrated park on Miro. She and project co-ordinator Madelaine Dowd, guided the participating students on a contemplative ‘walk’ through facilitated exercises and discussions. Through these and project presentations, we learnt about their process, what tools and methods were used,  how effective these were, their successes and challenges, and what value they think service design could bring to Nature-based Solutions. These rich and nuanced insights will be invaluable evidence as we progress in our research! 

Key takeaways

The challenges faced with the students included the lack of access to the communities and users that they meant to collaborate with. The pandemic also added further restrictions on this. Given the ‘user-centric’ and ‘co-design’ and ‘co-creation’ are in the centre of the approach, this has put significant constraint on what the teams were able to achieve. With this in mind, the students see that service design in developing NbS has multiple values including:  

  1. Being a connector of the fragmented system (systemic approach & collaboration):

“Some professions focus on place building and some on communities but it’s nice to see it all come together from a service design angle.”

“Being equipped with the tools to see the ‘bigger picture’”

“Solve problems bridging  individuals, communities and nature”

 “Connects organisation with community”


  1. Being able to identify the users and the real problems (user-centric, empathy, problem framing):

“Discover who needs green intervention the most”

“Prototyping some opportunities and  approaches for the problem discovered”

“Being community centred”

“It’s about orchestrating experiences.”


  1. Providing a range of useful tools (the process and methods):

“Design more tools that can be used by others”

Encourage people to come to nature space more easily by using some toolkits”


A big thank you to Debby Hsiao, Yusuke Kanda, Nini Lin, Ziwei Liu, Stefanie Yanting Shen, Ruoyang Sun, Cristiana Stanciu, Serene Yap, and Huizi Zhang for taking part!