Group work

Solving Wicked Problems

Diversity and identities at work in social innovation processes

Society’s greatest challenges are ‘wicked problems’ that are characterized by being tremendously difficult to solve due to their complexity and interrelatedness. Climate change, pandemics and inequality are examples of wicked problems, and to solve these issues, we need to address them in new ways. A way to address them is through ‘social innovation’, the process of developing and deploying solutions to challenging social and environmental issues.

The technology field plays an important role in developing solutions tackling ‘wicked problems’ through ‘social innovation’. However, the technology field faces a challenge: collaboration between people with diverse backgrounds and life experiences are essential for solving wicked problems, but the field lacks diversity in terms of gender and ethnicity.

This project sets out to shed further light on gender and ethnic diversity in the technology field by focusing on engineering education, as education plays a central role in establishing practices within the field. By paying attention to education, it is possible to explore norms and values while they are forming amongst students, and the project provides insights into the complex mechanism at play when students take part in constructing diversity practices that potentially will influence the technology field in the years to come.

The empirical setting of the project is DTU Engineering Technology, where fieldwork will be conducted amongst students going through social innovation processes at the DTU course ‘Innovation Pilot’. Grounded in fieldwork, the project sets out to answer how gender and ethnic diversity influence social innovation processes and their outcome, and how students construct professional identities within the technology field during social innovation processes. The questions will be answered by studying students’ work processes and outcomes in real time and by interviewing students of various genders and ethnicities.

With increased knowledge about the mechanisms at play in engineering education, the project has potential to influence the diversity practices in educational institutions with the purpose of stimulating diversity within the technology field in the long run and thereby make the field better equipped to tackle wicked problems.


Frida Hammel
PhD student
DTU Engineering Technology
+45 31 96 49 72