Loughborough University

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Making a difference: Design-driven intrapreneurship at the UN Refugee Agency

journal contribution
posted on 2022-12-06, 12:23 authored by Antonius van den BroekAntonius van den Broek, Mikko KoriaMikko Koria, Emilia Saarelainen

Purpose / audience:

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), a large, global organisation, provides vital services and advocacy for millions of displaced persons around the world within a complex and unique mandate. To meet increasing demands in creative ways while fostering a culture of intrapreneurship, the organisation has set up the Innovation Fellowship Program, a learning initiative. This paper examines how design may be used to foster intrapreneurship within large organisations. 

Methodology / approach:

Through this single-case study we examine capabilities identified through mixed-methods within the context of an intrapreneurial process. Mapping abilities between individual vs collective and exploration vs exploitation dimensions enabled building a design-driven, stepwise intrapreneurial process model based on effectuation principles, recognising the causation factors at play.


Enabling structures and early, deep embeddedness of the design approaches, tools and methods have been found to enable success in developing intrapreneurial capabilities. Recognising the importance of processes in applying design within organisations, this paper maps out identified intrapreneurial capabilities to individual and collective orientations and the continuum between exploration and exploitation. Through a stepwise, design-driven process modelling, the paper joins the competing logics and practices of effectuation and exploration of new opportunities with causation and the exploitation of existing resources, building on individual and collective capabilities and ambidexterity.

Implications for practice, society, or research:

Large, global and complex organisations have multiple challenges in suffusing design practices within their structure, capabilities and processes. While unleashing the potential of individual intrapreneurs is seen as important, the knowledge of how to create conducive structures, enable organisational processes and attend to individual capability build-up remains elusive, warranting attention. 

Originality / Value:

The paper contributes to understanding how design can enable and enhance intrapreneurship in large global organisations through facilitating structures, developing intrapreneurial capabilities and modelling conducive processes. 



  • Loughborough University London

Published in

Journal of Design, Business and Society




  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Rights holder

© Antonius van den Broek, Mikko Koria, Emilia Saarelainen

Publisher statement

© Antonius van den Broek, Mikko Koria, Emilia Saarelainen, 2022. The definitive, peer reviewed and edited version of this article is published in Journal of Design, Business and Society [volume, issue, pages, year, DOI link]

Acceptance date





  • en


Dr Antonius Van Den Broek. Deposit date: 28 November 2022