Challenges during Lockdown

What are you facing at the moment? Whatever it is, that thing will be leading during this session. It won’t be a course, it will be a collaboration with PhD colleagues to use Design Thinking as a method to find practical solutions to take you steps further in whatever you are facing.

A few examples of cases we’ve solved before are: making choices in direction of research, getting the attention of a busy supervisor, setting priorities in the sea of opportunities in PhD research, saying ‘no’ to colleagues asking for favours, gathering courage to confront an industry partner, conflicts with colleagues, and minimising the ‘over-involvement’ of a third party.

Sometimes your PhD progress doesn’t benefit  from working even harder during the day, but from honestly sharing your thoughts and opening up about what troubles you. If attaining your PhD is like climbing a mountain, this course is the basecamp that allows you to nourish yourself, reiterate your plans and spar with likeminded people, in a relaxed atmosphere.

Course objectives

What we aim to achieve is:

  • Offering a set of creative and problem solving techniques that you can apply to life in general, and to your PhD progress specifically
  • Obtaining a clearer view of what you can expect from yourself and others during your PhD, based on how your peers assess your situation
  • Finding practical solutions you can put into action right away, so you can take further steps in the days to come.


For each participant this session revolves around the case they bring in. So make sure you have something you want to solve at the moment: something you get stuck in and seek solutions for. A few days before the session takes place, the teacher will send you a few questions to answer before the session starts. This way you can explain your case more clearly, which will greatly increase the changes of finding the best solutions.

Teaching method:

A set of questions about PhD life invites you to be as honest as possible about your sources of inspiration, about your progress, about things that make you laugh and about what might be troubling you as a researcher. After that, you and your peers will be guided in sub-groups to ‘dismantle’ challenging cases that you have.

Through co-active work via peer-to-peer discussions you will use Design Thinking as a potential strategy to reach solutions. Before the session is over, all participants will have created a ‘prototype’ of their solution, ready to be tested and implemented. The creative and problem solving techniques used during Challenges during Lockdown are an extension to the several Creativity, Problem solving and Decision-making course Graduate school offers: following either of them is no requisite for this course and if you have followed the other courses, this course would still provide you with new information and techniques.

GS Credits

The first time you enroll to Challenges during Lockdown, you can obtain 0.5 GS credit. After your  first Challenges during Lockdown, you are more than welcome to enrol again, but no credits will be awarded.

About the lecturers

I am Laurens van der Vuurst ('84, communication science, provocative coach) and I started as a trainer in 2007. Three years later Simon Douw and I founded the training bureau DOWNSIDEUP. Together with new colleagues, we stand for courage and development. We bring energy and ask bold questions wherever we go. We find surprising relations and will not stop before we’ve been to the core of things. We believe in the power of experience. We value marksmanship and hold passion and authenticity as virtues. Our trainers, coaches and moderators use humour and provocation as powerful tools while being sensitive for group dynamics. We rely on their academic background and won’t hesitate to make bold moves. DOWNSIDEUP asks people and organisations to wake up to new possibilities. Preferably today.