Leiden International Studies Blog

The magic of co-creation in the International Studies Programme

The magic of co-creation in the International Studies Programme

In today’s knowledge society, when faced with solving real-life organizational problems, people engage in the magic process of co-creation through which they share their inventiveness. This value generation constantly happens in International Studies, in various ways.

What is co-creation?

In today’s knowledge society, priceless pieces of information and insights on various matters, if better organized, may contribute to an enhanced understanding on how society functions and how real-life problems need to be addressed. When faced with a real-life organizational problem, for instance, people usually gather together to unite (intellectual) forces to search for meaning with the purpose to create value. This act of mutual collaboration in order to generate value, translates in co-creation (e.g., Ramaswamy, 2009; Gustafsson, Kristensson, and Witell, 2012). What is co-creation? How is this magic concept defined? Co-creation is essentially a process through which people share their inventiveness (e.g., Gustafsson et al. 2012); it is an interactive process of learning together (e.g., Payne, Storbacka, and Frow, 2008; Gustafsson et al. 2012). Co-creation is seen as a blend of unique ideas which are brought together to serve a higher common goal: value generation.

Co-creation and organizational creativity

In my own research on organizational creativity, I also show that co-creation positively impacts radical organizational creativity (i.e., radical/new ideas generated by an organization) (Balau, 2017). Actually, numerous scholars, embracing the open innovation paradigm (e.g., Chesbrough, 2003; Lichtenthaler & Lichtenthaler, 2009), put forward the main benefit of co-creation: a determinant of organizational success (e.g., Gustafsson, Kristensson, & Witell, 2012; Magnusson, 2009). “What’s your Starbucks idea?” and “Have an idea for a LEGO® set?” are some of the questions end-users are invited to answer by organizations that have embraced the open innovation paradigm. “Co-create IKEA in collaboration with THE MANY PEOPLE” is a similar initiative and invitation. Starbucks, LEGO Idea and IKEA are few examples of such organizations that seek to create value for customers with customers; customers are important sources of valuable information that can give organizations inspiration for new ideas, products and services.

Co-creation in International Studies

As co-creation can occur in a variety of other contexts (e.g., Hoyer, Chandy, Dorotic, Krafft, and Singh, 2010), the Bachelor Programme International Studies is (hosting) one of them. This 3-year English-taught programme attracts a variety of students from all over the world, in the Wijnhaven Campus of Leiden University, in the international city of peace and justice, The Hague. A simple question is floating in the air: How does this value generation happen? I will try to answer that question with two specific courses in mind in which I was involved as a tutor: Practising International Studies and Cultural Interaction.


The magic of co-creation in PRINS

Practising International Studies (PRINS) course is a twelve-week consultancy case competition, designed by International Studies university lecturer dr. Sarita Koendjbiharie, where teams of students analyse real life cases and problems presented by organizational leaders that operate in international environments. Third year Leiden University BA International Studies students are challenged to translate their academic knowledge and skills into practical advice for organizations representing a wide range of sectors: NGO’s, companies and governmental organizations (e.g., The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Starbucks, Google).

Student consultancy

Within PRINS, “the student-as-consultant framework is founded on the notion that students gain insights into the potential for long-term business/community partnerships through <<exposure to and understanding of>> community issues” (Kenworthy-U’Ren, 1999, p. 379). Student consultants engage thus in service-learning and the unique experiences prepare them to effectively serve the community as one of the central tenets of service-learning is to foster citizenship and moral development (Carney, 2013). Service-learning has been defined as pedagogy that “seeks to engage students in activities that enhance academic learning, civic responsibility and the skill of citizenship, while also enhancing community capacity through service (Furco and Holland, cited in McIlrath and MacLabhrainn, 2007: xxvi).

In PRINS, student consultants provide consulting services to companies, helping them to solve real-life cases. However, what makes the process of co-creation unique with PRINS is the intellectual asset brought by the student consultants on the table. Co-creation is a function of interaction (e.g., Gronroos and Paivi, 2013) and PRINS brings together students from different parts of the world and/or who have interest in deepening knowledge about different parts of the world. It thus enables a movement of ideas of great value for the organizations which operate in multicultural environments, continuously stimulating and managing diversity. For the benefit of the companies and of all involved actors, PRINS provides the highest quality education, service-learning being a great tool with transformative potential especially for the student consultants and companies.

Cube with flags

The magic of co-creation in Cultural Interaction

Cultural Interaction is a twelve-week course provided to 2nd-year students which takes two main approaches. On the one hand, this course takes a micro approach to interaction. What is this type of interaction about? Well, by and large, students are challenged to understand the interaction between people. On the other hand, Cultural Interaction takes a macro approach to interaction. How is this type of approach different from the one just mentioned? As the level shifts from micro to macro, students are also challenged to understand the interaction between people and cultural groups.

Micro and macro levels of understanding

What makes the process of co-creation (e.g., Ramaswamy, 2009; Gustafsson, Kristensson, and Witell, 2012) unique in Cultural Interaction, is navigating through micro and macro levels of understanding. Students, also coming from different parts of the world, are provoked to understand assumptions underlying the behaviour of individuals in interaction (e.g., Tyler, 1995). They are further invited to apply this knowledge to assess the role of culture within a particular context. Watching films, for instance, is a pleasurable experience and students are invited to embark in this emotional, visual and thought-provoking journey with a specific purpose: to critically evaluate connections between culture and economics, culture and religion, culture and politics just to name a few angles; this encourages students to co-create understanding interaction.

Co-creation with a unique flavour

The flavour of co-creation determined via Cultural Interaction is unique in that co-creation is essentially dependent on the engagement experiences of individuals and communities as a new basis of value creation (Ramaswamy, 2009). What is then the key value created here? The amount of arguments interpreted by student through the lenses of their regions of choice (e.g., East Asia, Europe, Middle East, etc.) in analyzing visual productions.


Overall, co-creation gets to its highest peaks within International Studies Program (i.e., through PRINS, Cultural Interaction and similarly engaging courses), where there is a strong sense of togetherness, not only among students, ideas but also among the staff which is passionate and willing to (re)define co-creation and contribute to a multidisciplinary vision where everything is achieved via value co-creation.


Carney, Terri, M. 2013. “How Service-Learning in Spanish speaks to Crisis in the Humanities”, Hispania 96, no.2: 229-237.

Chesbrough, Henry. 2003. “The logic of open innovation: Managing intellectual property”, California Management Review 45, no. 3: 33-58.

Gronroos, Christian, and Voima, Paivi. 2013 “Critical Service Logic: making Sense of Value Creation and Co-Creation”, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science 41, no. 2: 133-150.

Gustafsson, Anders, Kristensson, Per, and Witell, Lars. 2012. “Customer co-creation in service innovation: a matter of communication?”, Journal of Service Management 23, no. 3: 311-327.

Hoyer, Wayne, D., Chandy, Rajesh, Dorotic, Matilda,
Krafft, Manfred, and Singh Siddharth, S. 2010. “Consumer Co-creation in new product development”, Journal of Service Research 13, no. 3: 283-296.

Kenworthy-U’Ren, Amy, L. 1999. “Management Students as Consultants. An alternative perspective on the Service-Learning <<call to action>>”, Journal of Management Inquiry 4, no. 8: 379-387.

Lichtenthaler, U., and Lichtenthaler, E. 2009. “A capability-based framework for open innovation: Complementing absorptive capacity”, Journal of Management Science 46, no. 8: 1315-1338.

Payne, Adrian, F., Storbacka, Kaj, and Frow, Pennie, 2008. “Managing co-creation of value”, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science 36, no. 1: 83-96.

Ramaswamy, Venkat. 2009. "Leading the transformation to co-creation of value", Strategy & Leadership, 37: 32-37.

Tyler, Andrea, 1995. “The coconstruction of cross-cultural miscommunication. Conflicts in perception, negotiation and Enactment of Participant Role and Status”, Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 17, no.2: 129-152.