Hi! I’m Sean McDougall. I founded Stakeholder Design in 2006 to demonstrate the enormous potential of design to deal with disadvantage in all its forms – educational, social, physical and commercial.

Since then:
– Cisco appointed me as one of their founder Education Fast Forward fellows
– I founded and served as first Chair of Pain UK and served on the Advisory Board of Pain Alliance Europe
– I won two awards to bring together the world of haptics and virtual reality through my other company (Touchable Universe)
– I have helped around 100 companies use innovation techniques to develop and launch new products.

Stakeholder Design was born of the realisation that we can be either victims or beneficiaries of design. What do I mean by that? Here are some examples:


In an era where taxes are going up and competition is becoming ever more intense, design offers remarkable opportunities both to improve resilience and improve profitability. Design thinking at strategic level results in improved understanding of customer need, simplified production processes, better marketing, enhanced reputation, happier staff and – above all – increased return on investment.

Since 2010, I’ve helped over 100 companies to become more innovative. I provide consultancy services to Innovate UK and Ufi (University for Industry) and I’m also a mentor within the Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce. Recently, as the economic climate changes, I’ve been asked about access to funding and export markets, building on my own experience of winning grants and working with investors in the UK, Middle East and China.

Stakeholder Design can help you take your first steps into commercial innovation, whether that means finding funding, developing ideas, upskilling staff, serving at board level or providing direct services such as interim leadership and project management. It’s a worthwhile journey – Innovate UK says that every pound invested in R&D produces an £8 return.

Working in this way has given me a very wide client base, including global technology firms, governments, local authorities, charities, think tanks and start-ups. I work with them in whatever way makes most sense for them – this includes:

  • Training organisations to become more innovative
  • Working within organisations to design, build and test future service offerings
  • Helping organisations become more responsive to stakeholders.
  • Improving operational efficiency as a non-executive director
  • Taking control of discrete work packages


Almost 80% of white, middle-class girls go to university, while a similar proportion of black, working-class boys leave school at 16. This has nothing to do with intelligence. It simply means that the system is benefitting people from one section of the community more than another. Stakeholder Design has unrivalled experience in designing future learning spaces and systems that enable every child to display their intelligence and flourish within our 21st century economy and society.


As a designer and creativity mentor, I work with architects, technology companies, local authorities and the pharmaceutical industry to help improve quality of life for all.

In 2011, a survey that I helped to promote found that half of all people aged 18-34 (52% of males, 48% of women) report that they suffer with back pain, with most experiencing it every day. Given their projected lifespan, the cost to the economy is going to be enormous – possibly equivalent to our present military spend. At the same time, there is also an trillion pound opportunity emerging for technology firms and others wishing to define future products and services that address quality of life issues and sustain people in their independence. See the health section for more examples.


In the UK, half of all prostitutes were in care as children. If we were being cruel, we could say that the state is the biggest supplier of prostitutes in the country. Half of all prisoners under the age of 25 and 80% of all Big Issue sellers also have childhood experience of the care system. Most of them are victims rather than beneficiaries of design.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have the problem of how to sustain quality of life for the elderly. Given the rapid increase in numbers of the elderly, the only way that we can sustain our present approach is to open one new care home every week for the next 20 years. Clearly, this is not going to happen, for reasons to do with finance as much as logistics. We need housing and care system solutions that enable people to combine dignity, safety and mobility in their own homes for as long as possible.Whether the care system is focused on the young or the elderly, Stakeholder Design has the award-winning expertise to improve outcomes for all. You can read more about that expertise if you visit the society pages of this website.

You can learn more about my work by reading the case studies on this website. If you want to keep in touch, you can subscribe or follow me on Twitter. If you like what you see, let me know – and please tell others.

What they say:
Professor Stephen Heppell:
I’m so glad you’re going to hear Sean speak today. Never mind the A Team – he’s the A+ Team

Sarah Payton, Futurelab:
It “was really an incredible educational experience. It taught me that giving young people a significant role in decision-making processes is really important and not as difficult as some people might think.”

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