Approaches to Understanding Values in Rural Communities and Rural Businesses
: within the context of Design Thinking

  • Rebecca Lindsay

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis argues for the positive impact that Design Thinking may have towards instigating, supporting and developing relationships between small and micro rural businesses and their surrounding communities. Described as the ‘beating hearts of rural communities’ (Frazer, in Freeman, 2015), small rural businesses provide inimitable levels of stability to our overall economic and social development. With 99.4% of all Scottish private sector enterprises classified as SMEs, they collectively provide employment for 1.2 million individuals (one fifth of the entire Scottish population) (The Scottish Government, Businesses in Scotland, 20I7), but, with the number of failed small businesses in Scotland rising by 32% in the initial 3 months of 2018, which is approximately 679 businesses (McCance, 2018), there is a pertinent need to develop measures of support and mechanisms for resilience to aid their longevity and future success. Supported by investigation undertaken across a triptych of sectors, Economics, Business and Rural Communities, contextualised and framed through Design Thinking and situated within a Scottish Rural Economic setting, this thesis identifies a communication gap between business and communities surrounding individual and collectively held personal values . The basis of arguments towards understanding richer perspectives of ‘value’ which go beyond financial assets and numerical calculations and include qualitative values held by people are long standing and well established (Danson & Trebeck, (2011); Fitoussi et al, 2009; Gauntlett, 2011; Kennedy, 1968; Kuznets, 1930; Schmuecker & Wallace, 2012; Sen, 2003) and the role of design-led research and design thinking in the development of approaches for businesses are well documented (Cross, 2006; Moggridge, 2007; Leifer & Meinel, 2011, 2018). This thesis explores ways in which Design Thinking might be utilised to identify undetected and undisclosed values of people through engaging with individuals and the collective community and business networks, enabling the communication of richer perspectives of ‘value’ (which are not economically/ fiscally or financially reliant) to emerge which may be of benefit to future community and business developments.Undertaken through a Real-World Research (Applied Research) (Robson, 1993; Robson & McCartan, 2016) approach, implementing case study as methodology, with data handling conducted through thematic analysis, this research generated proposals supported by both its literature review and primary research components of ways in which Design Thinking might be utilised to address this communication gap. It reflects upon identified values of designers, businesses, communities and individuals. It considers both the processes undertaken and the findings derived, (including the phenomenon of ‘Values Shift’ and how this may be addressed) through a model of case studies and culminates with a framework for novice to medium level designers who wish to conduct research of a similar nature in cognate areas. The line of questioning which shaped this research considered: ‘How do we enable businesses and communities to better understand, share and communicate their individual and collective values through design-led approaches?’
Date of Award2020
Original languageEnglish
SponsorsArts & Humanities Research Council
SupervisorMel Woods (Supervisor), Jennifer Ballie (Supervisor), Fraser Bruce (Supervisor) & Louise Valentine (Supervisor)


  • Design Thinking
  • Values
  • Communities
  • Business
  • Rural
  • Scotland

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