Learning in Action – How We Won the Second Place in a Service Design Competition

”Could you send a female inspector?”

This is how Jaakko started our pitch at Sitras’s Service Design competition on March 3, 2014. The competition was part of Sitra’s new security forum, and it intended to test how service design could help to improve public services and make them more user-centric.

The actual design goal set by Sitra and the Finnish Ministry of the Interior was to think of ways to lower the barrier of reporting a racist crime.

Statistics show that the amount of reported crimes has dropped significantly. This is not necessarily good news. As the amount of people from diverse ethnic backgrounds has rised in Finland, the question is whether the amount of racist crimes has actually diminished or whether people don’t just report them anymore. Is the reporting process clear enough for people of foreign roots? Do people have the skills and the motivation to bring their issue forward? Do they trust the authorities? Is there enough knowledge? Could service design help to improve the situation?

This was the challenge of our design team, comprising four enthusiastic first-year SID-students, Jaakko, Ida, Hanna and Mervi. In addition to our service design studies, we all have different educational and professional backgrounds and skills – a group of truly T-shaped people. For us, the competition was a great opportunity to test our newly learned service design methods skills in action. We wanted to learn in practice and do something concrete. Earning some course credits while we were at it didn’t harm, either.

We knew we were competing with professional agencies and experienced service design researches and that made us all the more motivated. Heck, we really wanted to win and show what we are capable of! It turned out that our motivation, determination and willingness to prove ourselves earned us a second place in a very tight competition. We played to win. ”The hungriest team” as one member of the jury put it.

Walkthrough of Our Design Process Background work

As soon as we knew we were accepted to take part in the competition, we started to work on the challenge. We did a lot of background research and dug as deep as we could. We read several reports and studies. We made phone calls to police officers and non-profit organizations that have a lot of experience in working with immigrants and minorities. Piece by piece, we found out important information related to our design challenge.

We also collected and discussed our own previous knowledge. The request for a female inspector, which started this story, was a true case that happened to Jaakko about a year ago. He was scheduled to make a fire inspection in an institution for immigrant women. If a male fire inspector might be too intimidating for them, can you imagine them to walk to a police station and report a crime, most likely meeting a severe-looking policeman behind the desk asking them all kinds of questions about the uncomfortable, maybe even humiliating situation they encountered? Can you picture her trusting him? We couldn’t. It became obvious very soon that we were dealing with quite a wicked problem that had to be approached holistically.

Personas and Stakeholder Map

We used many different service design tools in our design process. After a quick brainstorm and a lot of post-its in Jaakko’s living room window, we decided to create personas. They turned out to be a great starting point. “Ali”, “Cagri” and “Zahra” helped us greatly throughout the process. Their images in mind, we were able to empathize and hold a user-centric focus.



Early on, we started also to create a stakeholder map including all the service providers, non-profit organizations, institutions, and facilities that were relevant for potential crime victims. We figured that since they already are in touch with our target group, they could act as “fixers” for victims of racist crimes.


Watch our videoreport from the workshop


It was clear to us that despite we had tons of second hand information, it would not be enough. We knew we would have to hit the field, and we were eager to do so. We went to Helsinki city center to interview immigrants and ask their feelings and thoughts about the matter. Have they confronted racism? How would they report it? Do they trust authorities?

We discovered things that were not only really relevant but also truly eye opening. Racism is really a common phenomenon; almost everyone of our interviewees had experienced it in some form. We also heard about really severe hate crimes that our interviewees had witnessed, heard of or been victims to.

Watch our videoreport from the scene

Rapid and even more Rapid Prototypes

One of our initials concepts was a web service. While the rest of us were working with other aspects of the design problem, Jaakko created prototypes for the service. The prototype was iterated throughout the process according to user tests Jaakko was able to pull of despite the extremely tight schedule.

Watch our videoreport about prototyping

Our final concepts at Sitra Workshop

We had worked quite intensively the week before the competition, but it was nothing compared to the intensity of the competition day. We got some more relevant information from the officials of the Ministry of Internal Affairs that triggered new ideas and helped us to see the client’s point of view.

At the end of the day, we had three hectic hours to put all the findings, ideas, pieces of information and other data into a compelling A1 size poster and an eight-minute pitch for the jury. It was quite a ride but we delivered!

Watch our report from Sitra workshopday

We were the 4th team to present our concepts for the jury, right after the professional Service Design Agency Palmu Inc – talking about setting the bar high! Jaakko started with the female inspector quote and together with Ida they rolled out our concepts in a compelling and engaging way. We felt so proud!

So what kind of concepts did we present?

1. Introducing support people

Creating an empathetic first touchpoint by co-operating with non-profits and organizations. Ministry of Interior could train people to specialize in helping crime victims and encouraging them to file a report. The support people would be those who already are in active dialogue with immigrants and who are therefore easy to approach.

2. Storytelling: Turning jargon and government language into meaningful, understandable real-like stories

Visualized story scenarios would explain what to do, where, how, and why, and what happens after that. Police officers are also represented in an empathic way in a ”behind the scenes” video where tell more about the process, how the hearing goes, what kind of questions are asked and why, and how the process continues after making the report. Storytelling could help victims to see the other side of the story and build trust. How do you otherwise know that a police might have over 100 cases to investigate at the same time and despite their efforts, the process can take a really long time?

3. Technical improvements and a digital service

Making the exhausting crime report form easier to use, creating a website for story content and materials, and creating a tracking code system for crime cases. Tracking would work like DHL tracking system for delivered packages. A person making the report could follow the progress of her case and get an automated SMS when the case is moving forward in the system. This would be important because we discovered police does not have the resources to contact everyone personally. If you don’t know this, you might just think you filed the whole report for nothing and your case was buried. And if you tell this further to other people, it won’t motivate them to act if they become victims themselves.


So how did we feel at the end of the day? We were really happy about a lot of things but would like to share especially these two things.

First, the jury was totally taken by surprise how much service designers could deliver in such a short time. I think the day also managed to switch their mindset from institution-focused into really understanding the users point of you. This is a great thing since public services could sure use some service designing!

Second, we were really happy about our own professional growth. It was a such a boost for our self confidence to notice that we had approached the problem well like real designers do and had all the elements professional service designers had – and even more. We didn’t suck. On the contrary, we were pretty darn great.

In the final scene of our project video, we are thanking people for contributing to our success. Mr. Marc Stickdorn is really one to be thanked. He was such an inspiring facilitator for our Service Design Process course. He gave us the encouragement and the skills that helped us make this happen. If you want to get an idea what we learned, here are Mervi’s graphic (and not so graphic) notes: NotebookServiceDesignProcess .

Watch the final scene, our video report after getting the silver medal 🙂

Sitra blog posts and video about the competition (in Finnish)




SID design team, 1st year SID-students:

Hanna Jaakola, Customer Insight Planner
Jaakko Porokuokka, Fire inspector
Ida Rainio, Entepreneur, Content Designer, Owner at Sisus
Mervi Rauhala, Learning specialist, aspiring service designer and storyteller

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