Citizen participation model and game by City of Helsinki


Service designers and City of Helsinki employees have developed a new model for citizen participation. One model application is a game that the city service teams, for example in libraries or in health stations, play in order to plan how to increase the participation of their clients.

The goal of Helsinki is to become the best functioning city in the world. According to the new strategy of the City one way to get there is to increase the participation of the citizens.

Service design in the strategy of the City

Although Helsinki is among the top cities in the world (3rd last year on the list of the best cities to live in), there is still a lot to do, since some of the city employees never thought how to make their clients to participate in developing the services. The new strategy gives a strong mandate to the employees to do that now. Service design is in the heart of the City strategy.

“Helsinki is primarily a place and a community, not a bureaucracy. I believe that the City cannot solve the big challenges – nor is it even sensible to do so – on its own, but instead we need strategic partnerships with everyone who is interested in developing Helsinki” – Mayor Jan Vapaavuori in the City news

Model for citizen participation

The designers discussed the topic “Creative means to increase participation” in a Helsinki Design Week event in Helsinki City Hall Design Lab in September 11th.

Juha Kronqvist from the design agency Hellon introduced the participation model. One of the goals of the model is that it will guide every employee of the City in the future. The model consists of 4 parts:

1. Cocreation with citizens

The city dwellers can take part in creation of new services. For example the Maunula community house was cocreated with the locals and they use participatory budgeting there.

2. Community through experiments

In the new city part Kalasatama different services and high tech solutions are experimented in order to build a dream district and a smarter city.

3. Support citizen activity – city as a platform

The City offers spaces and other resources for people’ activities like Restaurant day and start up community Maria 0-1 that was build in an old hospital.

4. Positive service experiences

The service experience vision of the City is that the services will be loved by the citizens. In order to redesign the services the participation game was introduced.

Participation game of the City


The game helps the employees to adopt participation methods to their work. It is facilitated by a designer who takes care that the ideas produced in the game will be put in practice. The employees who played the game liked it because it is a fun tool for meetings and a concrete way to plan your work.

The game was released in March and the goal is that it will be played 200 times around the city services. So far plenty of new ideas have been put into action, for example if you are an art lover, you can adopt a statue in your local park and start participating in the maintenance of it.

I think the game is a good example of design thinking put in practice:

  1. Thinking: makes you think in creative ways and generate new ideas
  2. Acting: increases the citizen participation in concrete ways
  3. Mindset: a playful and fun team building activity

Read more about the game

The author Hanna Heikkonen is a SID student & Digital Media Producer at the University of Helsinki interested in developing the University services together with the City.


2 thoughts on “Citizen participation model and game by City of Helsinki

  1. I love the vision of Helsinki: “Become the world’s best functional city”. That is how the employers all know where the target is and it is common for everyone. It is also great that a city uses service design and games to make working more effective and fun.

  2. Isn’t it! There is a lot to do to reach the vision and have the citizens to take part in decision-making, but without the approach it would not be possible in the first place.

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