How can service design be used in prisons? What about asbestos abatement? How about the gargantuan website of the Finnish Social Service Institution Kela? This is what we learned two weeks ago in a morning seminar. Watch the event in Finnish here.
Tarinoita digikiristä showcased several digitalization and service design related projects from the Finnish public sector. The event was organized by D9, a digitalization team working inside the Finnish State Treasury.
When signing up for the event myself and some fellow students joked about using service design in prisons. How could that work? As we found out, very well. Anne Sundqvist and Kauko Niemelä explained that the need for service design in Finnish prisons stems from the fact that there are a lot of prisons and a lot of space, but the prisons are old and the space is not used properly.
The new Hämeenlinna women’s prison is being planned with service design. The main aim is to reduce recidivism so that fewer inmates return to the prison after they have been released. Therefore the prison has to be designed in a manner that it helps the inmate to learn behaviours and skills that help them to keep on the straight and narrow.
This is also a huge saving for the society – within five years around 25 000 inmates get out from the prison and every year the taxpayer pays around 1,8 billion euros for their rehabilitation. If this number can be brought down with work done inside the prison, the society wins.
Many stakeholders have participated in the project. Inmates themselves have been interviewed and they have participated in workshops. The people working in prisons have also been able to give their input.
Kela wanted the customers to get a feeling of control
Every Finnish person uses the services of the Finnish Social Service Institution Kela at some point in their lives. Students get their study grants from Kela, new parents their baby boxes.
Kela has a huge website with enormous amounts of information on it. According to Päivi Bergman, the website had to be made better in order to give the customer a sense of control. Oftentimes customers used the website, but weren’t sure that they were doing things right so they called in anyway.
Because of the immense size of the website, it could not be handled all at once. Bergman told that they decided to roll out new material little bit at a time so that savings could be had while the website renewing process was still ongoing.
According to Bergman it is not important to have perfect material finished when publishing it online. It is enough to be going in the right direction. One must dare to try.
Bergman reminded us that Kela is not a service for early adopters but for everyone in the society. At the same time Kela must realize that it is not competing against government websites but against all other websites. That’s why it has to be as easy to use as any other website.
The purpose of the project was to give the customer a feeling that the website is easy to use, useful and it gives the user the sense of control. In Bergman’s view this has been achieved as after the new website has rolled out people have been contacting Kela with other means a lot less than before.
The event was clearly intended for people making decisions in the Finnish public sector and tried to encourage them to start working with their customers and use service design especially with digital services. Many of the examples we heard were the first of their kind done in that agency.
The people presenting their projects seemed genuinely excited about their projects so it seems that customer centricity and service design will be integrated more and more in Finnish public services.
The author Noora Penttinen is a journalist and a recent Service Design student who believes in creative chaos and thinks that best ideas appear at four in the morning.