Co-creating a City Family Centre

Kallio Family Centre Workshop for Residents
28.1.2019 Caisa Cultural Center, Leipätalo, Helsinki

For some time already, I have been interested in how the residents of Helsinki are engaged in developing the city and city services. I have participated e.g. in the Participatory Budgeting planning sessions targeted for the residents in November 2018. This time, I attended a workshop for co-developing the Kallio Family Centre, which will be opened in the summer of 2019.

The future Centre will offer a variety of services under the same roof for families with children, e.g. maternity and child health services, home services, social work and speech therapy and physiotherapy. In the service offering,  early support for the families is  emphasized, but the support covers the whole period of family life and the many challenges it might face. The idea is, that also other service providers can offer their services in the Family Centre according to the customers’ needs, such as adult social work or adult mental disorder services. The intention is to strengthen the cooperation with different organizations also offering services for families with children. Thus, the inter-occupational teams are the basis of the operations of the Kallio Family Centre. In addition, the digital services are in focus to be developed.

The Centre is also meant to function as an open meeting point for families with children of the area. The facilities are planned to be open also during the evening time and weekends to enable different activities and gatherings, organized also by the residents. There will be a café-like space and several spaces for team work and gatherings. In the Family Centre project customers have been placed in the center, and the services and the space solutions are aimed to be designed from this perspective. Regarding this project, at least one workshop engaging residents has been organized, in May 2018. According to the City of Helsinki, about ten residents attended the the workshop where e.g. the visual look, waiting rooms/spaces, and furniture were discussed.

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The workshop was held in Caisa Cultural Center and the fascinating facilities of Leipätehdas in Sörnäinen.

The workshop I attended on January 28, 2019, was named as “Kallio Family Centre Workshop for Residents” (in Finnish: “Kallion perhekeskuksen asukastyöpaja”). When arriving at the workshop space, I noticed that around 20 people were there, and I thought great, people have found the event! However, it turned out that there were only two of us, who were representing the residents. The other participants were from the City of Helsinki or the third sector organizations who are, or could be, somehow involved in the Kallio Family Centre project or operations. So, the purpose of the workshop did not quite have the preconditions of being successful in terms of engaging the residents of the area. However, all the participants were very enthusiastic about the workshop.

The three-hour workshop was divided in two sessions. In the first session we ideated individually activities the Family Centre should offer using post-it notes. Then, we discussed the ideas in groups of 3-4 persons and selected max 5 most inspiring ideas. Then we shared the ideas among the participants and the facilitator wrote the ideas on a flip chart.

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After the ideation session, we had to select one of our ideas to elaborate further during the coffee break. We had to use an experience map, or matrix, in developing the activities. The matrix made us think about the customer experience and journey before, during and after the activity. We had to consider, for instance, what what inspires the customer or what kind of expectations he/she might have.  In addition, we had to describe what happens from the arrival to the end of the activity, and what kind of features would make the experience good or bad. We were able also to use pictures from magazines, draw, or whatever we thought would help to communicate our ideas.

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After working on the ideas for 30 minutes, we shared them in front of the others in the form of four-minute pitch explaining the flipchart sheet.

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As the initial ideas of the groups were written down on a flip chart by the facilitator, and we got to pick the idea for elaboration in our groups without sharing them with the other groups, many similar ideas were selected, and the ideas overlapped quite a lot. Basically, all the ideas that were developed further were initially from the same root idea, a themed peer activity group meeting. However, different perspectives emerged, and that particular idea was elaborated further.

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However, it was a bit shame that there were only two customer representatives. The service providers, or the people who are involved somehow in the project, tend to keep in mind the limitations and restrictions they have at the moment, which narrows their perspective.

There might be many reasons for the fact that so few residents attended the workshop. However, this example shows again the importance of the recruitment and communication of open co-creative workshops, which aim to empower citizens. It is of utmost importance to find the right and functioning recruitment channels, start the communication early enough to reach the residents/customers, not to mention how to ensure that not only the most active residents are participating the events.

Unfortunately, it is often discovered, that co-creation is not easy. It is rather slow, and it is costly – but still, it needs to be practiced if the service development aims to be customer-centric. It is easy to put a “check” on the “Engage residents/customers” box in the strategy and project plan, and not to worry about who attended or if the residents/customers were involved at all.

It is great to notice that the City of Helsinki is putting a lot of effort in participatory decision-making and involving citizens in developing the city services. I hope that the Kallio Family Centre project will continue engaging residents and other stakeholders in the last phases of the project, as well as after the Centre has opened its doors. It’s the only way to go, if wanting to make a difference in the service offering and the way the Centre operates.

 

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