Archive by Author | Laura Saksala

Let’s Play Participatory Budgeting!

Event: “OmaStadi” Participatory Budgeting Ideation Workshop Organized by the City of Helsinki, hosted by the city coach Antti Sarpo
Place: Vallila Library, Helsinki
Time: 13.11.2018

The latest Helsinki City Strategy sets the outlines for city decision-making in the years 2017–2021. The strategy emphasizes participation of the citizens and interaction between the citizens and the city. Having the foundations in the knowledge and know-how of the citizens, The Participation and Interaction Model of the City of Helsinki was created to guideline these efforts of enabling participation and interaction.

The idea is to invite City residents and its partners to join the development of the City, the services, and neighborhoods by enabling of spontaneous activities and creation of equal opportunities for participation with the aim of creating a positive city experience. The model states, that the decision-making in the city should be open and participatory. Helsinki also recruited 7 local workers, “city coaches”, to facilitate participation in each housing area. They help the residents to participate by promoting initiatives and development proposals, creating discussion and being present in their respective housing areas.

IMG_4123

Participatory Budgeting as a Concrete Means to Co-Develope the City

For the residents of the City of Helsinki, a concrete means to participate in developing the city is participatory budgeting. Some 4.4 million euros will be allocated annually to the initiatives ideated by the residents. Some 900 000 euros is allocated to the projects concerning the entire City of Helsinki, and to the 5 greater housing areas have been allocated money according to the number of residents they have. How the budget is spent, is being voted upon, based on the proposals made by the City residents. The voting age limit is 12.

During the autumn of 2018, the city coaches have been promoting the participatory budgeting project, which really kicked off on the 15thof November, when the online service for the resident’s ideas was released. The city coaches have been organizing also co-creative ideation workshops in each housing areas. To help facilitate the workshops, a participatory game called “OmaStadi” was created by the service design company Hellon.

IMG_4138

Let’s play!

I took part in the ideation workshop organized in my housing area Hermanni-Vallila. Some 20 people attended the workshop, everyone filled with enthusiasm to develop their own neighborhood. After the introduction to the Participatory Model and participatory budgeting in Helsinki, we were handed out the “OmaStadi” participatory game and explained how to play it. We had some 1 h 30 minutes to play the game, with the aim of resulting in 1 to 2 ideas we would then download in the “OmaStadi” online service.

IMG_4133

It was time to play! We organized ourselves in teams and prepared for the ideation game by choosing the instructor, the bookkeeper, the joker, and timekeeper. The game began by exploring “the City Corners” cards and choosing 1 or 2 areas on which we concentrate on ideating. Then we had a free-flowing discussion on the challenges of the areas chosen with the aim of choosing one challenge we want to solve. In the second phase, we had some help in ideation using “the Ideas & Solutions” cards. We brainstormed ideas first individually and then collectively. We also used “the City Residents” cards to open up new perspectives on our ideas.

IMG_4144

In the third phase, we used “the Precondition” cards to validate our ideas with the preconditions of participatory budgeting. We had to choose 1 to 3 most suitable ideas or further develop ideas to fit the preconditions. Next, we used the “Good City” cards to test which of the ideas work towards the City’s objectives and scored the ideas if they fitted the objectives mentioned in the cards. The more the idea was given points, the better possibilities it has to succeed in the process in the future. We had to choose the idea that scored best and was perceived best by our team for elaborating. Lastly, it was time to present the idea to the City of Helsinki. All teams presented their ideas and wrote them down to an idea sheet. The bookkeeper is responsible for downloading the idea to the OmaStadi online service.

The ideas varied from enhancing a playground nearby to taking over an old tram hall for creating community house and to a thorough concept of enhancing the Vaasa square in Kurvi including infrastructure changes, plantation of trees, organizing events such local food market and flea market, starting a community house, cooperation with local businesses, and hiring a community worker (“Talonmies”) for the square. We had such fun!

IMG_4137

How to reach people?

The OmaStadi cards are available also in Swedish, English and in plain Finnish (“selkokieli”). In the event, there was also a group of residents who didn’t speak Finnish. This group was facilitated by a voluntary organization Nicehearts and their Neighborhood Mothers division. The City of Helsinki organizes ideation workshops also in English, but this kind of organizations volunteer to help facilitation also in some workshops organized in Finnish. They said the experience was inspiring also for their group English-speaking group.

However, it can be asked how democratic the participatory budgeting actually is? Who are willing and able to attend open ideation meetings and workshops? Do they reach all the citizen groups, especially the ones with something hindering the participation? Has the message of participatory budgeting even reached all residents? A lot has been done to tackle these issues: the ideation workshops are normally open, but the City also trains some people to facilitate the game so that it can be played in housing cooperatives, among friends, etc. The City also brings the ideation game to different groups of people who have some hinders to take part otherwise, such as retired and disabled people, schools, etc. What can be discussed, is the communication about participatory budgeting in the first place. Many people do not know anything about it, at least this is my impression when I have talked to my friends and networks. So, this is one thing which the City of Helsinki needs to develop in the next round.

What’s next?

After the period of leaving the ideas to the online service, the ideas will be translated/modified into coherent plans in co-creative workshops and meetings organized in March-April 2019. The City residents are invited to the workshops. In addition, the budgets for those plans will be made during that period of time by the City of Helsinki. In May 2019, the voting of the plans will be organized, and in June the implementation of the voted plans will start. The people who have been crafting the initial ideas can take part to the implementation.

IMG_4131

Participatory budgeting is an interesting initiative, and the City of Helsinki has taken a significant step towards open and participatory decision-making, not so common even globally. Can’t wait for the next workshops elaborating on the selected ideas, and finally the voting in May to come!

 

Future Service Design: Designing Solutions for Systemic Problems

What kind of future is waiting for us service innovation and design students? How service design is transforming and what kind of skills are needed when working in the service design field in the future? These questions were discussed from several perspectives in the super interesting Palmu Society 10 + 10 event organized in Tennispalatsi.

Many interesting points were pointed out  from new job descriptions to how companies should organize themselves in such way that creativity is easy to release to pace up innovation. Perhaps the most relevant takeaway was that service design is “scaling up” from improving existing single services designed for the obvious user, and that it is going beyond the mere interaction of people and services. Due to the shift in focus, also the designing will change.

IMG_3175

From designing services to changing people’s behavior

When exploring future service design challenges, we are merely not talking about improving the quality of single services. In future, service design will be solving more holistic problems and tapping into systemic changes that require changing people’s behavior. As good services are already mainstream (a fact that rightfully can be argued by many), service design in moving from designing services to designing people’s behavior. In the future, service designers are designing solutions to societal issues of larger scale, for instance immigrants’ adaptation to a new country or helping people to survive exhaustion. In many cases, there are no services yet to improve, so they need to be innovated and designed.

IMG_3179

When designing solutions to societal issues, there is always also business potential to be discovered. It is about finding the link between changing behavior, new habits and business. One fictional example showcased how a health care business could partner with a gym and together they create business opportunities when tapping into the exhaustion problem.

New KPIs and even deeper customer insight to support “super moments”

When dealing with more more holistic and systemic problems with the aim of changing human behavior, the objectives and goals of a design process also change. The KPIs should be connected to the change of people’s behavior rather than the mere interaction between the customer and the service. Therefore, more attention should be put into getting even deeper customer insight, when trying to understand people’s behavior and reasoning as well as trying to find ways how to support that change.

For instance, when solving problems regarding people’s exhaustion, service designers should go way deeper in people’s behavior, to go in the homes and dig into the daily life of the exhausted people in order to be able to find ways to change people’s behavior – and eventually find (business or humanitarian) solutions for those problems. Somehow this did not sound so alien to me as a service innovation and design student at Laurea. But I guess, in practice, getting truly deep customer insight can be easy to overlook by the clients as it is very time-consuming and expensive.

The concept of “super moments” was mentioned several times playing the most important role in understanding the customer. A “super moment” is the point where the behavioral change can be accomplished and when a person is finding and adapting a new thought. People need support in taking a new direction, and service designers need to find the tools for them. This will also have an effect on the actual designing of a service. It will be further explored, how new technology and AI, such as machine learning, can be used to support the “super moments”.

Johannes
Picture: Palmu

New Skills are Required from Service Designers

As service design, or whatever this field will be called in the future, will go even deeper in the people’s behavior and reasoning, and new technology such as AI will be utilized more and in more creative ways, new skills are required from service designers. When technology is exploited even more, there will be even more need for people who are dealing with the technology.

For instance, it needs to be carefully considered which tasks can be given for algorithms to solve and how the machines and AI need to be “taught” and “coached” how to see and understand human behavior. This can only be done by people. Even more skills from different fields such as psychology, behavioral sciences, ethnography and technology, but also business skills are even more required in the service design field. Service designers will specialize more, one good example is the trendy “business designer” job title.

IMG_3192The result of voting the future job titles in the service design field.

***

The event got me thinking a lot about the issue of ethics when it comes to changing the human behavior. We, the future service designers and innovators, need to be even more aware of the motives that drive and biases that affect us, the design projects and the clients, as future service design will play an important role in making more impactful changes in the society, even changing culture.

‘People-Driven City’ – Co-creating the City

Have you ever thought about who owns the city where you live in? That was a striking question for many of us attending ‘People-Driven City’, the international seminar of the urban festival ‘Lähiöfest2017’ (‘Festival for Neighbourhoods’) at the University of Helsinki. Are the owners the ones who have the political power, the businesses, or are they the people who inhabit it, the citizens?

IMG_6105

The seminar brought together experts as well as activists involved in projects that interlace placemaking, city planning, entrepreneurship and community involvement, and it wanted to inspire broader discussion on urban planning and development by presenting varied initiatives from traditional structures to grass-root work. The aim was to look how and where “top-down” and “bottom-up” initiatives can meet, the emphasis being on the areas of the city in the midst of change.

During the day we learned about fascinating international cases. One of them was MakeShift (UK/FR) organization, which designs, builds and manages new public destinations that house communities of local, independent businesses. One of them is Peckham Levels project, which is transforming seven empty levels of a multi-storey carpark into an experimental cultural destination by creating affordable workspace for artists and entrepreneurs. Not to mention the cases of Lola Lik culture hub and The Movement Hotel (NL) run by refugees, both located in Amsterdam at a former prison. In those cases, the deserted places in a city are being taken over by an organization and the people are developing the city with the help of these organizations.

Continue reading