Archive by Author | tuulajappinen

Benchmarking public service design and social innovations in Milan

A group of representatives of the public sector, service designers and the University of Lapland visited Milan from 26 to 30 November 2013 in order to benchmark how service design and social innovations are used in public services renewal.

Theoretical background: A meeting with Anna Meroni at the Politecnico di Milano

Our trip started from the Politecnico di Milano. Established in 1863, Politecnico di Milano is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. It is ranked as one of the most outstanding European universities in Engineering, Architecture and Industrial Design, and also regarded as a leading research institution in the world. Anna Meroni, Assistant professor of Service and Strategic Design, told us at Bovisa campus about the background of Service Science, service design master classes and DESIS network. The key reference disciplines of Service Science are ethnography, social sciences, management, engineering, behavioral sciences and computing.


Politecnico School of Design offers two-year master classes in such areas as Product Service System Design, Product Design for Innovation, Communication Design and Social and Collaborative Housing. The goal of the Product Service System Program is to integrate the designer to the whole service system instead of an individual innovation. The goal of the Product Design for Innovation Program is to integrate creative product development into experimentation, design and enterprise activities. The goal of the Communication Design Program is to cope with strategic communication problems and provide innovative solutions and coordinate all the roles and competences needed in a complex communication project. The goal of the Social and Collaborative Housing is to design and manage private social housing and public or private forms of collaborative living.

Politecnico is a member of DESIS (Design for Social Innovation towards Sustainability), which is a network of design labs, based in design schools and design-oriented universities, actively involved in promoting and supporting sustainable change. The network was established in 2009 and today consist of 43 design labs around the world. The nearest labs to Finland are at Linnaeus University in Växjö and Malmö University in Sweden.

Social innovations in Practice

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Cut your time to market at half by lean service development

Lean thinking

On 10 November 2013, Ola Sundell, CEO of Hub Helsinki, talked at Laurea University of Applied Sciences about one of the hottest topics of service design today: the concept of lean thinking. The basic idea of lean thinking is to produce maximum value to the customer with minimum waste. Ola gave us some guidelines on how to build up a start-up company by using this new approach.

Ola Sundell

Lean market entry and innovation paradigm change

In lean innovation the key to success is to find the right markets with the help of customers. The best way to enter the market is to start working with innovators and early adapters. Instead of expensive marketing campaigns, you can validate your ideas by using innovators and early adapters as a runway to the market. Ola Sundell even advised us to forget the open innovation paradigm where the keys to success are new ideas flowing in and out of the companies. Ideas are worth nothing if they aren’t selling.

A lean launch is a new way to enter the markets. In contrast to the traditional waterfall model, where you have different development phases from concept, development and testing to launching, lean launch means that you enter the markets right away with your product idea, targeting the customer with a minimum viable product.

Customer development methods – Learning is the core!

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How to be a good designer

You need to have the right mindset

Nigel Cross, Emeritus Professor of Design Studies in the UK describes in his book Design Thinking (2011) successful designers as optimists and opportunists, who are exploring uncertainty hopefully and dedicated to the tasks in hand. Unlike engineers who want to test, measure and prove something, designers cope with this uncertainty by analogy-making and intuitive judgements. They also use ethnographic approach in order to dig up tacit knowledge and make new hypothesis of future situation of use.

Cross compared designing to sharing a social process of interaction and to a face-to-face negotiation between different participants of the process. To make a proposal for a solution designers use a wide range of designing techniques, such as sketching, prototyping, mock-ups and scenarios. A successful designer cannot work alone in his studio; being an innovative designer requires capacity to work with a small team that shares the same passion to creative thinking and that is also capable of broad system thinking.

You need to go beneath the surface

Tim Brown, CEO and president of IDEO, an innovation and design firm, points out in his article Design Thinking (2008) that designers have a new role at strategic level in service delivery. He continues that design thinking can radically renew health care services, for instance. Rather than sudden breakthrough, a service innovation process is a systematic creative human-centered process followed by iterative cycles of prototyping and testing. It is hard work at customer interface, not only designing more attractive products, advertising or communication strategies.

You need to have right tools and process

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The cooperative council in Lambeth, London

Derrick Anderson, the Chief Executive of Lambeth Council, who was voted as a Public Leader of the Year in the Guardian Public Services Awards 2012, spoke in the 7th Quality Conference in Vilnius about how citizens should be focus of the service development and how civil servants and local politicians should support them and thus provide new opportunities for localism. The other reason why citizens should be in the centre of the public sector transformation is that they are new resources in service delivery.

There is a need for a radical transformation in the UK, because public sector has 50 per cent less spending between 2010 and 2016 at the local level.  There are three strategies to cut public spending: salami slicing; asset disposal, rationalization, pricing services; and radical transformation of service delivery linked to citizens. Anderson voted for the third strategy. Citizens should be the ones who determine polities and deliver services.


Derrick told us a story about how he involved citizens in cooperative commissioning of public services in 2009 after he realised that local states should make cuts and old ways didn’t work anymore.  Local states needed to renegotiate the relationships between the citizens and the local government. As a result of these negotiations they issued a policy paper introducing new ways of co-production. This paper introduced service design concepts as key policy principals: collaboration, building networks and loving your place were pathways to a better future. Lambeth Council worked out in workshops how the council and citizens should work together and how citizens could be encouraged to be a part of a cooperative council. Local states also engaged 3000 citizens in making surveys, interviewing stakeholders and becoming members of a citizen council.

Lambeth Council found out that the local state needed support and a strong voice; that they should let go off the traditional ways of producing services and give the local state some money to do this and that they should build infrastructure (= community based management) to make this transformation happen.  Council also found out that this transformation needs strong motivation, innovation methods, creative citizens, social capital and networks. The local state should facilitate this change process with interaction, spaces, networks, learning, money and procedures.

Made in Lambeth: Local people and politicians as assets

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What does social activism mean in service design context?

Background: Service as a form of social interaction

Anna Meroni, Assistant Professor of Service and Strategic Design at Politecnico di Milano, visited Aalto University on 10 September 2013 at Service Design Goes Public  seminar. Meroni’s main area of interest is social innovation considered in different areas of activity.  Meroni started  her key note speech by defining the disciplinary basis of Service Design, which consist of ethnography, social sciences, management, engineering, behavioral sciences and computing. She defined service as ”a regulated form of co-production of benefits between two or more parties, aiming at solving a certain problem through the application of knowledge and skills”.

Meroni highlighted that service results from an interaction and is a form of social interaction. Designers can create conditions under which these interactions and relationships can happen. Meroni presented four main areas of design interventions: Imagining future directions for service systems, Designing interactions to shape systems and organizations, Exploring new collaborative service models and Designing interactions, relations and experiences and eight main kinds of design contributions in these intervention areas.


Three community-centered co-production cases 

In this blog post I concentrate on one of these interventions: “How to explore new collaborative service models”, with three case examples that Meroni presented.

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