Last week the city of Rotterdam (NL) hosted the latest edition of the International Design in Government Conference.
Previously hosted in London (UK), Oakland (USA), and Edinburgh (Scotland), last week’s edition was already the third happening in 2019, suggesting that the interest in the topic is growing world-wide.
Hosted officially by Gebruiker Centraal (User Needs First), a Dutch knowledge community for professionals working on digital government services, the conference took place between November 18th and 20th and its participation was completely open to anyone.
The International Design in Government Conference aims at sharing best practices, takeaways and discussing common challenges so that they can be tackled through a collaborative approach. In facts, established by Government Digital Service in 2017 as an opportunity to bring together design-minded people that work in, for or with the government all over the world, in the last two years the international design in government community has grown to over 1500 members from 66 countries. In addition to participating to face-to-face meeting occasions such at the conference, community members engage every month in sharing knowledge through calls and other collaborative digital tools, contributing to keep the discussions alive and make some steps further.
I attended the conference on Tuesday, November 19th, where the morning was entirely dedicated to keynote speeches, whereas the afternoon had a more dynamic connotation as participants could choose to attend a wide range of talks, workshops and breakout sessions.
Below a summary of the morning keynote speeches and their related visual notes I made on the spot:
Measuring service quality – Willem Pieterson
Willem Pieterson is a researcher focusing on the intersection of data, technology and their orchestration with the aim of helping organisations become more innovative and data-driven. Presenting his work on how to better assess the quality of governmental services, he introduced a quality model based on 20 dimensions of quality, which helped defining a service evaluation model that suggests “satisfaction” as the biggest predictor of quality.
Designing digital to meet user needs – Francis Maude
Francis Maude is the former Minister for the UK Cabinet Office. He was responsible for the establishment of the Government Digital Service, with the aim of reinforcing internal IT and bringing all government services onto a single web hub: GOV.UK. By telling the story on how the UK moved from having its digital services spread across more than 2000 government websites to winning the award as “world leader for online and digital public services”, Maude suggested that leadership, capability, and mandate are the three elements to implement a functional reform. Additionally, the implementation of horizontal, cross-silo functions (by ensuring the commitment of several Departments to redesigning all existing Government services) as well as building a critical mass of technical capabilities were pointed out as the key to execution of such an ambitious strategy.
Maude’s office estimated that moving services from offline to digital channels could save approximately £1.8 billion a year.
Digital social innovation – Audrey Tang
Audrey Tang is listed number 3 in the World’s 100 Most Influential People in Digital Government in 2019. She took office in Taiwan as the “Digital Minister” on October 1, 2016, and was assigned the role of helping government agencies communicate policy goals and managing information published by the government, both via digital means.
Through her talk, Tang stressed the importance of implementing “radical transparency” in all governmental processes, and highlighted how Taiwan is promoting presidential hackathons as a means to co-create solutions around several topics related to the SDGs.
Although I could only attend one day, my brief participation to the International Design in Government was very interesting and it triggered a few considerations that I summarise below:
The understanding and recognition of (service) design is skyrocketing
If only five years ago it would have been unimaginable to have designers in a municipality, now designers working in Government are thousands and, based on the networking I did, most of attendees either knew what service design is or had service designers in their teams. In this landscape, the NL and UK are commonly acknowledged as the two countries in Europe who are the forefront of design and innovation in their governments.
Inclusion and diversity are not an optional in government services
Although public and private sectors are facing similar challenges (such as defeating a siloed mindset), the public sector must deserve some extra attention to designing for diversity and inclusion: in facts, governmental services need to be used by all citizens and therefore must be accessible to all kind of users. Of course, diversity and inclusion should not be considered as an optional in the private sector. However, they often are shadowed by other commercial priorities.
What is designed for some users might be very well received by other users
The story of Gemeente (Municipality) Rotterdam, who prototyped and tested visual letters for citizens with learning disabilities in the attempt of delivering a more engaging way for these users to read important communications, tells how this solution turned out to be a success for other citizens too. What we can learn from it is that at times what is designed for a specific target of users might very well apply to other kinds of users too.
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of AI?
Robots? Data breach? Self-driving cars?
There are as many thoughts about AI as there are definitions. It really depends on who you ask. However, in this blog I won’t go over what it is or isn’t but rather how we as designers can influence its use for better or worse.
So is AI an opportunity or a threat?
I’d like to think it’s more of an opportunity but with that comes great responsibility. How so? I will get to that a bit later…
How to Service Design AI
On Thursday 21st of November I took part in the Ompeluseuran palvelumuotoilijat event on “How to Service Design AI” hosted by Solita x Palmu where I got a lot of food for thought about AI. Anna Metsäranta, Data-Driven Business Designer, talked about why 85% of the AI projects fail business wise and Anni Ojajärvi, Ethnographer, Business Design and Strategy, discussed the ethics of AI and how AI can influence human behavior and everyday life. Here are my key take a ways from the event:
The Recipe for a Successful AI Project
AI is just a tool. Humans must define the problem as well as the outcome. The more concrete the better.
We as designers need to be part of AI development projects in order to bring the human aspect to the equation. It is important that we validate along the way that the project is going towards the right direction.
Your solution is only as good as your data. Case in point Amazon’s now scrapped recruiting tool that showed bias against women. The recruiting tool used application data from a 10 year period, mostly made up of male applicants’ resumes due to the male dominance in the technology industry. “In effect, Amazon’s system taught itself that male candidates were preferable.” (Dastin, 2018).
Developing AI is not just a one of thing. AI needs to be constantly trained and the results validated.
WEIRD People Define the Ethics of AI
AI is for the most part developed by WEIRD people. That is Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic people that make up only 10 to 15% of the world population. Thus, as my final question I leave you this: How can we make this WEIRD situation into a GREAT one?That is Global, Representative, Equal, Accurate and Tolerant. As I mentioned earlier with opportunity comes great responsibility and it is up to us designers to think of the direct and indirect impact that our design and solutions have on the customer, context, community, employee/process, society and environment.
Disclaimer: These thoughts, opinions, and observations are mine, and mine alone. They are not the thoughts of my fellow Dash team members, only myself.
had the immense pleasure of participating in the 2019 Dash Hackathon in
Helsinki (organized by the Aalto Entrepreneurship Society – “Aaltoes”) which is
the largest design hackathon in Europe.
In this hackathon there were over 220 participants from 40+ different nationalities that came
together specifically for this event.
I knew that
this hackathon was going to be a gigantic time commitment to squeeze into my
fulltime work and student schedule. I imagined
that I would meet countless new people and possibly make a new friend or
two. As time crept closer to the event, I
ruminated about the design process and wondered how the actual process of
designing would unfold over the course of the event.
the event is over, I can reflect that the element of this hackathon which took me
completely utterly by surprise was the profoundly visceral and emotional
rollercoaster of a ride this journey took me on.
post I do not want to focus on the specifics of the design process or what my
team ultimately created. What I am
taking away from this experience is different than what I had initially
imagined. What I am left with is a list
of existential questions for myself about who I am as a person, and what kind
of service designer I want to be.
As we all
know, the cornerstone of service design is empathy (I realized this weekend
this crucial element could be what drew me to service design in the first
place). The ability to put yourself in
the shoes of others, see the world through their eyes and then walk a mile in
those shoes. All while keeping this perspective in mind as you create
whatever amazing user-centered design solutions we service designers will ultimately
come up with.
that empathizing with the user is an integral part of service design and it is
very important to lay this as the foundation of everything we as service
designers will do, however after this weekend I have come to realize that everything
has a limit; empathy included.
It is not
possible to design a solution that suits everyone. That is a fact of service design every
designer must accept, and it is also how I am approaching this post. This post is not for everyone. This post is written for those of you who may
have a propensity to over empathize.
For those of you who can relate, please read on. For those of you who can’t relate, if you
read on anyway, maybe you will notice this trait in a fellow designer and send
them this post.
I decided when I signed up for Dash that I really wanted to be part of the challenge for Startup Refugees. This is a Finnish NGO that has made it their mission to match refugees and immigrants with jobs here in Finland. They were only founded three years ago, but they are already having a significantly positive impact on the employment situation of refugees and immigrants in Finland. They currently have two offices; one in Helsinki and one in Oulu.
wanted to be a part of this challenge more than any of the other challenges
because this issue really speaks to me on a personal level. I am a black American immigrant who has lived
in Finland for the past six years. I am
very happy with where I am now in life both personally and professionally, but
it was not an easy journey. I know how
hard I had to work to be where I am now, and that I did not get to where I am
now on my own. Sure, I have a good work
ethic, but I also had a great network, a bit of luck, and people who were
willing to take a chance on me. I was
really excited to see if I could somehow find a way to help other immigrants
and refugees (whose situations coming to Finland were/are infinitely harder and
more complicated than mine) find a way to become employed in Finland.
that through gainful employment an immigrant or refugee can have dignity,
community, and a purpose for life in their new country of residence. This feeling of comfort and belonging is
something I genuinely wish I could give to anyone and everyone who wants it.
mentioned at the top of this blog, I do not want to go into specific details of
the design challenge because I want to focus on my emotional journey and
findings related to that. For the sake
of brevity let’s just say the challenge was related to Startup Refugees’ larger
focus of helping to find refugees and immigrants employment in Finland. This is what we in the realm of service
design call a wicked problem.
In Richard Buchanan’s report “Wicked Problems in
Design Thinking”, he refers to a report by Rittel (1967) that defines a wicked
“A class of social system problems which are ill-formulated, where the information is confusing, where there are many clients and decision makers with conflicting values, and where the ramifications in the whole system are thoroughly confusing.” (1992, 15)
Wicked problems are manifested in the major issues and
systemic failures of our society today.
Issues such as climate change, poverty, multicultural integration,
healthcare, and so forth are problems so prolific in nature that there are no
single solutions or tangible ends to their plight.
That being said, with this challenge being quintessentially wicked, there was no way we would possibly be able to fix this challenge in a 48-hour hackathon session. To be fair and very clear, this is not what the challenge was asking of us. It was asking for ways to help improve a small part of the issue so that they could more successfully match their clients with work or help immigrants and refugees better understand the foreign job market in which they are attempting to enter.
However, with an issue this complex where do you even begin?
As a team,
on that first day (Friday) we began the hackathon creative, upbeat, and ready
to tackle the world. On the second day
(Saturday) that emotional rollercoaster shot full speed out of the launch
bay. The day started well, but by the
middle of the day that upbeat and playful attitude was all but dead. Our mentor repeatedly asked us where our
playful attitude had gone and eventually encouraged us to go get some air
together outside the venue to try to regain the spirit from the day
before. We got a bit more playful after
that, but something personally inside me had shifted that I never could quite
reset. By later that night we had a
working solution concept, and after starting again early Sunday morning we were
able to finalize our idea and proudly present it later that afternoon as a possible
solution to their challenge.
I was very
proud of the solution we came up with as a team and although some people may have
thought that my closing lines of the pitch were sappy and maybe just for show,
I honestly meant every word I wrote, rehearsed, and delivered as a
closing. The event ended later that
night and I went home feeling happy, physically tired (this I understood- the
hackathon was long), but also incredibly emotionally exhausted. I felt like my inner child had just run an
ultra-marathon through a mine field. I
felt acutely emotional and I wanted to figure out why. I had been emotional since the second day of
the challenge and those feelings just kept compounding until the challenge was
over and I could finally go home. Would
I have felt this way if I worked on any of the other non-wicked problem
challenges? Was I too close to the subject? Probably.
I began a search where all great internet searches begin (google) and stumbled across a blog that pretty much summed up the personal issue I faced during this challenge. It is post is titled “The Dilemma of Designers’ Empathy Delusions” by Jason Mesut (2018). In it he states:
“I have three challenges to the importance of empathy. To strengthen designer performance by battling what I feel is an ideal that is often delusional and misguided.
Two of my challenges are likely to be unpopular, and the third will probably be appreciated by many:
1.Most designers are not actually that empathic to end users
2.Empathy isn’t that valuable and unique a quality for designers
3.We should care more about people beyond users”
I will link
the entire article because I think it is a really good read. However, I would
like to focus on the 2nd and 3rd points he makes in this
article. In his second point that
questions the value of empathy, and he gives a good example of the dangers of
over empathizing with the following example:
“Imagine a doctor. Imagine if she had high empathy. She would struggle to make decisions for the population she helps. If one of her patient(s) suffered, she would suffer. The pain would impede the process of resolution. It’s why many healthcare professionals build up barriers to the emotions and the pain of the patients they serve. It helps them make better judgement calls.
I’m not saying a designer shouldn’t care. Often, they should. But I’m not sure that empathizing over every user they meet can really be that productive or helpful.”
Now I know
this for some people may sound a little over the top, but I think that this is
a real danger for some designers that work specifically with wicked problems,
or any other issues that are highly emotional, in which putting yourself into
the shoes of others may elicit extremely deep feelings of empathy and
compassion that are much deeper than what is productively necessary for the
purposes of service design.
goes on to talk about what happens when your over empathizing can cause you to
lose sight of the larger picture. In
your compassion driven quest to create real change for the end user you run the
risk of losing empathy and sight of the other players in the game; the other clients
and stakeholders in the relevant network who are all a part of the challenge
you are hoping to solve.
proposes a framework for an empathy map where you consciously adjust your
feelings up or down as necessary while also keeping in mind other players
besides the end user:
I wholeheartedly believe that empathy must exist for
great service design. However, I now
believe there is a spectrum. A spectrum
of levels of conscious empathy every designer must have, and this
spectrum should be personally re-evaluated during all phases of the design
process to ensure it is evenly distributed across all people the new design
will affect; users, clients, and stakeholders alike.
I could not
imagine being as deeply emotionally connected to an issue that I would be working
with for a prolonged period of time without emotionally burning myself out. Though I did not appear to be overly emotional
or stressed during the event (and I did have a lot of fun too), I took mental
note of how exhausting this challenge was, and wondered how I would deal with
this kind of problem if it was my everyday job.
That is what lead me on this introspective journey and critical
evaluation of the weight of empathy in service design.
I am fully
aware that had I done a different challenge, I would not have had the emotional
response I did. However, I am glad I experienced everything exactly as I
did. It gave me time to reflect on my
emotions and myself.
I had an amazing time at Dash and would like to thank
the organizers for the opportunity to be a part of this great event. I would also like to give my deepest thanks
to Startup Refugees for all of the great work they do and wish them nothing but
the best in the future. Most of all, I
would like to thank my amazing team members for all of their hard work, and I
am very happy for the new friendships I have made.
By: Johanna Johnson
Richard 1996. Wicked Problems in Design Thinking. In Margolin, V. &
Buchanan, R. The Idea of Design. A Design Issues Reader. Cambridge: The MIT
In middle September I took part at the Global Goals JAM Berlin, a 2-day series of small design sprints where attendees were asked to work on local challenges – co-created with local community and industries – related to one or more of the the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
History pills – What are these Global Goals?
Let’s take a quick step back in 2015 when the Heads of State and Government and High Representatives, met at the United Nations Headquarters in New York and have decided on new global Sustainable Development Goals, known now as the Global Goals.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice.
The UN set to achieve each Goal and target by 2030.
Back to present
The aim of this event was to create interventions aimed at short term targets in support of the long term goals. The themes of this year were:
Water and Climate Change (SDG 4, SDG 13)
Migration (SDG 10, SDG 16)
Electronic Waste (SDG 12)
Sustainable Development for People and Planet (SDG 1, SDG 8)
Deep dive into the Migration Theme
My Team was composed by Nataly Ramirez Arteaga, Muhammad Sumon Molla Selim and Michael Lausberg, facilitated by Güzin Goçer and we were supporting the local Sponsor “Asylum Advice”, a soon-to-be platform where refugees could seek legal advice.
We mapped out the cause and effects of Migration on a
general level by using the Problem Solving Tree, we interviewed 2 refugees and
a social worker with 10 year experience in the field.
The big lessons learned by using the Service Design Tools
asylum seekers tend to trust more what other refugees, that have been in their shoes before, would tell them.
there are a lot of services for migrants already existing but nobody knows them
fragmented information & lack of digitalized bureaucratic processes
migrants that succeeded in their first steps in a new country feel the need to help others.
Here we envisioned a need of trust and better information and at the same time the desire to offer help.
Therefore we decided to prototype a platform to connect different already existing resources and services for migrants, to collect official information from authorities but most importantly a platform to get in touch with other migrants that have gone through the same experience and to share help and knowledge to ultimately build community and trust.
Personal reflection – What can we do as Service Designer practitioners?
As a student of the Service Innovation & Design Master program I felt the urge to participate and contribute to the challenges of this year.
“Is there anything better than combining our own expertise in Service Design to serve people, planet and prosperity by helping achieving these SDGs?”
We, as Service Designers know best how important is to
empathize with the user – in this case People and Planet – and create that shift of mindset in
society where Government and Businesses should sit together with citizens to co-create
solution for our people and for the environment.
Here an invitation to reflect and perhaps to start spread the Service Design tools to our local Communities and give help for the cause that we feel more related to.
It takes tons of small initiatives, iterations (and failures too!) before we can see a visible impact on a larger scale.
But this means we have to start now. We have to care, share and Dare!
“Data driven design” has become some what of a buzz word because data is considered to be the new oil. However, many companies struggle to figure out how to take advantage of data and so to speak “strike gold”. At the Service Design Network event: Data Driven Design, two companies K Group and Sanoma Media Finland shared how they have been able to develop successful services thanks to data.
Data Is a Compass
Interestingly both K Group and Sanoma Media Finland referred to data as a compass. Data is seen as a compass for a person who is lost. It gives a starting point where to start to look from. Data also acts as validator to see whether the adjustments made to the service have had a positive or negative effect or perhaps no effect at all. However, K Group noted that for them to say that data acts as a compass for them, it requires a lot of work.
Collaboration Is Key
Both companies emphasized the important of collaboration. Sanoma Media Finland described well the challenge of a designer, an analyst and a developer working together (see picture below). All three have very different working styles and practices and yet all three are essential to develop the best service possible. To solve this issue, Sanoma Media Finland decided to change their way of working and started to follow Futurice’s Lean Service Creation process. It is not all smooth sailing yet, but they feel that they are on the right path.
Data Driven Services
K Group has great amount of data about their customer as they have 3,5 million loyalty members and 5 million customer encounters daily. Thanks to their rich source of data they have been able to create customer driven services such as K-Ostokset (K-Ruoka mobile app): “A service, that gives the user an overview of his/her grocery purchases and a better understanding of the impacts of the purchase decisions.” The other customers for K Group are their K store merchants. K Group has developed a service for the merchants that collects data about the merchant’s K store customers, the market and the area and puts the information in such a format that the merchants can make educated decisions on how to improve their store’s profitability and customer experience. Evidently, as shown by these two examples, data has become an essential part of service development.
Last Monday I participated in a company visit to Finavia organized by Ompeluseuran palvelumuotoilijat, a networking group for people who identify themselves as women. The event was hosted by Katariina Kovanen-Piippo, Digital Service Designer, the first and currently only service designer at Finavia and Terhi Aho, Ecommerce Manager, Digitalisation Program. Kovanen-Piippo and Aho shared how services are developed at Finavia and at the end of the visit all the participants got to workshop around a current Finavia case: “How to solve the transfer passengers’ problem using digital and physical channels?”. All in all, it was a very insightful visit and it was great to get to workshop for a short moment around a real Finavia case.
A Little Bit about Finavia
Finavia is a Finnish airport operator with a network of 21 airports across Finland. The Helsinki-Vantaa airport is the main airport which is a transit hub with over 50 000 passengers passing through it every day. Finavia’s customer promise is: “For Smooth Travelling.” meaning that Finavia will do anything to satisfy their customers. This is because one third of passengers choose their flight route according to the reputation of the transfer airport. Finavia has recognized three points through which they can influence customer experience: processes, premises and customer encounters. Their four pillars of customer experience guide the development of the airports: sense of time, security, refreshment and Finnish experiences. The aimed outcome is that the customer should feel energetic and relaxed instead of stressed and irritated after visiting the airport.
Developing Services Together with Customers
The great advantage of developing new or existing services at Finavia is that the customers are always in easy reach. The only thing that is left for the service designer to do is to define what they want to do and who should they ask. According to Kovanen-Piippo, the travelers have been more than happy to test ideas and answer questions. Furthermore, Finavia aims to have the necessary information where it is easily available for the customer. They don’t need to develop their own Finavia app just for the sake of it. If the customer is better reached through the Finnair airline’s app, then that is where the information should be.
Data Sets the Premises for Service Development
Data gained from research has helped Finavia to develop services that cater to their different user personas and customer segments. For example, Finavia has identified six basic customer groups amongst their travelers such as the price sensitive shopper (12% of travelers) and decisive performer (17% of travelers). Additionally, they have recognized that Estonian, Russian and Chinese travelers are a strategically important customer segments for them. When a tender is initiated for a new restaurant for example, it is always done in mind to cater to a certain customer segment.
Measuring the Success of Services
Finavia follows the Airport Service Quality (ASQ) survey monthly. It is a benchmarking program used by many airports to measure passengers’ satisfaction whilst they are traveling through an airport. If some touch point/service seems to be getting a lot of negative feedback, instant action will be taken to find out what might be causing it and how can it be improved. Finavia focuses more on customer touch points rather than customer journeys as there can be several different paths that end up leading to the same touch point.
1. Join a Book Club and Actually Finish Reading a Book on Your Reading List
point: Ever since I heard about the much buzzed about Palvelumuotoilun bisneskirja
(The Service Design Business Book), I was eager to get my hands on it. Needless
to say, I never got around it. It wasn’t until I saw the advertisement for the
Service Design Network’s Book Club featuring the book, that I decided to
finally read it. There is nothing like a set deadline to boost your motivation.
2. Discuss with Interesting Participants in a
It was great to exchange views about the book with other service design enthusiasts. The consensus was that the book outlines well why a business should invest in service design. Several recent business cases were featured in the book to help comprehend how service design is implemented in practice. The book also described the different stages that a company goes through when transforming to a service design-led organization. One of the participants said it well: “It is easier for a company that is born now to be inherently customer driven than for a company that has a long history to transform its well-established processes and ways to be more customer centric.” The book was also really reader friendly, thanks to the clear illustrations and jargon free writing. It is now on my recommendations list for anyone who wants to learn about service design especially from a business perspective.
3. Gain Fascinating Insights from One of the Authors
One of the book’s authors, Mikko Koivisto (pictured in the middle), took part in the book club. Koivisto shared that the cover and the title of the book were decided even before any content was written. This was because the publisher wanted to start promoting the book straight away. And even though there has been interest for an English version of the book, Koivisto said that it will have to wait for now. All the authors are quite busy at the moment and translating the book into English would require also updating the content to better serve an international audience.
4. Host the Next Book Club
Naturally the next step is to host the next book club. Yep, I got asked to host the next one and I gladly accepted the challenge. So, get your calendars out and mark yourself busy for the 2nd of December from 5pm to 7pm. The next book club will take place in the Helsinki Central Library Oodi. Details of the book will follow. Stay tuned and I will see you there!