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Case: Facilities Services

Family in the Malmi social and health care center. Photo: Laura Oja, City of Helsinki

Participatory service design to support building projects

A major challenge in City of Helsinki social services and health care is how to design new facilities to meet the user needs. Facilities Services of the Social Services and Health Care Division has sought a solution from service design.

Architect Anne Jaakkola and her colleagues oversee building projects at Facilities Services.

“We steer building design in construction projects by introducing the user perspective to projects and by supplying initial data,” Jaakkola explains.

The experts of Facilities Services navigate in the terrain between designers and users. There are many potential pitfalls.

The users of new facilities often feel that the facilities do not function well. Designers and builders often feel that they do not obtain the required information from users in time. Users often describe to designers their current operations and not the future needs that the new facilities should serve.

“It’s vital to engage users at early stages of building projects,” Jaakkola emphasizes.

“The users’ challenge is that they should comment on projects that may not be completed for many years. It may be difficult for them to anticipate changes in operations and consequent requirements for facilities. Users also can’t visualize the progress of construction projects and so fail to realize that information is needed at certain stages.”

“Our challenge at Facilities Services is to make users understand their potential to impact building projects at early stages, when all major decisions are made. We seek to solve challenges related to the visualization of projects.”

Radar of change. Photo by Pentagon design
“Radar of Change” is a tool that supports building projects in defining the nature of change. Image: Pentagon Design.

Solutions from service design

Helsinki City strategies emphasize the importance of hearing the voices of citizens.

Solutions to the problems of Facilities Services were sought on this principle in the autumn of 2018 together with Pentagon Design. The particular strength of this strategic design agency is human-centred service design.

The work was led by Virva Haltsonen of Pentagon Design. She sums up the key challenges.

“Helsinki has a vast amount of spaces for social services and health care, including facilities for many of the City’s core functions. But the development of these facilities is managed only by a small team. A major challenge is that facilities and operations are not developed concurrently. Furthermore, the voices of customers, that is, the citizens of Helsinki, are not heard enough in building.”

Pentagon Design approached the challenges with the methods of service design.

“We first recognized the bottlenecks of building projects – the points where help is needed most,” Haltsonen says.

Service designers interviewed representatives of the Social Services and Health Care Division and the Urban Environment Division of their views and experiences. The agency conducted benchmarking studies assessing similar projects outside of the City organization.

Led by the designers, solutions were co-created in joint workshops for staff members of both City divisions. The project also included service design training for the staff of Facilities Services.

On the basis of the interviews, benchmarking and workshops, the designers produced a toolkit, which helps users to define and manage the cultural change that is related to a building project. For example, the toolkit’s “Radar of Change” enables users to anticipate changes in operations and facilities.

The toolkit also includes communication materials and tools to engage users in spatial planning. The tools ensure that the customer perspective, that is, the perspective of the citizen, is always recorded in materials.

Service design project visualized the role of users and their opportunities to impact various project stages. Pentagon Design.
The service design project visualized the role of users and their opportunities to impact various project stages. Image: Pentagon Design.

Building project as an opportunity for transformation

“The new tools help us to visualize the building process – who should do what and when. We can describe the role of users and their opportunities to make impacts at various project stages,” Jaakkola says.

The results of the service design project can be multiplied, as the toolkit can be utilized in variety of projects. As a result, Jaakkola has shared the new tools with other City divisions.

“The project has generated new realizations, too. The main one of them is that building projects are not only about the space, but they offer opportunities to adopt new operating models,” Jaakkola says.

Haltsonen confirms:

“A building project is a valuable opportunity for change management. A new facility can be a channel to communicate desired change to the personnel. A building project is a good way to develop organisational culture.”

Text by Johanna Lemola
Photos by Laura Oja and Pentagon Design

11.03.2020 19:30