Hellon helped to define the next government’s agenda in Finland utilizing service design approach

In the recent years, Hellon has had the opportunity to apply service design approach to various organizational strategy processes. In January 2018 Hellon, together with State Treasury’s D9 digital team, facilitated a two-day workshop, The Sprint Towards Sustainable Growth, which is a great example of how participatory and user-centered approaches of service design can be applied to cross-administrative entities.


The Sprint Towards Sustainable Growth was facilitated for 25 participants from all the ministries in Finland, applying the “transition design” approach. During the sprint, participants within cross-ministerial teams, were inspired by different design methodologies and were guided to develop solutions on pre-identified large-scale social problems. The resulting solutions, the outcomes of the sprint, will contribute towards the Permanent Secretary recommendations for the next government. The work is not affected by political steering of the sitting government.


The two-day sprint was designed and organized by Hellon team, led by Design Director, Zeynep Falay von Flittner in collaboration with State Treasury’s D9 digital team and  Jouni Varanka, Chief Senior Specialist at the Prime Minister's Office. The process  was influenced by the transition design approach and adjusted to the context as an experiment to explore new ways of working in government organizations.



What is transition design?

Transition design is an evolving discipline combining methods and theories of change, design and sustainability in order to drive societal transitions towards more sustainable futures. It deals with major social challenges, or extensive problems, such as climate change, eldering population or the prevention of marginalization. Experiments such as The Sprint Towards Sustainable Growth are tailor-made workshops in which we apply transition design and strategic design methodologies in new ways to reach innovative outcomes in public sector organizations.


Focus on the citizen’s perspective

Our experience from the The Sprint Towards Sustainable Growth strengthened our belief that applying the transition design approach in strategy work such as this will make it possible to position the citizen's perspective more strongly in the center of ministerial strategy work in the future.

Why is it important to emphasize the citizen perspective in this high-level ministerial work? During the sprint planning process, Jouni Varanka, Chief Senior Specialist at the Prime Minister's Office, recognized four systemic reference groups of policy making, consisting of different actors in our social ecosystem. Citizens and customers form the largest mass with their various hopes and needs - they use the services of society. The voice of this group is often subtle in comparison to the influentials (labor market, unions, media) and operators, which in turn produce services in the ecosystem (companies and organizations). Regulators are the smallest, but most influential group in the ecosystem. Their influence, for example, in the strategy process of the government program is traditionally the strongest. For regulators, the voice of the people may be heard weakly or filtered by voices of influentials and operators.



The Sprint Towards Sustainable Growth made use of videotaped interviews and profiles representing different citizen- and entrepreneurial perspectives to include their points of view in the work of strategic themes. In addition, the contradictions between the reference groups and existing possibilities for cooperation were taken into account in working towards the final solutions.


Workshop Outcomes

The feedback from participants in the Sprint Towards Sustainable Growth was mostly extremely positive. According to our feedback survey, participants rated the sprint as a good alternative to the current work group process and most respondents would very much like to participate in a similar sprint in the future as well. The participants considered the "intensive, systematic and interactive approach offered by the sprint to support consensus among different ministries" particularly useful. In addition, bridging perspectives through cross-ministerial debates and the citizen perspective was assessed as highly valuable.


The Sprint Towards Sustainable Growth proved, that in two days it is possible to tackle cross-ministerial, complex problems in our society by applying the transition design approach. It was possible to move from problematization towards the desired future status and create preliminary outlines of the features of the needed reforms.



The key benefits of transition design in public sector organizations:

  • Increased Synergies between the Ministries. In the Sprint Towards Sustainable Growth, societal themes were viewed through a joint problem-solving process for ministries.
  • Time saving. Instead of a long working group work process, certain work phases can be replaced by effective, facilitated workshops.
  • A human-centered approach. Societal themes were solved by bringing the citizen and entrepreneurial perspective to the center, whereby new possibilities enabled by interfaces between different actors could be identified.
  • Collaboration. During two days, ministry employees were able to share views and create new opportunities for cooperation in the future.


Are you interested in hearing more about the utilization of service design methods and the results achieved in our projects? Stay tuned for the second part of this blog post, coming out later this spring. In the second part we will go deeper into the transition design from the methodology point of view. In the meanwhile, we will be glad to tell you more about service design and how we can design tailor-made solutions to meet your organization's needs.


For more information, please contact:

Pauline Ranta
Client Service Director

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