Anni Leppänen, Lead Experimentalist, D9 team, State Treasury
Minh-Nguyet Le, Doctoral candidate, University of Potsdam (DE)
Ramia Mazé, Professor, Aalto University
Mariana Salgado, Director, Inland Design, Migri
Helén Marton, MA student, Aalto University
Laura Lerkkanen, MA student, Aalto University
The Design & Government event on 13 September 2018 brought together over 45 designers, design-minded civil servants and researchers for a lively discussion at the buzzing Helsinki City Hall as part of Helsinki Design Week 2018. The spirit of the event was open dialog – sharing our own ongoing thoughts about public sector design in Finland, and involving participants in a dialog format. The goal was to share knowledge, build community and to explore and reflect on the emerging roles of design in the public sector.
Design in government has expanded globally over recent decades, and Finland is a forerunner. ”Design in the public sector” is a strategic objective in the 2020 strategy commissioned by two ministries from Design Finland in 2013, and Ornamo’s 2013 statistics show employment growth for designers in the public sector. Building innovative capacity and design capability can be seen as integral to the Finnish Government’s Strategic Programme (February 2016) under two key projects: 1) digitalisation of public services and 2) introducing a culture of experimentation. Design is now written into Helsinki’s City Strategy, and Finnish municipalities have embraced a customer-centric view of cities where co-creation and participation are becoming integral roles of managers and planners. The Helsinki Lab, State Treasury’s D9 team and Inland Design within Migri (Finnish Immigration Service) are relocating and reframing design in the public sector. An increasingly critical mass of design-minded civil servants are connecting peer-to-peer across silos and levels of public administration, for example through 6aika and ‘Julkis-muotoilijat’ projects. This is a new politico-administrative context in which design is finding new relevance and opportunities today inside government.
The Design & Government event was organized to get an overview of the current state and some future needs given this rapid expansion of opportunities for design employment, development and leadership in the Finnish public sector. The event began with brief introductions by the organizers, and quickly formed around five discussion tables on the topics mentioned below with the addition of one ‘open table’ that organically formed on the topic of emerging possibilities of digitalization and design. Each table was facilitated by one of us, thus either a practitioner or researcher in the area. At each table, participants shared their experiences, mapped their knowledge, issues and ideas. Here is a brief overview of the topics.
Overview of discussion-table topics:
- MINDSETS – Designers bring with them new ways of working that challenge existing bureaucratic silos and culture. What are the tensions and strategies to overcome them?
- SKILLS – Design skills and creative capabilities are expanding to address the needs of public sector work. What are the capabilities that we need to develop ourselves and design?
- DIGITALIZATION – Digitalization and design are making waves though the public sector. How are the two positioned and connected, and what are the barriers to making the best of digitalization efforts?
- COLLABORATION – Designers and researchers would mutually benefit from collaboration. How might we open up shared spaces for long-term collaboration?
- LEADERSHIP – Design has evolved from being an external resource to being embedded within government organisations. What is needed from design leadership and what are the steps to develop that role?
The event culminated in a collective summary of each table and opening for further dialog and next steps together. At the end of the event, we all felt that design has clearly landed in government and the public sector… and it is time for the next steps! In order to move ahead, we suggest the need to map the current landscape, to deepen our understanding of design and drivers in the public sector context, and to build and support the network. Clearly, we need to work together to achieve this. This is an important moment – there is great momentum to influence the next government programme. Let’s design into the strategic focus for the next fours years in the Finnish public sector transformation!
Design & Government at Helsinki Design Week was co-organized between:
– ’Design for Government’ (DfG) is an advanced studio course in Aalto University’s Creative Sustainability master’s programme. DfG develops design to address the complex challenges of the government and public sector. Since 2014, DfG has been collaborating with one or more Finnish ministries each year to address to address a policy challenge.
– Inland is a design and innovation lab within the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri). Inland combines design thinking and advanced technology to co-design services that support immigrants and their communities. Their goal is to promote an organizational change in Migri and kick start cross-public-agency projects that will have a positive social impact.
– ’Julkis-muotoilijat’ is an active community of designers and design-minded civil servants in the government. As a self-organized community, Julkis-muotoilijat supports design-related knowledge-sharing, competence-building and collaboration across governmental agencies, ministries and municipalities.
– Helsinki Lab, initiated in 2016, makes design know-how, digitality and interaction an even more integral part of the development of the City. The Lab also integrates the City organisation and partners to work together in view of creating a better city and new business operations.