Julie Årving
Dec 11, 2018 · 8 min read

The dugnad is a traditional Norwegian social event dedicated to volunteer work in the community. It is important for social inclusivity and belonging, because of its ability to gather and include people who want to do good deeds for their communities. But experts predict that the dugnad is endangered. Fewer people than before participate in dugnads even though they are considered more or less mandatory . Many would rather pay their way out of it if given the option. How can we enhance the positive elements of the dugnad and celebrate them through other channels that are being used today?

Creating a dugnad service

By looking at short term engagement and small contributions to the city space, we propose several design possibilities on how to reach a more inclusive city and lower the threshold for dugnad participation. The result is the service “Dugnadsbanden”.

Dugnadsbanden is a digital service that celebrates the dugnad by promoting dugnads in the city and arranging dugnad activities where people can participate. The service is run by volunteers who believe it is important to make people feel ownership to the service, to and participate with content and engagement. Through the “Dugnadsbanden” Instagram account the they share highlights of dugnads being done in the city. Dugnadsbanden also arranges dugnad events where people can participate, and encourages people to start their own.

To figure out what the service should look like and what it should provide, we explored four different touch points [1]. Some are experiments and others illustrates possibilities. Combined they are a proposition to the service strategy for Dugnadsbanden.The four touch points are:

1. #dugnadsbanden

2. Branding the dugnad

3. The tourist experience

4. Do it yourself!

[1]Physical or digital product where a consumer can interact with a service. Ex: app, ticket booth, event


The important thing about social media is that you reach those who have the same interest as you.” — Karl Henrik Sivesind

The main digital platform for Dugnandsbanden is the Instagram account with the same name. The volunteers running the service share highlights of dugnads being done in the city. People can contribute with their own images to the account by hashtagging #dugnadsbanden. The overall aim of the account is to celebrate the dugnad!

In our Manifesto we state The Inclusive Digital City should make citizens proud. We therefore wanted to explore how we can show off all the dugnad activities happening around the city. But how can we share these activities so people will see all the good work that is happening?

This was our starting point for making a dugnad service that only exists on social media; they allow us to connect with others and offers low threshold for engagement. We chose Instagram as a fitting platform because of its accessibility through posting and sharing images and videos with specific hashtags. The Instagram account also ties all the following experiments and design possibilities into one cohesive service.

By using an existing social media as our platform we show how you can create a service from the bottom up yourself. This connects to our Manifesto where we state that The Inclusive Digital City should be built on citizen engagement. #dugnadsbanden illustrates how a digital urban service can be shaped by citizens when they are allowed to participate with and shape the content.

2. Branding the dugnad

People are searching for places where they can contribute with something that is meaningful for them.” — Karl Henrik Sivesind

In this exploration we created a brand for the dugnad. We wanted to visually communicate that dugnads are fun, social and easy to do. The overall feel should be positive, to reinforce all the good aspects of the “Dugnad-spirit”. The aim was to make people see the dugnad in a new way.

The dugnad is often perceived as something a bit tedious. To challenge this we played around with graphical elements to change this perception. In addition we needed a visual profile for the content of the Instagram account, to strengthen Dugnadsbanden as a real service.

We wanted the brand to have its own character and to be recognizable. Creating elements such as a name, tone of voice [2] and illustrations allowed us to do a more creative and fun promotion of the activities of Dugnadsbanden. Playfulness was important to communicate throughout.

[2]How the character of your service comes through in words, and the impression it makes on everyone who reads it.

In the second Manifesto statement we talk about the importance of collective experiences to achieve a more inclusive digital city. We chose the name “Dugnadsbanden” (“The Dugnad Squad”) to promote a feeling of a community. To avoid this being exclusive, we focused on having an inviting and down to earth tone of voice in the way we communicate.

MAKE IT CATCHY: We needed a catchy and fun name for our service. “Dugnadsbanden” gives association to a crew, something social. The logo needed to be clean and visible.
ALL YEAR ROUND: We have used a playful visual design with a color scheme that changes throughout the year, since dugnads usually happen during the change of seasons.
FROM AN INSTA-POST: The use of language should always make people feel like they are welcomed to join Dugnadsbanden!

3. The tourist experience

Coordinated volunteering is becoming more important, and there is a marked for short term volunteering events.” — Karl Henrik Sivesind

“Experience the Norwegian dugnad!” is an Airbnb experience [3] hosted by Dugnadsbanden. The event is a traditional dugnad where tourist meet and get to know local Norwegians. Together they do a dugnad in the city space, before finishing off with waffles and coffee.

We were really curious on what would happen if we turned the dugnad-model upside down. The traditional volunteer based dugnad is not something you imagine people would pay to join. And would tourists even be interested in this? We wanted to see what happened if we offered the dugnad as a commercial tourist experience in the public city space.

To create the event we used the established platform Airbnb Experiences. We were pleasantly surprised to see that three people booked us the following sunday. The preparations were simple: we gathered tools and prepared the food and drinks. To get enough people to the event we invited some of our non-Norwegian friends that had not experienced the dugnad before.

[3]Airbnb Experiences are events designed and hosted by locals.

GETTING READY: While we waited for all the participants had a little chat about what we were going to do this afternoon.

This was by far the most interesting exploration we did. It left us with many interesting findings and reflections. By providing the dugnad as a tourist experience, we have shown that the dugnad can be valuable for people even though they do not have an affiliation to the area or the Norwegian society. Dugnads has a great potential to invite people from the outside into the culture. This relates to our Manifesto where we state that local urban cultures must be key resources in developing digital urban services.

PEOPLE GOT ENGAGED: One lady sent us a really nice message where she wished us the best of luck. She could not attend the event herself.
REVIEW AFTER THE EVENT: We got a 5 star review after the one of the people who joined our dugnad. We succeeded in showing off our local culture.

Here is the link to the event.

4. Do it yourself!

“The reason why people struggle with engaging is that they don’t know where to start. They are not sure of what exists, and how they can contribute.”- Karl Henrik Sivesind

Dugnadsbanden does not only arrange events. We also want to facilitate for more dugnad activities in the city. Through a digital handbook called “Dugnadshjelpen” we are encouraging people to create their own dugnads. The aim is to lower the threshold for initiating projects — to give people a place to start.

Since we already had created the Instagram account, we figured we could use the same platform to encourage people to take action. On Dugnadsbanden’s Instagram profile there is a link to PDF handbook giving practical information and motivation for creating a dugnad.

Using a fun and informal tone of voice was important when we created the handbook. It includes a short instruction on what to do if people want Dugnadsbanden to promote their dugnad[5]. You send us a short text about the activity and a picture of yourself. We will then promote it on the Instagram account to create engagement and gather people. This is inspired by Airbnb Experiences, where they provide examples on what you should include of images and text when hosting your own event.

WE’LL YOU WHERE TO START: Dugnadsbanden will gladly help promoting people’s dugnads on the Instagram account. In the handbook there is an instruction for what to do if you need promotion help from us.

Getting citizens to engage is one of our Manifesto statements. With ‘Do it yourself!’ we wanted to illustrate how you can facilitate for activity. By showing that people want to contribute to the city space, we also hope to contribute to the feeling of pride — that the dugnad is alive and well.

ROOTING FOR ENGAGEMENT: Adam sent us a promotion request for his dugnad. We obliged!

Never stop looking for possibilities

In #dugnadsbanden we celebrated the dugnad by creating a service based on Instagram. By branding the service we added a personality and look and feel to it . ‘The tourist experience’ and ‘Do it yourself’ illustrates what kind of activities the Dugnadsbanden service could provide. They range from curated experiences to do it yourself engagement.

The Inclusive Digital city should always strive to investigate the possibilities of the services it provides. The dugnad itself is contributing to inclusivity and a feeling of belonging. But that does not mean that we should not stop looking at the possibilities of the dugnad model. By doing these four experiments/design illustrations we have shown how you can use the dugnad as an opportunity area for a more inclusive digital city.

The quotes are from Karl Henrik Sivesind. Read the full interview here.


How can we promote a socially and culturally inclusive city…

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