Inland as a pea soup

In this article I open up some of the roles we have in the projects in which Inland collaborates. These roles are: co-designers, translators, technology leapers, infrastructure creators and community builders. To help explain our roles, I will use the analogy of pea soup, a traditional finnish dish that is eaten mainly on Thursdays.

CC by Jules

The main ingredient in pea soup is peas, of course. The peas are the only ingredient capable of producing a change without changing the taste of the soup. The peas are the co-design work. We do not want to have an asparagus soup, or a carrot soup, but to continue with good traditions and best design practices, however making a fresh and vibrant pea soup.

According to Deserti and Rizzo a new generation of more user-centered, efficient, and cost-effective services requires (and implies) change in the organization (Deserti & Rizzo, 2015). Inland supports Migri in the process of making better processes and practices, and consequently to improve the well-being of immigrants wanting to or living in Finland as well as the workers in Migri. For this we use service design and its collaborative methods. When we organize workshops we are not only facilitating situations to obtain data to design a new service, but we are also opening the design process to others in order to collaboratively appropriate the proposal and work together towards its completion (co-design). Service design brings organizational change through participative practices in which everyone can be heard. Proposals and ideas come from workers in different positions and levels in the organization. In this way service design, as a framework, can help breakdown organizational hierarchies.

To make this change possible we position ourselves as translators between the users (immigrants and their communities, and workers in Migri) and our R&D team (“säpa,” including tech consultants and in-house experts). Also, we are translators when we need to argue for the business case that a certain project might bring to the organization. This translation work can be seen as the water in the soup. It is there, ubiquitously but not seen, a subtle presence.

Yet there is still something that kicks the soup to another level — this is the mustard that we add at the end. In inland we know and understand technology and we kick-start technological leaps. We are working on projects using, for example, artificial intelligence and “MyData.” Our ideas go beyond current possibilities, because we think in future ecosystems when we design and how these ideas could affect the immigrants and their communities in the future.

To make Inland a working group we need to build the infrastructure that can support our activities. This is what we have been doing this last months. We have a proposal for an advisory board, a communication strategy, an operational model, and a website (inland.studio). This infrastructure is the same when making pea soup: the kitchen, the working tools, the electricity, etc. Designing infrastructures has recently been the focus of many design publications (for example Marttila, 2018) , because these infrastructures give shape to our operations and can take our group to new levels of interaction with other public agencies as well as our own organization.

And as good food bloggers, we want to communicate our pitfalls and explorations. So, we are constantly writing about our way of doing things, our recipes and our discoveries. This writing has a double purpose: to give more transparency to our actions, and to align thoughts about Inland within our team, build our team. Last but not least, we are always eager to get to know our audience and writing is our way to prompt the dialogue.

Deserti A. and Rizzo F. (2015) Design and Organizational Change in the Public Sector. Design Management Institute.

Marttila, S. (2018). Infrastructuring for Cultural Commons. Aalto University Publications.

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