Design capability in Migri: revealing challenges and opportunities for the development
By Katariina Kantola
It has been almost exactly one year since writing my Inland farewell blogpost and diving deep into the writing of my master’s thesis. Said thesis was submitted, presented and accepted at the end of 2019 and can now be accessed here. Many things have changed over the course of a year, but it’s time to take a quick look back at my thesis findings.
My thesis topic was about design capability in the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri); their design resources, design awareness, and structures that enable design. My objectives were to understand the challenges for design capability in the organisation, uncover opportunities to address those challenges and share tangible experiences and insights from an insider perspective. I conducted my research as a practice-led case study, covering three projects that took place during my 6-month internship at Inland.
The following is a brief overview of my findings.
What are the perceived challenges for the development of design capability in Migri?
From the research I outlined seven challenge areas that hinder design capability in terms of design resources, design awareness and design enabling structures. These include the temporary nature of internal design resources (Inland team), the organisation’s limited understanding of design, lack of reflective design titles and positioning, restricted sharing of design work, siloed working practices, marginal level of design leadership, and limited measures for validating design work. I focused the development opportunities to address these areas.
How can the development of design capability be supported in the future?
As an outcome, I was able to identify the following five opportunity areas to develop design capability in the context of Migri: securing internal design resources as permanent capabilities, establishing a permanent design leadership position, establishing basic design understanding across the organization, supporting transparency of design and using tangible examples and success stories for design’s validation. As the most influential opportunity, I name the establishment of a design leadership position, considering that its absence was a structural challenge that was found to limit all three areas of design capability development in Migri.
Even though designers and design labs keep appearing, disappearing and reappearing in the public and governmental sector, I firmly believe that at some point design will become more than a temporary experiment. It needs to become an existing long-term resource, where designers can be regarded as critical internal capabilities with the ability to not only act as creatives but also strategically steer and lead implementation efforts.
Design takes different forms in different contexts, and to build lasting design capability, I believe that in-depth understanding of the conditions, culture and routines of the context are valuable, and most importantly, interesting.