Service design ambassador training

A course for civil servants in the Finnish Immigration Service

We have written several blog posts about the Service design training Inland led at Migri. In this post I want to focus on the content of the course and how it came into being. This service design training has been an important effort in terms of resources and outcomes for Migri. It also was a new opportunity for Migri.

There have been many other design trainings in the government in Finland, but they were shorter (mostly two days long) and not involving as many civil servants. We have also seen efforts to lead online courses for civil servants or open to everybody on the same topic (one by Nina Nissilä). These courses are excellent introduction to the topic. They last several hours but being so short cannot include creating and leading a service design project. At Inland we believe that only by leading a real project one can really understand what service design is and how it could support the organisation’s strategy.

Why this training?

a. Empower individual and group design capabilities for the creation of new solutions

b. Spread design knowledge, capabilities and tools.

c. Kick start projects on topics that are relevant for each of the units

d. Strengthen the network of civil servants interested in service design by clarifying role and building group synergy

What?

A whole year service design training that involved 8 lectures by key service design experts, one field visit, project work and readings. The training was bilingual in English and in Finnish. Invited guests were Taina Martikainen from Kela, Anni Leppänen from D9, Helena Sustar from Aalto University, Hanna Nissinen from OP and Sebastian Greger an independent consultant.

Each participant has to invest 160 hours. We met face to face one day a month and one day a month the participants had to read service design bibliography and complete the tasks to advance in their projects.

The training was organised following a design process: user research, ideation, conceptualisation, prototyping, (implementation) and evaluation.

Who participated?

We sent an open call to all workers in Migri. 35 persons applied to participate in the training. Participants were from all the units and some of them were in management positions. We accepted all the applicants. We knew that some of them would not be able to pursue the whole course till the end due to their own responsibilities at work. Now the course has finished and 28 participants are Service Design Ambassadors.

Minna Kantola, at the time head of Kehityspalvelut /development services team, had a key role in making this training happen and KEPA (kehityspalvelu, development service team) was in charge of supporting with the logistics of reserving rooms.

Inlanders supported the course in different ways: Suse Miessner was giving feedback to participants in key moments of the design process and explaining how to make digital prototypes. Anna Kokki and Kristin Swan, our interns in the course period, gave lectures on topics related to their own thesis. Mariana Salgado was the main responsible of the training. Both in terms of the concept creation and the implementation.

Which methods did we use?

We reviewed a number of design methods such as affinity diagrams, mood cards, brainstorming, personas, paper prototypes, user testing, blueprints, customer journeys and others. These are some examples of the visualisations that the participants did for the course:

Customer journey
Personas
Blueprint. Attention: These visualizations are done for the training and should not be used in other contexts

What were the topics of the projects?

We will write another article in which we explain in detail the projects that came from this training. But in a nutshell, there were 5 projects related to internal developments and 2 projects for our customers.

The topics were: improving the phone call system, educational services for workers, recruitment of new workers, leadership as a service, building community within Migri workers, information for asylum seekers on their process and meeting unknown co-workers.

What was the result?

It is hard to show the results immediately because this type of in-depth training will have influence in the years to come. We plan to evaluate the results of this training during a long period of time, asking the participants in a year, how the training influenced their current work practices and their roles in the organisation. However, we believe that the fact that 3 of the projects started in this training are in a pilot stage and were iteratively created with end users, is really positive.

Another positive result are the learnings of the participants which I described in this article (in Finnish). Participants learnt how to take into consideration the whole process, how to better involve the end users as part of a development project and on the importance of visualising. Participants were happy to get to know people in other units and do work that does not relate to their everyday tasks. Most of them say that their learnings could be applied to many other contexts and many mentioned that their learnings during this training supported their expertise.

Finally, some of the participants changed their role within the organisation and started to work in other units or change their own role in the unit as a consequence of being a service design ambassador. This is perceived as positive because in Migri there is a constant effort in supporting workers that beside being experts in their own areas, they also understand how the whole organisation works. There is for example constant internal recruitment and support to spend periods of time in different units.

What are next steps?

Inland will organise yearly a jam training to update them know how. It will be a two days intense training focusing one specific challenge chosen beforehand. The Service Design Ambassadors are encouraged to join development projects and to consult Inland when they are taking the role of service developers or using service design tools. We will also do a series of shorter trainings for our personnel working in reception centres.

Final note: In a previous article I have written an article (in Finnish) about what the participants learnt. In the near future I plan to make an article describing the results of the course: the 7 projects that participants lead.

Editor: Suse Miessner