Embedding User-Centric Design and Co-Creation in Local Digital Government

Continuing its knowledge-sharing activities, UserCentriCities convened the Third Peer-to-Peer Workshop in the framework of the Milan Digital Week on Friday, 11 November 2022. Hosted by the City of Milan, the day began with a conference on embedding user-centric design in local government operations, followed by a workshop on co-creation tools for user-centric design.

Afke Besselink, head of public service development and innovation, Rotterdam; Luca Curioni, citizen experience officer, Milan; Āris Dzērvāns, director of Riga Digital Agency; Kerstin Laidmäe, service design team leader, Tallinn; Triin Oper, UX designer, Tallinn and David Osimo, director of research, The Lisbon Counciltook the floor and engaed into a vibrant discussion. Participants exchanged on how their administrations are overcoming the challenges of applying user-centricity, design thinking and co-creation as a standard approach in their local governments activities.

Tallinn introduced its network of service design-thinking, openly discussing challenges, projects and everything related to service creation. The network acts like a platform to share experiences and brainstorm solutions with service owners, by providing tailored service design projects. They also shared their main challenges, starting with the lack of awareness of design-thinking, cross-agency managing styles which prevent responsibilities and obligations from service owners to deliver clear results and the overall mindset.

Riga Digital Agency was created to open Riga’s digital ecosystem to all city’s systems and operations. Even though their strategy is still under development, Riga is taking the first steps by not only setting their vision and mission, but also defining standards on how they create and provide services to their citizens. Its main goal is evaluating and defining the costumer journey, understanding the citizen engagement needed in each touchpoint through the people perspective. This has paved the way for first lessons learned, mainly the much needed cultural change which demands public servants to adapt to citizens needs and not the other way around. “You can have the best strategy in the world but if you don’t change the mindset you will not succeed,” stressed Dzērvāns.

Their presentations were followed by Rotterdam and Milan who highlighted how they are fostering a user-centric approach by building heatlhy and trustable relationships, focusing on the citizen experience respectively. Milan has specifically created a citizen experience organisation to shift the focus from the channel to the citizen experience, managing and developing digital channels, costumer operations measuring citizen satisfaction providing data to the city, and taking care of the back-office systems impacting citizen experience.

The second part of the day was dedicated to the peer-to-peer workshop. Paolo Coppola, professor of informatics, University of Udine, gave a presentation on co-creation for online public services. He explained how in a digitised environment, the co-creation of public services is the natural direction an administration should take if they shift from a culture of compliance to a culture of outcomes. Agile methodologies make it possible to build a path of collaboration with all stakeholders to deliver the greatest possible value through online services. A path of participation and continuous feedback allows for a better understanding of the problem to be addressed. The traditional software development methodology involves many intellectual resources in the initial requirements gathering phase, it is possible and desirable to apply a mechanism of participation, but when the services to be designed are complex, bias requirements gathering is very high and design errors do not become apparent until very late in the process. The traditional way of dealing with these design errors is collecting data post-deployment and considering them in the future when new functions or updates are available. This feedback model does not take full advantage of the possibilities of current technologies.

In online services, continuous feedback can be collected simply by monitoring predetermined KPIs or explicitly asking for a citizen satisfaction rating. Agile methods, such as focus groups, make possible to reduce the time between requirements gathering and release, and make citizen involvement easier in the co-creation process because they can verify the actual impact of their participation in a shorter time. This reduction in time allows to further concentrate on test changes and strengthen the cycle of participation in which all stakeholders perceive the value of their contributions and verify that the administration is truly serving and placing them at the centre of their action.

According to Prof. Coppola, the main problem to be addressed is a cultural paradigm shift not only from the public officers and managers but also users. The co-creation of services requires a collaborative vision of democracy and a new relationship between citizens and the public administration. If co-creation is done correctly it becomes an accelerator of cultural change because the benefits become obvious and the relationship of trust in institutions improves.

Finally, Dario Manuli, head of customer relationship management (CRM), Municipality of Milan, shared how the city has been applying co-creation in their citizen experience operations, building a healthy dialogue with their citizens through humility and active listening, trying to see things from their point of view; the curiosity of their users’ needs and experiences, and empathy.

To know more about the fourth edition of the UserCentriCities Peer-to-Peer Workshop, access the content below.

Conference recording

Workshop recording

Prof. Coppola presentation

Dario Manuli presentation

García-Blásquez Lahud
7 December 2022