The amount of stakeholders and beneficiaries of GovLab Arnsberg is small. The main stakeholder of GovLab Arnsberg is the regional president. As he initiated GovLab Arnsberg, he is particularly interested in its activities and success and offers the employees at GovLab Arnsberg continuous support. The other important stakeholder group within the administration of GovLab Arnsberg are the front-line employees that deliver the services. The employees of GovLab Arnsberg perceive them as experts and value the knowledge they incorporate into the co-creation process. Furthermore, to carry out their projects, the employees at GovLab Arnsberg collaborate with actors outside the regional administration. Those are civil society organizations, private firms and individual citizens. Those collaborations are vital for the success of GovLab Arnsberg’s projects. For example, one civil society association payed for a chatbot-software that was needed to develop a chatbot for the regional administration’s website. Besides the private firms and civil society organization, GovLab Arnsberg also tries to interact with living labs from private sector organizations to share knowledge and information, that enables the employees of GovLab Arnsberg to improve the processes of the living lab continuously.
The co-creation process of GovLab Arnsberg consists of two parts: idea generation and idea development. The process of idea generation is designed in a bottom-up way, as public servants are invited to submit ideas. For example, they can contact the employees working at GovLab Arnsberg and describe processes that need to be re-designed. One respondent described, that they have received over 100 messages from public servants with ideas for processes that could be improved. Therefore, the process of idea generation is open, as every public servant can submit ideas. Besides the individual submission of project-ideas by public servants, the employees of GovLab Arnsberg also act proactively and look for processes or services that could be redesigned. The ideas submitted by the public servants or the GovLab employees themselves are turned into improvements through design-thinking workshops hosted by the employees of GovLab Arnsberg. The participants in these workshops are internal users, for example, frontline employees or external users that receive a service. The design-thinking process is split in two parts: in the first part, user research is conducted. The participants are asked to adopt a perspective of users to identify user needs and problems. From the information received, personas are developed that depict the needs of users. In the second part the participants create user journeys to analyse the process or service in question. From those user journeys a prototype is developed. The co-creation process is driven by the participants of the individual workshops. The role of the GovLab Arnsberg employees is to facilitate the workshops by moderating the discussions and providing resources.
In GovLab Arnsberg, the co-creation processes primarily aim at re-designing processes and services and the respondents did not mention that they are automatically digitized. However, the employees of GovLab Arnsberg are aware, that digitizing processes might help them to achieve the goals of being more efficient and effective. So, they opt for digital solutions when they can. For example, they developed a chatbot to improve the website of the regional administration. As one respondent described, the chatbot had several positive effects, as they enabled the administration to collect data on how users use the website and those additional data helped them to improve the website even more. However, those benefits of digitizing services and processes are small, as GovLab Arnsberg had, at the time of data collection, no plans to upscale the developed solutions to other agencies. Instead, the initial goal was to develop small-scale solutions that help to convince sceptics within the organization that GovLab Arnsberg can be valuable to the whole organization.
There are several results produced by GovLab Arnsberg. The first one are prototypes of re-designed processes and services. Those can be, for example, the chatbot that was described above. Besides the benefits of collecting data and improving the website as making it more user-friendly, the successful re-design of services and processes might also lead, in the long-term, to a change in the organizational culture. This is the case, because the employees of the regional administration changed their attitudes towards GovLab Arnsberg. In the beginning, they were skeptical and interest in the workshops offered by GovLab Arnsberg was low. This changed after the first projects of GovLab Arnsberg were successful. Besides a change in mindset of the frontline employees, also top-level employees changed their mindset about innovation practices in the regional administration. The change in mindset occurred, as GovLab Arnsberg demonstrated that developing (digital) solutions must not necessarily be costly but can be achieved with small changes in the administrative set up. However, the long-term impact of the initiation of GovLab Arnsberg cannot be assessed with the data collected, as GovLab Arnsberg was in an experimental stage at the time the data was collected. Instead of producing long-term solutions, they focused at experimenting with different methods.
There are three main challenges of GovLab Arnsberg: legal challenges, the mindset of public servants as well as the skills of individual employees. The legal framework was a challenge for GovLab Arnsberg, as they limit the freedom and room for maneuver. For example, the implementation of the chatbot was hindered by the existing laws, as they could not use a cloud-based service which limited the amount of software to implement the chatbot. Furthermore, the laws limit the creativity at design-thinking workshops as the public servants were concerned to break laws when they were re-designing existing processes and services. Therefore, public servants are careful when thinking about the use of technology to implement new or re-designed services. The second challenge is the mindset of individual public servants. At the beginning, some public servants did not allow their employees to participate at design-thinking workshops as they did not see the advantages. This demonstrates that some public servants are risk-averse. The risk-aversion is also seen in the interpretation of the existing laws, described in the paragraph above. The third challenge is the skillset of the employees of the regional administration. Most of the employees receive extensive legal training in their education, so the main skill of public servants is to interpret laws. What is missing are skills to assess and evaluate technologies. This is problematic, as for the implementation of the prototypes developed within the design-thinking workshops the regional administration needs employees can implement those technologies at large scale.
As GovLab Arnsberg was only a year old at the time the data was collected, it was still in an experimental stage and scaling up the prototypes developed was not an initial goal. Therefore, there are only hints in the data on how the results of GovLab Arnsberg can be transferred to other contexts. However, the strategy of GovLab Arnsberg, that is to be successful on a small scale to convince sceptics and enhance the legitimacy of its actions might be also a strategy that works in other contexts, as the co-creation barriers described earlier are not unique and might be present (to varying extent) in other contexts.
There are three success factors that enabled GovLab Arnsberg to carry out their projects: political support, acting outside organizational hierarchies and provision of material resources. The political support GovLab Arnsberg has enables experimentation at GovLab Arnsberg. The regional president grants them the freedom to experiment with different ideas and make decisions independently. Furthermore, GovLab Arnsberg directly reports the progress to the regional president in regular meetings instead of writing reports. Furthermore, the regional president supports the activities of GovLab Arnsberg which legitimizes the projects of GovLab Arnsberg and makes them immune of criticism stemming from middle managers. The second success factor lies in the organizational arrangement GovLab Arnsberg is embedded in. Formally, GovLab Arnsberg is part of the IT department and from the budget of the IT departments the salaries of the employees are paid. However, the head of the IT department is not involved in the operational business and strategic alignment of GovLab Arnsberg. This leads to faster decision-making processes and contributes independence of GovLab Arnsberg, that is also stemming from the political support. The third success factor is the equipment that enables GovLab Arnsberg to carry out design-thinking workshops. Here, the goal was to provide a room that is visually and physically different from the other offices of the regional administration. For example, the employees bought furniture from Ikea instead of using the official procurement system. This influences the overall atmosphere of the lab and stimulated creative thinking.
From this case study, it becomes evident, that political support is crucial for the labs survival and success. Without the top-level support, GovLab Arnsberg would not have been able to carry out its activities independently. Furthermore, the top-level support enhances the legitimacy of the lab within the regional administration. This freedom is reflected also in the organizational set-up that grants the GovLab freedom from the rigid hierarchical structure that slows down decision-making processes. In addition, the analysis of GovLab Arnsberg has shown that most of the barriers that inhibit the co-creation processes within an administration are deeply ingrained in the regional administration. The organizational culture as well as the mindset and skills of individual employees challenged the co-creation activities of GovLab Arnsberg. However, the analysis has also shown, that those barriers can be overcome, if the initial projects are carried out successfully.
Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
MCW is a workshop within the InciLab of MLP. As a PSINSI, its focus is on non-technological innovation and it created a space to connect different actors who experiment together to rethink the life in the city. In MCW, five citizens, four civil servants, one promoter and one mediator collaborated over 15 days to create solutions to improve pedestrian mobility in the heart of Madrid downtown.
MCW is better understood within the new public governance paradigm, as a prototyping workshop within a living lab. It constantly produces networks that fit into the PSINSI’s definition (Desmarchelier et al., 2018). The MCW, being one of those PSINSIs, focused on innovations related to products, namely interventions in public space. But beyond product innovation, MCW also aimed at other type of innovations:
- new forms of collaboration and co-participation;
- new methodologies, tools and protocols to reduce the distance between public institutions and people;
- new forms to optimise resources thanks to the exchange of information between the municipal departments themselves and social, civic, and educational entities.
Digital Transformation Process
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
This initiative produced a meeting place for citizens and municipal officials to experiment and learn together around initiatives that contribute to improving life together and optimising resources in the city of Madrid. Its main contributions were (are) along three lines of action:
- Open research group about experimentation in public administration, to build case studies. Based on successful experiences in other regions and countries, participants in this line reflect on what tools and strategies are useful to develop public intelligence and innovation (under public values and placing social justice and equity as referents).
- Motioning around the city is a series of workshops open for the collaboration between public servants and citizens to develop initiatives around moving and motioning in Madrid.
- Working group to support municipal transformation. This is a space for a learning and practice community set up with HR managers from the municipality to identify key changes and intra-innovation areas within the municipal organisation.
Challenges & Bottlenecks
For citizens, barriers were:
- Fear of being used (do a volunteer or unpaid work for people who are paid, the public servants).
- Frustration of earlier projects or initiatives that did not prosper (fear of losing time): “The idea of coming to work for free for the City Council is present. And then I’m not even going to be the one to take it forward.” Or another workshop that does not move forward.
- “it is difficult to manage the expectations and wishes of those who come to participate: Everyone wants the official’s phone number.”
For public officials, barriers were:
- To find incentives (define when to do it, where and the extra services they demanded like children playroom or snacks).
- The fear and vulnerability they feel when facing neighbours asking them for explanations.
- To engage different public servants than those aware or related to the initiatives.
- Officials who participated did so more as consultants than as true participants.
- The workshop demanded an enormous effort of animation and diffusion. For promoters it is not easy to invest that much energy without success or some reward..
- Expectations and wishes of those who come to participate are difficult to handle: From those who aspired to come with a solution and its implementation to those who were satisfied with generating a favourable climate on the subject.
- Participants tend to think beyond the prototype and want to achieve results: “achieve more than a bunch of good intentions and reach future commitments”.
Transferability & Replicability
Our case, beyond the relevance of the prototype developed by a group of agents that got together by the workshop, serves to expose the practices to routinely produce PSINSIs with a two-fold aim:
- Produce social innovation and prototype solutions for wicked social problems of any sort
- Arrive to those solutions putting together individuals that do not know each other, but who after the process have discovered the power of networking, agreement and co-creation. In this context, each new community of agents built this way – i.e., the PSINSI itself – is an innovative product itself
- To explore new forms of collaboration and co-participation in public affairs that contribute to the generation of more democratic, inclusive and diverse citizen services.
- To test methodologies, tools and protocols that help reduce the distance between public institutions and people.
- To detect opportunities to optimise resources thanks to the exchange of information between the municipal administration and social, civic, educational entities, etc.
- Most collaborators and all proponents had participated in similar activities and, in some cases, have years of experience in participatory processes.
- They valued the importance of this workshop as a space to share ideas, generate empathy and open the mind.
- The experience has helped them to clarify their original idea of the project and focus their energies on the most important aspects.
Mobility in a city is critical in its day to day and mediates the quality of life and social relations in it. Today, municipalities and citizens alike understand that motioning around the city has a fundamental impact on the configuration of the city, on social equality and on citizens’ rights. It is then a key issue when configuring new options, or keeping old standards affecting culture, education or health. The MCW addressed this in a very novel, participatory way. The MCW raised debates and participatory processes, organised experiments and prototypes (participants in this workshop set a physical prototype in a street-crossing in Madrid), analysed and visualised preliminary data and documented the process to report their findings: “If what we look for is to improve mobility of pedestrians, green lights for vehicles should be eliminated giving right to pedestrians at all times”, can summarise the prototype of this workshop. “The strategy to implement this prototype starts with communication. Then selection of simple targets, and measuring impact, and then scale it within the central district of Madrid, and later to the rest of the city”. “They [the Mobility Department] will study the proposal to test it in September 2019”.
Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
The main stakeholders and beneficiaries include the ministry, and the 3,3 million Italian civil servants from all 10,500 public administrations.
The MEF LL approach strives for mutually beneficial outcomes based on the different project objectives. Overall, co-creation is understood as a form of 1) needs investigation and 2) as a tool to enhance productivity and stakeholder buy-in. MEF DSII LL’s focus is to have a physical location to invite other stakeholders and to support co-creation innovation. Co-creation activities are undertaken at the exploratory stage, where it is important to identify the needs and the “current state” of stakeholder interest as well as the operational background context. A preferred option to understand user needs is to prepare co-creation activities based on established definitions and understanding of the users and what they represent. This exercise translates into the definition of personas. These are fictional characters that represent specific types of customers. For instance, a persona could be “Marc – IT supplier.” Marc has a background in IT software development, has certain predefined personal and professional needs, he is introverted but has strong analytical skills. Persona examples are created based on preliminary investigation of the themes and common characteristics of the people that will take part of the co-creation sessions. This involves research to produce an overview of the current habits and practices of the targeted users. After understanding the user characteristics, one then engages in the process of discovering the latent needs and wants of the user. A specific focus is placed on the current problems they routinely face, taking into account the specific situations in which these problems occur. Here, sensitizing techniques are used to delve deeper into the users’ levels of knowledge – uncovering tacit and inherent needs and wants. This leads to the development of opportunities for the improvement of the users’ ‘current state.’ These materialize in possible ‘future states’ and originate from collective brainstorming, ideation, and co-creation techniques. Co-creation at the MEF DSII is also understood in terms of productivity. Despite the perception that deliberate and open discussion among all stakeholders may be time consuming, the real productivity gains resulting from co-creation exercises validate these nuanced methodologies. During and after the co-creation sessions, there were positive outcomes from multi-stakeholder engagement. In fact, it became clear that the discussions organized inside the LL were settled faster and more smoothly simply by giving the opportunity to all the participants to work in a common space during a fix set of time. Co-creation is understood in terms of cost-efficiency. This is especially true in user-centric software design approach coupled with Agile and SCRUM methodologies. These spur the greatest benefits when they are undertaken in a conducive environment where cooperation between developer teams is facilitated. This is why Agile methodologies are synergetic with co-creation and participatory approaches, where developers can act preemptively by interacting with other teams and end users to step-by-step develop development IT systems – gradually building up the complexity of the solution over time and improving overall efficiency. The role of front-end employees/public service staff in co-creation The Living Lab is having an increasingly prominent role at the MEF DSII as Living Lab managers sponsor and promote its usage to external stakeholders. At the MEF DSII, front-end employees take over the role of coordinating the different groups of participants. They also establish and promote the emergence of close relationships between various participants. In this sense, MEF DSII Living Lab front-manager tasks and responsibilities go beyond the physical space of the Living Lab. Positive relationships outside of the lab preclude and guarantee successful co-creation sessions. For the MEF LL to be disruptive, strong alliances should be built with other stakeholders.The facilitation of co-creation sessions requires competences which are highly contextual, anticipate the designer/manager needs and capabilities in stakeholder interactions and adjust to local settings. Due to the novelty of the MEF LL, there is still a need to hire a number of practitioners that possess the right skillsets in order to get the most out of the co-creation sessions. Attracting and retaining a broader range of practitioners that are trained in a varied set of methodologies such as co-design, co-implementation and co-assessment activities should be prioritized. Further, the stockpiling of institutional knowledge on User Research, Usability Testing, Design Thinking Workshop, Business Model Design, Change Management and Service Design is likely to produce skillful judgments and facilitate meaningful interventions which are much needed. The role of users in co-creation The users that are invited to participate in activities at the MEF DSII LL have different profiles and demographic backgrounds. The answer to the question of “who” are the end-users in the co-creation session varies according to the session’s objectives. The users, or customers, with different qualifications are included in the innovation processes based on their suitability to achieve the expected output. The MEF DSII LL utilizes the personas approach to profile the main distinctive features of the LL session participants. Regulatory and compliance, contract law, and technical/IT experts combined with the end user groups are some of the categories which are commonly involved in test experiments. The role and involvement of the users at the MEF DSII Living Lab is understood both as reactive informants as well as active co-creators (Dell’Era & Landoni, 2014). The Living Lab of the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) DSII In the first use case, the users were involved in the MEF LL for implementation of top-down experiments, which are centered on the users and place users as the object of study. The MEF DSII ran a series of usability tests where the objective was to understand how a system should be used in order to produce optimal results. Different end users were asked: “Can you make sense of the tool? Did you experience any issues? Are there improvements needed for a user-friendly designed solution”? The project workers observed use of the products, identified problems and solutions with the engineers, and thought of ways to utilize different functionalities and properties of the IT system being studied. This methodology at the MEF DSII has proved successful when a technology/service relying on user feedback and acceptance has been tested. In such an occurrence, the MEF Living Lab allows collection, filtration, and transfer of all valuable end user ideas to the developers. In other co-creation sessions stakeholders are called upon to participate in an interactive and empowering way, enabling them to become co-creators, and to go beyond user-centered approaches that only passively involve users. Partners are therefore identified with important consideration of active user involvement in order to determine who should be involved in the different innovation stages. Users, or customers, with different qualifications are included in the co-creation processes based on their suitability to achieve the expected output.
Digital Transformation Process
Distinct from other Living Labs, the MEF DSII LL is driven by the public sector. It is operated by the public sector for the public sector. Although users are invited to co-create solutions, ultimately and intentionally, the public sector remains the primary beneficiary. The strategic aims of the MEF LL are in alignment with the Institution’s key objectives. Therefore, the Living Lab does not abide to set operational The Living Lab of the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) DSII rules and its administrators are keen to explore potentially disruptive applications. The MEF LL employs a multi-methodological approach that is output oriented. It has flexible objectives that evolve to meet its changing needs. Since its recent inception, the MEF LL has produced tangible results by acting as a platform and co-creation space to facilitate:
A co-creation space facilitating multi-stakeholders collaboration and knowledge sharing;
Used as experimentation and usability tests to bolster digital innovation;
To provide an example, in use case n° 1 we detail out the operations and outcomes of the Living Lab within the so-called “Cloudify NoiPA” project. The MEF DSII is undertaking a large project that, by 2020, aims to expand the number of public organisations it services to cover the entire Italian public administration staff. It is then paramount to involve the end users, which in this case are the other public organisations that currently depend on the payroll and HR services or are expected to do so in the near future, in the design process. The MEF DSII launched a series of multi-stakeholder co-creation sessions to collect their input. The involved participants were decision-makers from other public institutions (for example, representatives from the Italian police and the army). The goal was to collect their feedback on the functionality of the IT platform they use, including insight on what bugs, errors and other technological issues they would like to see improved and to better understand if their needs were being met. In this respect, the MEF DSII LL put into action a methodology for collecting user needs and produced a physical space that fostered different and varied forms of collaborative interaction to spur innovation. The overarching objective is to ensure that stakeholders from other public administrations buy into the programme. Ultimately, by strengthening their confidence in the process, stakeholders are more inclined to support the transformation programme throughout all phases of the “Cloudify NoiPA” project.
Another example of the Experience centre functioning as a space that facilitates multi-stakeholder collaboration and innovation was the participatory re-design of the MEF DSII’s new organizational model –much needed initiative to support its service expansion. Rather than making the organizational re-design a purely top-down management decision, the process extensively used and prioritized a co-creation approach. As part of the project, the design team invited around 50 MEF and Sogei top figures to a co-design session at the Experience Centre (picture on the left). Each participant was asked to share their ‘Loves’ and ‘Loathes’ of several pre-identified critical processes and was tasked with proposing their own preferred to-be organizational model by drawing a diagram with the office responsibilities and target processes. The participants were clustered in 7 groups and asked to agree upon a common a to-be organizational model for the group. In this stage, the list of 50 organisational models was reduced to 7 potential options. Afterwards the 7 organisational diagrams were displayed at the living lab during an “Expo” day (picture below) and the employees that did not attend the co-design session were invited to visit the “Expo” to discuss the models with project owners, share ideas, and provide input. This two-way communication ensured implementation of both top-down and bottom-up decision-making. It eventually resulted in the final selection of the preferred to-be organizational model of the MEF DSII. The highly participatory approach enabled by the Experience Centre environment and related co-creation methodologies guaranteed an avenue for the entire Ministerial staff that would be affected by the organizational change to express their design preferences. Ultimately, this can ensure a higher adaptability and success rate in the subsequent phase of transition plan implementation.
Additionally, the MEF DSII experiments in semi-real life context and tests its products to collect feedback about usability issues. To provide an example, the MEF DSII has forgone some usability tests in advance of the launch of its updated webpage portal. This portal, on top of sharing informative material to the constituents about the MEF DSII activities, has a specific webpage devoted to “self-provisioning” services. The ”self-provisioning” services are a type of delivery mode that allow the MEF DSII to enlarge the user base of its public administration “clients” in a cost efficient manner. The local and regional public administrations can select, configure, and start services themselves in a cloud environment where they have access to download software from the web portal. Self-provisioning allows users to have rapid access to a customized infrastructure through a self-service portal, thereby limiting installation and maintenance costs, and avoiding costly procedures for requesting and approving new software. Thus, seamless functionality of the portal is critical for incentivizing adoption of the services and the wider buy-in from targeted stakeholders. The MEF DSII carried out usability tests on the portal by inviting a representative set of users to surf the web portal in the “observation room” (pictured on the right). The test subjects were then provided with a personal computer and were requested to navigate the portal by performing a selection of given tasks. In doing so, the users interacted with the test moderator in a consistent and measureable manner. The front line staff employed the “speak aloud method,” advising the users to say out loud what he/she thought were the main obstacles when processing the tasks. This was intentionally used to prevent participants from taking a reflexive approach where they say what they think they are supposed to say rather than their first impression. In fact, by proctoring the usability test in the separate “observation room,” the MEF DSII designers were able to effectively record the natural feelings and reactions of the participants. The metrics used for the web-portal user navigation assessment were, 1) Efficiency, 2) Efficacy, 3) Satisfaction, 4) Learning ease, 5) Memorisation ease, and 6) Error management. Technical tinkering enabled users to diagnose and fix bugs and optimize the customer experience with assistance from engineers and frontline employees.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
In 1995, Mark Moore, in his book Creating Public Value (Moore 1995), coined the term Public Value to encapsulate an essential difference between the public and the private sector. According to Moore, public value can be seen as the total societal value that cannot be monopolized by individuals, but is shared by all actors in society and is the outcome of all resource allocation decisions. This shift calls for a different understanding in how value is generated. At the MEF DSII LL, it was observed that value stems from cross-interactions and knowledge exchange produced in Living Lab sessions and what emerges as an outcome. In its role as a public IT and HR service provider the MEF DSII is expected to deliver services to other public organizations. In this context, when these organizations see themselves merely as a recipient of services, dissatisfaction and claims of non-usable services are more likely. The MEF LL bridges the divide between the provider and end users and helps circumvent issues by integrating the users (other public organizations) in the different product/service development stages. It promotes active user engagement and incorporates user-feedback in a variety of ways. In the above-mentioned example, it is the user-friendliness and intuitiveness of the portal that gives it value. The public value and overall satisfaction generated from the MEF LL co-creation methodology is understood as a continuous and iterative value creation of services and products oriented for end users and prioritizes customer satisfaction. Initially a private consultancy provided co-designed and co-created solutions to the MEF DSII. In a context of contamination of approaches, the value seen in these methodologies in fulfilling customer satisfaction made the MEF DSII interested in establishing its own Living Lab at its own premises. This exemplifies the effect of contamination of approaches between private and public service offerings and delivery models crossing and blurring the differences. This is even more apparent in light of the shift, described in the New Public Management scientific literature, in how public services are increasingly inspired and managed according to private sector models. Public service providers are focusing on customer service and understand the centrality of the users as recipients of the services and holders of its public value.
Challenges & Bottlenecks
Throughout the co-creation session, staff observed an initial resistance by the involved stakeholders when having to follow a certain structure and set of rules during discussions and negotiations. For some participants, embracing the discussion in a different way than conventional meeting styles made them hesitant, impatient, or dismissive. However, at the end of the co-creation session a collaborative behavior emerged and participants gradually acted more like themselves. Seemingly less tangible, but still documented by participants during the co-creation session, was a heightened closeness with the other stakeholders. During the co-creation sessions users were more prone to finding a common ground with others and improved relationships proved to be a critical success factor.
Transferability & Replicability
It is expected that such digital transformation practice could be replicated in other parts of the Italian public administration if the need and the will is there, since it is the same socio technical conditions that apply. Whether such digital transformation can be replicated in public organizations located in other national contexts depends on the way public administration is organized in such contexts as well as the level of digitalization of both businesses and society.
The MEF living lab is an avenue that promotes innovation – which is understood in two ways. Firstly, as what stands between the ‘current state’ and how things will be done (i.e. the ‘future state’) – encompassing a whole series of drivers such as technology, nuanced business models, and organisational restructuring in line with the Open Innovation paradigm. Secondly, as a disruption to the current way of thinking and acting through the exploration and usage of innovative technologies. The MEF DSII Living Lab innovation approach mirrors the principles of Open Innovation, which is the concept that in addition to its own internal research and development, the unit’s innovation is based on external ideas, resources, and competencies. Openness is crucial for the innovation processes of Living Labs due to the valuable role in the collecting of a multitude of perspectives which allows development of the most competitive and productive innovations possible. This paradigm is based on the belief that knowledge today is diffuse and distributed among various stakeholders and no organization, no matter it size and influence, can afford to innovate effectively on its own. It is critical for the MEF DSII to open its innovation procedures to the critical sources of knowledge that are the potential beneficiaries of their services. Open innovation facilitated by a certain usage of Living Labs, such as the MEF LL, is a step toward an innovation process that is increasingly shifting away from top-down approaches and promoting user-driven ecosystems. The second approach to innovation at the MEF DSII LL can be labelled as ‘experimentation.’ In the stage where a certain solution or ‘future state’ materializes into a proven concept, the building stages of developing and experimenting technology applications are validated. For instance the MEF DSII organized a Design Sprint workshop in its Living Lab to select a cost-efficient and valuable blockchain solution for the redesigning of MEF’s internal processes. The workshop methodology combined divergent and convergent thinking in order to address the business problem/s from different perspectives. This problem solving session led to the prototyping phase of a blockchain application to re-invent and innovate MEF DSII processes. This is only an example on how the MEF DSII Living Lab acts as an innovation method.
Observation of the ongoing activities and results from the initial studies of the MEF DSII LL are encouraging. Several psychological and general considerations have been realized for the correct assessment of its service experience. Ultimately, involvement and motivation in the process were both a pre-conditions to the co-creation session as well as a succeeding outcomes. Although involving users is only one factor among many that promotes co-creation in a LL, it is considered indispensable. Users at the MEF DSII LL were considered involved to the extent where their ideas were helping influence and develop others’ point of views. The success of such real-life collaboration, which aims to promote learning between different stakeholders, hinges on how the co-design process was orchestrated, facilitated, and managed.
Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
The categories of stakeholders of the Fabrique’s network are the following: A majority of Sailly-Lez-Lannoy inhabitants, a few other inhabitants from other villages, municipal councillors, municipal nursery and primary schools, professionals who periodically come to help the Fabrique’s workshops.
The social innovation consists above all in the co-creation process between the inhabitants and the town hall. Citizen participation goes beyond the citizen debate, since citizens are experimenting by themselves the projects that they proposed. The innovation network of the participatory garden is made up of the town hall, citizens of Sailly-Lez-Lannoy, citizens of other neighbouring villages, and the schools of the village. Some professionals (associations, self-employed persons) are also involved in the Fabrique. Some of them have helped the inhabitants on a voluntary basis, others were compensated; some of them participated in several meetings, others intervened on an as-needed basis, according to the requests of the inhabitants.
Digital Transformation Process
This case study is not about a digital transformation process. The Saillysienne Fabrique is above all a “social innovation”: The Saillysienne Fabrique is presented by the people of the municipal council as a “means” to “accompany people who want to do something positive for the citizens”.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
The evaluation of the impacts of the Fabrique is difficult, especially since the project started in 2017 and is only at its beginning. However, several positive impacts have been identified. First of all, it has been noted that new inhabitants were attracted into the life of the village. All the inhabitants interviewed said they had met people they did not know, of a great diversity of ages, and whom they could never have met through their usual networks. In the case of the participatory garden, some participants felt that they did not know 80% of the people participating in the garden. In this sense, the town hall’s objective has been achieved. Second, new social links have been created. In the workshops, the creation of social ties is also evident through the exchanges that are established. The councilor noted that participation in the Fabrique is also a way for some people going through difficult times in their lives (health problems, divorce) to create or maintain social ties without having to talk about their personal background. The purpose of the Incredible Edible Community Garden is that the harvest is used by all people, allowing people who have financial problems to help themselves. In the case of the Sailly-Lez-Lannoy participatory garden, sharing the harvest is an objective but rather to make it enjoyable. As most of the inhabitants are wealthy, the garden was not designed with the aim of enabling poor people to find ways to survive. The project has also increased the visibility of the village. Sailly-Lez-Lannoy has been chosen for high-frequency carpooling.
Challenges & Bottlenecks
The interviewees do not identify any unavoidable barriers. However, they pointed out the reluctance of some elected representatives concerning changes in the working methods, or the acceptance of power sharing. Other obstacles are more traditional, such as financial obstacles and lack of time. Implementing a participatory democracy method changes the working methods of the town hall, especially the decision-making process. The reluctance of some municipal councillors to share the decision-making process appeared at several stages of the project. Another common barrier is the financial constraints. Indeed, one of the environmental objectives is that the inhabitants manage to recover materials, pallets, seeds, from their networks of friends, or from sites of recycling, sharing of materials, in order to avoid buying them on the market and to respect the planet. However, other projects of the Fabrique require more funding, such as the Twinning project, and inhabitants are trying to obtain funding elsewhere. The town hall manages to have an operating budget. In villages with few inhabitants, budgets are dedicated to specific services, consequently, there is little room for manoeuvre to open new budgets, especially during the year. If the lack of time is one of the reasons why the elected representatives set up the Fabrique, the lack of time is also a barrier for the inhabitants. Some inhabitants have to leave the project for professional and family reasons, which could contribute, if they have specialities in the project, to endanger the existence of the workshop.
Transferability & Replicability
The municipality has in mind that this social innovation linked to the new form of co-creation of value between the inhabitants, professionals, and the town hall should be reproduced in other villages. The municipal councillor at the origin of the project believes that it is necessary to involve the inhabitants because in small municipalities, the councillors do not have the time to develop such projects. The Fabrique is the solution to allow the development of projects. Thus, several organisations have taken an interest in this Fabrique with the intention of duplicate this mode of collaboration: carpooling on the scale of the urban community of Lille.
The film “Tomorrow”, which illustrates local solutions to environmental, economic and social problems around the world, was a good starting point for a discussion on citizen participation. Also, If the mayor of the municipality had not so much agreed on the merits of this project, and had not brought this project to the municipal councillors, the project would not have been implemented. Moreover, the fact that the town hall is the initiator of this network gives credibility to citizen initiatives. It seems obvious to all the participants in the Fabrique that the municipal councillor who launched the project is essential to the smooth running of the Fabrique. The fact of having an elected representative in the innovation network facilitates certain actions of the projects, because since the projects take place in public spaces. She also managed to obtain a small budget from the municipal budget. Moreover, she boosts the workshops by linking the different projects through the facebook site, by launching a doodle for people to get together, by reserving the wedding hall according to the meeting requirements of the inhabitants, as well as by finding professionals according to the demands of the inhabitants. The personality of the councillor, very dynamic, who unites the teams, who is very attentive, very much in the exchange, allowed the experiences to be quickly set up. The Fabrique has attracted the interest of other stakeholders. This visibility makes it possible to attract other inhabitants and eventually to obtain other sources of financing.
Elected representatives of small municipalities usually have a job in addition to their mission as elected representatives, and must manage family logistics. The involvement of the inhabitants is the only way to propose a greater number of projects. In addition, some projects are too expensive for the municipality. The size of the village (less than 2000 inhabitants) requires alternative ways to develop projects because the town hall has few human and financial resources. The municipal councillor at the origin of the project considers that today, the only way to develop collective projects in small villages is to co-create them with the inhabitants. Some projects are complex to set up, and elected representatives do not have the knowledge to implement certain projects. The involvement of a European diplomatic inhabitant made it possible to initiate this project. Through his job, this person has the necessary contacts to do so, as well as the competences. Finally, the trio of experts, inhabitants and elected representatives is win-win-win relationship.