Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Regarding the actors most relevant in the process of value creation, clearly the purpose of policymakers is to create value and co-creation is a means for them to do their job better. However, the value created by having more insights helps not only the strategic level, but also at the operational one. Therefore, the elderly people are the centre piece in value creation: they are involved in the service design phase, as in the evaluation phase as testers, who give directions to the companies and the city administration to adapt product or services to their special needs.
Regarding the concept of co-creation, interviewees stressed the fact that users and companies involved provide specific insights can help for the design of the project and of the public services. For instance, in ZorgLab people involved in the co-creation activity provided their own insight on which are the tools most useful for everyday life and how it is become more difficult for them to use such tools. Also, they provided their insight on how the house should be organised, also taking into account the necessity to keep a rich social life. An interesting aspect of co-creation is also mediation, as different individuals do not share the same idea of what is a liveable and sustainable neighbourhood. For what concerns the kind of value created in the service, as afore mentioned the initiative from one side wants to enable elderly people to stay longer at home in an independent way. From the other side, people involved in the co-creation activity have an experiential value, as they can give their contribution and still be active in the society. In the respect, for them it is very important to have a true recognition of their effort on the side of the policy makers. Interviewees reported some cases in which policymakers consult but do not follow the insights in the end. Apart from participation aspects, co-creation is also seen as a mean to increase democracy and social cohesion, like the example provided Bologna City of Commons project, where citizens can take initiatives to organise their lives together. On the other hand, such initiative has also a clear economic value, as it brings more companies in the healthcare sector so it can be an economic differentiator for the city. In fact, in the ZorgLab facilities, companies can test their innovation, make better products and have a real economic impact. So, Aalst is really becoming a city based on the healthcare sector and ZorgLab of course has been an advantage in comparison to other cities. Value is created in every stage of the initiative, but especially in the beginning where the insights are extracted from the participants to the co-creation activities. It is crucial to be able to extract such insights combining people working alone and in group: there rarely is a Eureka moment when you do co-creation. So clearly it is the interaction that creates the most value, even though the same value it is delivered at the end of the project (e.g. improved living condition for the elderly). Regarding the actors most relevant in the process of value creation, clearly the purpose of policymakers is to create value and co-creation is a means for them to do their job better. However, the value created by having more insights helps not only the strategic level, but also at the operational one. Therefore, the elderly people are the centre piece in value creation: they are involved in the service design phase, as in the evaluation phase as testers, who give directions to the companies and the city administration to adapt product or services to their special needs. In this regard, the service experience/relationship is paramount in the creation of tailor-made products and services for the elderly, especially for what concerns the interaction between front-line staff and the service user. Front-line staff are linking all stakeholders together, so that they can meet and create value. A continuative relationship reinforces also the co-creation activity as individuals get really motivated and experienced so that the feedback you get from grows in quality. It is very important to work closely and to have proofs the approach is working since from the beginning. Also, it is crucial not to have an academic approach, but to work closely with the participants learning to really listen carefully and understand exactly what they need, in order to gain their respect and to get relevant information from them. Considering the contribution of citizens or communities to the process of value creation, there is a clear distinction between participation (sharing ideas and taking part to decision) and co-creation (really being part of the process of creation). In that respect, only the most motivated citizens really provide great effort. In that regard, it has also to be considered that individuals taking part to co-creation activities are also the most cultivated and well-off, as it is very complicated to motivate marginalized individuals.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
As already mentioned, the aim the case study is to investigate the concept and process of value creation and co-creation in the initiative. In this respect, value was defined by interviewees as any benefit for users or citizens stemming from the use of the public service as well as from the participation of the co-creation activity. In this specific context, value is conceived as the benefits of potential and actual users of the elderly home, who will be able thanks to the service to live longer and safer independently and to continue to be part of the society. On the other hand, the volunteers taking part to the testing keep being socially active and to provide their contribution to society with this project. So, they feel they are still having an aim in their life.
Challenges & Bottlenecks
A first obstacle is regulation hampering innovation, not only at local level, but also at Flemish, Belgian and European levels, especially for what concerns data sharing and assisted living. Furthermore, often private companies have a wrong estimation of co-creation, which is seen as a way to quickly get feedback on a developed product, rather than a way to co-create a product from the beginning. Clearly the latter process is more time and money consuming. Also, it is difficult to convince the elderly to test the house living there from 1 to 3 weeks: in that regard, direct contact with them helped. A final obstacle and drawback is the lack of structures to evaluate the impact of the initiative and to measure value. In fact, there are some evaluations of the Flanders living labs overall, but not for any of the local project. But in any case, how do you measure value? Measuring contacts and interactions face to face and on social media is not a really metric or indicator of value. On the other hand, value is not limited to the economic gains from an initiative. Overall, value can be measured only by mean of subjective reported impressions in questionnaires, so that generalization is difficult. Regarding the specific case, one possible bottleneck is also financial because if the product/service produced is too expensive or if people with low budget cannot really address the service the goal of the process is lost.
The most important mean to involve citizens in co-creating value is to recognize their effort and to show them that their views and insights have been taken into account. Another crucial aspect is a good definition of the objectives of the co-creation activity. In this respect, it would be helpful to teach individuals to work with design-thinking to some extent. Organisations and companies sometimes come with big expectations about co-creation, as they expect to come up with fully new products. However, only the small things can be innovated at a time and often small things make the difference in the end. Also, lots of organisations are coming too late in the co-creation process: they just want to quickly test their product, instead of testing their idea first and progressing along the way. Also, many of their ideas stem from technology itself, which is sees as a solution itself rather than as a mean to bring about change. Another important aspect is to pay attention to the quality of participants: projects need to involve a lot of professionals and future users of the service, because their insights are the most important part in the process of co-creation. For example, dignity is key element for future users, together with the fear of independence loss in the elderly home. An interesting idea concerning the selection of participants is to combine users and experts, and in any case to provide a benefit for the user /expert to participate in terms of moral recognition of their contribution. A final important element consists in the development of the right context for such kind of projects, based on a strict collaboration among caring facilities, hospitals, services and products providers, policy makers and civil servants. A follow up project could be to rethink the public elderly homes, as well as to influence the current culture of staying too long in our home, by convincing individuals to move to another more sustainable home.