Service design for innovation in collective projects

What is service design?

Caroline Gagnon, associate professor at the École de design at Université Laval and program director in product design, defines the concept as follows:

Service design is at the intersection of different design practices that focus on all aspects of a service. Its implementation is based on a detailed understanding of the citizen’s experience, acquired through various analytical tools. This approach is used to, among other things, study the steps that a person must follow to access a service. It is therefore a question of conceptualizing the human experience of a service […] and of making it a coherent whole, pleasant and adapted to the expectations and needs of the people it intends to serve.

In other words, service design looks at the users’ journey, their experience and even the different attributes of their profiles to take into account all the parameters that can feed a reflection on the reorganization or the design of a service offering.

For this expert who is interested in the social and public practices of design and their innovative role, service design is an ideal way to explore new solutions that are better adapted to the concerns of the main stakeholders concerned. Rather than working in silos or alone, service designers integrate the targeted users into their creative process in a context of a collaborative and transversal approach. They will therefore become “mediators and interpreters rather than solitary creators” by identifying, using the results of customer journey analyses, the pivotal elements on which to intervene to improve the user experience.

Can service design be used to innovate...socially?

Absolutely! Since service design is part of a process of exploration, open consultation, consultation and prototyping, this approach encourages project leaders to evolve their reflections and their points of view by adopting a perspective that is focused on empathy and the user experience. In this way, during analysis and co-creation activities, divergence is needed to leave lots of room for innovation.

Being increasingly public-oriented and applied to societal issues, service design also serves agents of change, accelerating social innovation with all stakeholders.

How does service design fit with the MIS approach? The Center-Sud example in Montréal

Service design is part of the various methodologies used by the MIS to foster the emergence of social innovations in urban environments. During its presentation at Service Design Canada‘s annual conference, the MIS, in collaboration with the team at the Laboratoire populaire d’intelligence collective (LPIC) du Center-Sud, highlighted the service design elements that have been used to establish a popular laboratory in this area, just one example of a social innovation intervention led by the MIS in different Montréal neighbourhoods.

First, let’s remember the mandate. As part of its service offer, the MIS was called upon by local stakeholders to assist them in designing a meeting and dialogue space for citizens, including vulnerable and excluded people, to foster the emergence of local collective actions or projects.

Focused on empowerment and citizen participation, the laboratory also had to be accompanied by an innovation support service in order to bring ideas with strong social impact emerging from this laboratory to fruition. In addition, wanting to establish winning conditions to properly transfer its knowledge to the neighbourhood and thus optimize the autonomy and the ability of the actors to create more collaboration and multiply or even perpetuate the positive impact of their initiatives, the MIS has tapped into its toolbox to put forward its expertise and the most appropriate methodologies to carry out its mandate.

So Virginie Zingraff and Marie-Hélène Laurence, two MIS team members, met with Claudia Beaudoin and Alexandre Savoie from the Center Sud team to first understand in detail the team’s aspirations and objectives. From there, a phase of contextualizing the ideas exchanged followed. The practical tools of service design come into play at this stage: drawing and mapping help to make a project visible in order to continue thinking about something concrete.

Inspired by different models (living laboratory, incubator, co-working, etc.), the LPIC team imagined the laboratory as a social innovation tool in itself that would allow citizens’ new ideas to emerge and then strengthen them. The choice of the approach being determined by the governance and the form of the services, the MIS guided the decision-making process by proposing to plot the ideal experience to bring it to life for the target public. The aim was to identify the different types of citizens and to imagine different scenarios, taking into account the specificities of each, as well as their concerns and their lived experiences, but also the obstacles they face, such as embarrassment or anxiety. In short, the team explored how to help the user to feel fully integrated and welcome in this environment.

This stage revealed the diversity of the needs of the targeted citizens. To answer these needs, it was necessary to plan the different elements of the project to be put in place: the prototyping of a first event while continuing the reflection on a support service in the medium term. Then, based on these concrete experiments, different deadlines were set in order to, on the one hand, support the long-term governance of the project and, on the other hand, to integrate partners and external resources to ensure the sustainability of the project and its deployment over the longer term.

A gamble already won in favour of social innovation!

Throughout the working sessions, the MIS intervened to demonstrate the value, in a project with collective impact, of linking expertise in design, but also experts in open innovation processes, in collaborative approaches and in consultation and consensus-building. This is a gamble that has already been won by the amazing team at LPIC Center-Sud, who now runs a monthly participatory democracy event to encourage citizen ideas, individual activities such as workshops, conferences, training sessions and a support service in the ideation and co-creation of projects.

There’s no doubt that, in the example of the LPIC, which was launched on November 29, 2018, service design as a user-centered approach has been a key tool to increase the team’s capacity to innovate socially and, by extension, that of neighbourhood residents. We look forward to seeing the citizen projects that will emerge in the coming months and will transform the neighbourhood’s ways of living together!

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