May I help you? — The process

First year

Discovery phase: First workshop, methods used were service map, service diary and personas

The aim of the first workshop was to increase understanding of a customer's needs, the situation and a customer’s service experience.

Service map

In the first workshop, information was gathered using a service map. Local residents were asked to fill in on the map all the services they had used in the past three months. How many times had they used a service? Had they used the service locally or electronically? If locally, how far were the services from home and how long did it take to get there? What means of transport did they use to access these services? The service map gave an idea of the use of all services, not only of public ones. It provided information for local residents on their service behaviour, while also helping them with the workshop's next tool, the service diary.

Service diary

"My daily life—Tell me what you did today. Where did you go? With whom? What services did you use? Were you served well or poorly? Did you get help from a friend, a neighbour or someone else? Would you have liked to have more help? Did the day bring to your mind any hopes or dreams?"

After the workshop, the participants kept an electronic diary of their service use and needs for one week. In this first phase, 160 persons participated in the Kainuu region workshops and 110 persons returned their diary.


Personas are fictional customer profiles representing a particular group of people with shared interests. The information collected via diaries was analysed and divided into four customer groups based on their service needs and how social they were. The aim was to identify problem areas and new service needs.

The project team and twenty students from the University of Tampere analysed the 110 service diaries, or probes, before the second workshop.

Creation phase: Second workshop, methods used were empathy map, service blueprint and business model canvas

In the second workshop, local services were compared with the Kainuu region’s current production model. Workshop participants were local government officers and representatives of NGOs and businesses.

Empathy maps

The workshop developed new services for the region based on the customer profiles created using design probes (diaries). This was done by using empathy maps. An empathy map is a visual tool for organising information obtained from personas. Empathy maps helped participants discuss customers’ needs, emotions, desires and fears. It was a sign of success when participants identified someone they knew as a representative of a persona.

Service blueprint

Subsequently, each group was asked to examine service blueprints created for their personas and discuss the services from these perspectives: What are the critical phases? Whose job is to provide the services? How to prevent need for heavy service use?

A service blueprint is a visual documentation of a service from the perspective of the customer, the service provider and other parties involved. It can be used as a strategic-level management tool to give a visual overview of the entire service process at the micro-implementation level.

Service blueprints usually detail everything from customer contact to back office processes. The blueprints identify the most crucial areas and reveal areas of overlap or duplication. They help to identify those service aspects that can be reviewed and improved.

Business model canvas

A business model canvas is a tool for describing, analysing and designing business models. The canvas presents a successful business model and is divided into nine blocks which can be filled in collaboratively. A business model canvas clarifies an organisation’s core aims, identifying its strengths, weaknesses and priorities.

The groups first discussed how the different parts of the business model canvas should be implemented to take into account a persona’s needs and special features. The canvas was developed to better suit a particular service that would be typical or highly necessary for that persona.

The second-stage workshop saw an attendance of 150 decision-makers and service providers. In the participants’ opinion, this was the most challenging workshop and the business model canvas was the most demanding tool.

Creation phase: Third workshop, method used was participatory budgeting

Participatory budgeting can be used to determine the priority of services directly in a municipality’s budget or a project’s budget together with customers or, for example, as a percentage of budgeting.

Participatory budgeting

Decision-makers engaged in participatory budgeting with potential users and customers. Each participant was given ten welfare vouchers, which they could budget for existing services they wanted to keep or for services their municipality should provide in the future.

At the end of the workshop, participants discussed the choices they had made. The results were analysed by the design team and used as design drivers in the fourth workshop.

Creation phase: Fourth workshop, method used was concepts

The last workshop gathered together all the people who had been involved in the process. More than 30 local residents, decision-makers and private- and third-sector stakeholders attended the workshop.

The participants were divided into eight groups, and each group was to work on one client profile and the service sector to which the profile had attached most importance in budgeting. First, each group was asked to discuss 15 problems that prevented the given client profile from satisfying its service needs in the given service sector. Then the group chose three most challenging problems and came up with five ideas to solve them. The best solution was found to each problem and the group discussed ways to realise the ideas.

The participants put themselves in the position of the client profile and came up with very ordinary problems. The service needs listed by the groups included: digitalisation, mobility, time and money, service culture, health constraints, lack of friends, the ending of ticket sale on commuter trains, access to information and maintenance of sports facilities.

A variety of concrete solutions were suggested to many of the problems. Participants called for more traditional alternatives to digital services and wanted equipment and user support from public providers. They expressed a wish that communities and NGOs would support the maintenance of sports facilities, address transport and mobility problems and help people find friends. It was hoped that private and public sectors would adopt a more client-centred and friendly attitude in travel services, for example.


Second Year: Introduction to Decision-making Process

The second year concentrated on the decision-making process. The following six workshops were conducted between 2014 and 2016: Think Tank, Choosing the Concept, Kick Off for Planning, Indicators, Participatory Workshop, and Kick Off for Piloting.

Reality check phase: First workshop, methods used were criteria and voting

In the reality check phase, jointly created service concepts can be tested with prototypes before implementation.

The first workshop was a dialogical presentation, aThink Tank. The aim was to identify the impact of the new themes and approaches arisen from customer insight on future service development and decision-making. The workshop sought to address questions such as “How is well-being defined from a citizen’s point of view?’” and “What are the future methods for developing and managing user-driven service development?” Criteria were defined for choosing one of the concepts for reality check and implementation with decision-makers.

Workshop participants were decision-makers from the Kainuu region’s municipalities and the Kainuu joint municipal authority for social welfare and health care.

Reality check phase: First workshop, methods used were voting and stakeholder map

Decision-makers participated in the second workshop with the aim to choose a concept to be piloted. First, the workshop ran through the criteria defined in the Think Tank. After this, the decision-makers were ready to make their choice, and they chose the ‘May I help you’ concept for the pilot.

The ‘May I help you’ concept focuses on improving social skills, the ability to work, and well-being among disadvantaged local residents (the young, the old, marginalised people), and on complementing public services in the process. In the ideation phase, it was found that there are few encounters between these groups in a service context. So when developing the concept, the focus should be on identifying concrete ways or services to bring these two groups together. It is also a matter of decision-making.

Stakeholder map

The workshop’s second task was to fill in a stakeholder map in order to identify different organisations and their representatives who would participate in the concept’s reality check phase. Through these two workshops, decision-makers participated in the planning of the new concept and started the pilot, which had its origins in customer insights and needs.

Reality check phase: Third workshop, methods used were empathy map, personas and story board

The third workshop started the reality check phase of the ‘May I help you’ concept. Workshop participants later formed a design team, which was responsible for a further planning of the concept. First, the workshop ran through the process and the background of the concept to be implemented.

Empathy map

Participants used a service design tool —an empathy map— to familiarise themselves with the target profiles.

Story board

The target profiles’ needs were visualised by using another service design tool, a story board. As the final task, the design team discussed their own expectations and hopes for the concept.

Workshop participants were representatives of parishes, NGOs and the Kainuu joint municipal authority for social welfare and health care.

Reality check phase: Fourth workshop, method used was indicators

Reports and evaluation are highly valued in decision-making. Concrete means for evaluating and monitoring are an essential part of co-operation between service development and decision-making.

First, the ‘May I help you’ concept was introduced to decision-makers.The aim of this workshop was to create indicators for measuring the concept’s benefits and effectiveness, especially from the perspective of citizen well-being and happiness. Participants started the work by re-examining the concept criteria they had used in the first workshop. The process of choosing criteria and indicators for the concept connects decision-making to concept development.


In the workshop, decision-makers had an opportunity to influence concept implementation. Their role is significant to the concept’s future: they chart the path, promote and support actions and monitor concept indicators. The workshop clarified the decision-makers’ expectations for the concept and strengthened their role as concept owners.

Decision-makers from different Kainuu region municipalities and the Kainuu joint municipal authority for social welfare and health care were invited to participate.

Reality check phase: Fifth workshop, method used was feasibility testing

The participants of the fifth workshop were the concept’s future users and providers, that is young and elderly people, and representatives from public and private sectors working with them. They heard about the concept, phases and actions needed in the reality check phase.

The workshop’s focus was on testing concept implementation and obtaining feedback on its feasibility from the users. The participants discussed the actions in groups and gave their comments and development proposals. Even though the number of participants was small, users’ response in the workshop was positive and enabled concept implementation. At the same time, the workshop strengthened decision-makers’ and users’ dialogue in co-creation. The multiple roles of decision-makers were also witnessed.

Implementation phase: Sixth workshop, method used was co-creation

The workshop presented the ‘May I help you’ concept, the result of second year workshops. Because the outcome was a community concept, not a new service, the workshop focused on various forms of community aid with different service providers and representatives of public, private and third sectors together with decision-makers. Each participant chose one action and, after working on it for a while, presented ideas on how to facilitate its realisation. Future actions varied from encounters to community actions. A simple example of a future action was a meal that an elderly person cooks together with youngsters in a youth centre. An example of a more challenging community action was provision of accommodation to young people in an elderly home as a reward for their daily help.

This workshop showed that an implementation of a new concept requires extensive support from decision-makers. Their concrete support is needed to push through new concepts in the decision-making process. Few private- or third-sector organisations were willing to take charge of the implementation. This challenges the public sector and its decision-makers to make use of customer insight and needs throughout the entire service network.