Blog II – Pilot project for Personal budgeting and Mobility Services

Graphic by Ruta Jumite, Group 1B.

These blog posts report on work-in-progress within the DfG course! The posts are written by groups dealing with the brief on ‘Pilot project for Personal Budgeting Model’, provided by the Ministry of Social Affairs, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), and the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela) in collaboration with the ORSI project.

Group 1C: Eve Nieminen and Diana Becares Mas from the Creative Sustainability program,  Esko-Matti Helin from Collaborative and Industrial Design program, and Faye from Human Computer Interaction Design program.

Listening to the stakeholders, mapping the system and analysing the gathered information

After the first weeks of the course, our group-work has consisted mainly of booking and carrying out interviews with as many stakeholders as possible. The approach the group has aimed for is qualitative, described by Jackson et al. (2007) as “the focus turns to understanding human beings’ richly textured experiences and reflections about those experiences” (p.22). In contrast, quantitative research would be “relying on a set of finite questions to elicit categorized, forced-choice responses with little room for open-ended replies to questions” (p.23).

It hasn’t been easy to figure out the relations and influences inside the system we have been working in. Therefore, after and based on the interviews and research, we created a system map. In it, we situated the stakeholders – the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Kela, THL, the municipalities, the different transport services (public transport and taxis) and the disabled people and their assistants – considering the influence they have on each other and in the whole of the system.


Observations within the gathered data

Being able to talk directly with people that take part in this system has brought light to our previous confusion. It has helped our group comprehend how the current mobility services are perceived; from both the providers’ perspective (social workers and municipalities) and the users’.

When analysing information, insights allow us to understand how things work from different perspectives. Some of the key insights we gathered relate to a need for clearer communication. During the interviews, our group noticed a lack of information on users’ rights and some differences in how disabled people understood the mobility services and how social workers spoke about them. For example, some users insisted on being well informed about the mobility pilot taking place but then said things that didn’t match the social workers’ answers. Another diverse range of opinions arose when discussing the level of quality that the mobility services should aim for, which also differed for the users and the municipalities.

Presenting our work in progress

Mid-term presentations were held last Monday, 29th. It was great to hear the stakeholders agreeing with our points of view on the lack of communication: how they’re interested in improving it and worried about the user’s experience. It was also beneficial to learn, for example, that our focus on Kulkukeskus was not essential for our project, so now we can deviate our attention from it. The ‘lack of personalization’ in the mobility/disability services was emphasized many times in the interviews, and again in the feedback session after presenting. Mainly, the idea that different people have very different needs and that there isn’t one perfect solution to fit everyone’s needs.

Re-visiting the initial brief, our group decided it could be a good idea to design our service paths also to clarify and communicate to the users what the services offer and how to take the most advantage of them.

These following weeks will be all about designing and visualizing the service paths out of all this valuable information we have gathered, however, our group is planning on enjoying this short Easter break to come back to work with a refreshed mind!


Jackson II, Ronald L., Drummond, Darlene K. and Camara, Sakile (2007) ‘What Is QualitativeResearch?’, Qualitative Research Reports in Communication, 8: 1, 21 — 28

Group 1A: Senni Alho, Katriina Kenttamies and Naiquan Gu from the Creative Sustainability program, and Ondřej Zajíc from the Collaborative and Industrial Design program.

Discovering the Issues: Clients Struggle in the Siloed System

It is the fifth week of the Design for Government course, and our group, 1A, has dived deep into the system of disability services trying to understand the viewpoints of its different actors. We have been focusing especially on the end-users of the system to acquire more human-centred perspectives. After interviewing ten people and gathering data from a dozen documents, we have slowly acquired a fairly comprehensive understanding of the system and started to recognize some patterns in the data. From the patterns, we were able to generate eight key insights that we presented to a group of stakeholders in the Mid-Term Review on the 29th of March.

Two Emerging Themes

Our group identified two underlying themes that most of the key findings were related to: communication and imbalance of responsibilities and resources. We found that the siloed system does not encourage free information flow, and communication is insufficient between almost all the actors in the system (see Picture 1). The lack of communication results in difficulties for both the people and the organizations.

The second theme – the imbalance of responsibilities and resources – refers to situations, where a group of people does not have the necessary resources to carry out their duties. Our understanding is that the situation is particularly problematic among social workers and personal caretakers. This imbalance has a direct impact on both the lives of workers and people with disabilities.

Discovering Synthesis

We proposed that one of the two themes, communication or imbalances, could potentially be the focus of our design for the project. Based on the feedback, the stakeholders were more inclined to the communication design path. However, some very interesting points were made that communication might encompass both themes – at least partly. As Mira Koivusilta from THL pointed out, focusing on communication could have the potential to solve structural problems too:

“If we understand each other better then the siloes suddenly lower.”
– Mira Koivusilta, THL.

To conclude, our group has a lot of work ahead with identifying and analyzing different options of directions for the project. Even though it sometimes feels tempting to start defining the final design outcome, we have certainly learned to value the deliberate processes of this project. Having enough time for research and analysis often leads to more considered results.

System Map of the Personal Budgeting Project (Group 1A, 2021).

Group 1B: Helena Eharand from International Design Business Management (BIZ) program, Lucia Llerena from International Design Business Management (ARTS) program, Matleena Inget from the Creative Sustainability (BIZ) program, and Ruta Jumite from Creative Sustainability (ARTS) program.

Have we been understanding disabilities all wrong?

For the last four weeks, our team has gotten the opportunity to work with a brief focusing on the development of a personal budgeting model, which is aiming to provide a more inclusive and flexible service offering for people with disabilities. Thanks to this, we have had a chance to have deep conversations with people with disabilities, their families, personal assistants, associations, as well as with social workers and other types of public servants.

While analysing the existing system we came across many important challenges, and to understand the relations and levels of these challenges we used the systems thinking tool “Iceberg Model”. The method helped us not to see only that all the challenges are somehow related, but also that interventions in deeper levels might have a broader influence. Of course, it is known that the deepest leverage points are the hardest to address by design because they are mental models and paradigms of society. However, the model helped us to frame the core challenges and our unique perspective on them.

We used a systems thinking tool – the Iceberg model to structure the challenges, their connections, and their underlying reasons. Graphics by Ruta Jumite.

Our understanding of disabilities is inadequate.

“Many times, I think, disabled people are also told ever since we are little, that there is something wrong with us. That we should just shut up, and be quiet, and be happy about the services we get because we are wasting the society’s money…”
— interview participant

With the help of analysis, we understood that one of the ingrained behaviours is that people with disabilities are consistently not integrated into society. Instead of integrating people with disabilities into society by empowering them as experts in their own lives, they are often treated as customers of the system, or even as a “burden”. As a result, people with disabilities feel like they should be grateful for the help they get even though it sometimes doesn’t even meet their basic human rights.

Graphics by Ruta Jumite.

Thus, instead of believing that people with disabilities must adapt to the current system, we should be making sure that the social system meets the needs of everyone. For this, we need a paradigm shift from a traditional charity-oriented, medical-based approach, to one based on human rights.

By pinpointing these challenges and looking at how this is connected with the personal budgeting model, we realized that whatever we do with this project, we need to emphasize the co-creation with people with disabilities, empower them to fight for their rights, and take all the complexities and ranges of disabilities into account. We are aware that these challenges are not simple, but we believe that, as designers, we have the ability to make precise interventions in the system that will make us reframe and rethink disabilities and offer services that are designed by the people with disabilities themselves.

Further reading:

The United Nations. (1948). Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The DfG course runs for 14 weeks each spring – the 2021 course has now started and runs from 01 Mar to 24 May. It’s an advanced studio course in which students work in multidisciplinary teams to address project briefs commissioned by governmental ministries in Finland. The course proceeds through the spring as a series of teaching modules in which various research and design methods are applied to addressing the project briefs. Blog posts are written by student groups, in which they share news, experiences and insights from within the course activities and their project development. More information here about the DfG 2021 project briefs. Hold the date for the public online finale online 09:00-12:00 AM (EEST) on Monday 24 May!

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