Asker Welfare Lab

The Asker Welfare Lab is a lab guided by the principle:  "No decision about me, shall be taken without me."

Asker Welfare Lab is a concept for service delivery, solely centered on the citizen, in which all relevant municipal services, together with external partners of collaboration, invest together, aiming to raise the living standards, thereby bettering the quality of life of each individual and family in the program. All the services do still have one common factor - the citizen. Their sole reason for existing is to deliver benefit for citizens in different stages of life.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

Asker Welfare Lab is a concept for service delivery, solely centered on the citizen, in which all relevant municipal services, together with external partners of collaboration, invest together, aiming to raise the living standards, thereby bettering the quality of life of each individual and family in the program. The municipal part of the investment is closely monitored through a new form of reporting, focusing on the realization of benefits. It all started in 2013.

Asker municipality was asked to be a part of a project, piloting service design as a method of reshaping the social housing services. The project owner was The Norwegian Centre of Design and Architecture (DOGA), and the project was funded by the Norwegian State Housing Bank. LiveWork Studio was engaged as the partner delivering the service design methodology. The purpose of the project was to create a new directon for the social housing services, and create the “Housing Office of the future”. Based on the knowledge obtained from dialogue with both citizens and municipal workers in the first phase of the project (Gathering Insights), it became obvious that the initial scope of the project was too narrow. The citizens with complex housing- and living conditions/situations, expressed that they oftentimes did not get their needs met in a sufficient way. The municipal workers, on their side expressed that they did not get to perform their jobs in an adequately purposeful manner.

Based on these insights, the project took a different perspective, and chose to adjust its goals and project plan drastically. The services of the future are to be the citizens' services, where the main rule is to be that “No decision about me is to be made without me”. Based on this background, a totally new concept for service delivery was developed, challenging the traditional “public sector mindset”. Most businesses with a wide variety of product lines are "silo-based". This is also true of the public sector. A municipality delivers services "from the cradle to the grave", and the services in themselves are oftentimes so different, that they have little in common, if you scrutinize them one by one. There are few common traits between mowing lawns, administering medicine and teaching someone algebra.

All the services do still have one common factor - the citizen. Their sole reason for existing is to deliver benefit for citizens in different stages of life. If we forget this, the services are endangered of being designed and delivered in a fragmentary fashion, thus delivering lesser value. This is especially difficult for the citizens receiving the most services, often being the citizens with the most difficulties in their lives, adding to the complexity of their life situations instead of adequately helping them sort out their lives. Often, the remedy sought is crossservice- meetings, arenas gathering several service providers in an attempt to coordinate service delivery and alleviate the situation for the citizen. Such arenas might not always hit the mark, giving citizens the experience of being the underdog among all the municipal “service experts”. We know that if we are to obtain lasting results, we will have to work with all the pillars of welfare; work, health, education and housing, simultaneously. The following hypothesis was therefore developed: “What if the municipality starts thinking like an investor, investing in people, instead of just being a case worker, pushing people and paper around?” With this “investment thinking” as a starting point, the model for the service concept “Asker Welfare Lab” was developed.

In the first phase of the project, the concept was created, based on the following principles:

1 – Taking the risk of early investment to get the socioeconomic benefits in the long term.

2 – Creating a better experience for the citizen.

3 – Planning long-term courses where the municipality is coordinated as one unit.

4 – Looking at/Considering the citizen as a “co-investor”, actively contributing to her own future.

Inspired by the investment thinking, a new department was established within the municipality in the fall of 2014, called “Citizen Square”.

This “spin-off” from the first phase of the project, became a small-scale test of some of its principles. Its purpose was to ensure coordination for citizens with complex needs and life situations. Here, citizens with comprehensive needs get a thorough mapping of their life situation, through just one conversation with Citizen Square. They experience having just one case worker across several services, and receive simultaneous and coordinated services. The organization model, physical design of offices and areas for meeting the citizens, along with the methods for working, were all inspired by, and built upon several of the principles from the service concept Asker Welfare Lab, that was now entering its second phase of development, involving a broader set of services and participants.

Innovation Description

Innovation Development

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Year: 2014
Level of government: National/Federal government

Status:

  • Evaluation - understanding whether the innovative initiative has delivered what was needed

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