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Co-designing future digital services

Finland’s Ministry of Finance set a target for all public services to be available digitally by 2023 as part of its Program for Promotion of Digitalisation. The 'Co-designing future digital services' project is a new way of providing free expert mentoring for public sector organisations in developing their digital services, with an emphasis on collaborative learning. The aim of the project is to ensure that future digital services are designed to be human-centered and of high quality.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

The Co-designing future digital services project promotes national digitalisation targets and answers to the challenges public organisations may have regarding digitalisation. Public organisations can apply for mentoring from a pool of experts, such as service designers and change management experts or usability experts.

Project goals:

  • Help kick-start change towards digitalisation
  • Improve the quality, accessibility, and usability of current and future digital services
  • Help bring clarity and consistency to complex service ecosystems,
  • Support leadership and networking
  • Share the learnings and knowledge generated as openly as possible

Finland’s Ministry of Finance set a target for all public services to be available digitally by 2023 as part of its Program for Promotion of Digitalisation. The Ministry conducted a survey in 2021 for public organisations asking what kind of support they need in order to achieve this target. The results showed that public organisations need support in figuring out how to kick-start change towards digitalisation.

Public organisations could apply for free mentoring in the years 2021 and 2022. The project is funded by the Program for Promotion of Digitalisation by the Ministry of Finance. The project emphasizes collaboration and is directed especially for small municipalities and organisations who may not have the resources needed to solve their digitalisation challenges.

We aim for concrete outcomes and provide opportunities to learn by doing. The accumulated learnings from the project are shared openly for public organisations to use freely, with the goal of also helping their future collaborators. We are forming a network of actors around the project, which actively shares knowledge and provides support beyond the project as well. This is achieved through a free and open webinar series where client organisations and experts share their progress and learnings. The learnings from the projects will also be compiled into an online course on eOppiva, which is a learning platform for civil servants.

How it works: A municipality or government agency or institution faced with a challenge related to digitalisation can apply for mentoring. Applications which require any kind of technical implementations are not accepted, as the mentoring is meant for the phase which precedes that. Another criteria is that it must have the potential to benefit other organisations as well. Selected organisations commit to a 4-month long project where they work closely together with relevant experts in multidisciplinary project teams. The methods used are largely derived from service design, but may vary according to need.

In 2021 we piloted four cases with varying themes: one was empathy-focused, the second was process-oriented, the third developed service packages and the fourth increased understanding of companies’ needs in a municipality. Five new cases are currently underway, where we are tackling issues related to housing cooperatives, information management in municipalities, digital permit applications, and more.

Innovation Description

What Makes Your Project Innovative?

  • The collaborative nature of the project and working in multidisciplinary teams ensures that digital services are developed to work seamlessly within the wider context and service ecosystem, instead of each organisation operating blindly within their own silo.
  • The focus on sharing knowledge and learnings openly
  • Instead of hiring experts to solve problems for them, public organisations are able to receive mentoring from a team of leading experts, free of charge, and learn by doing. This helps them become more self-sufficient in future development projects. This also allows them to start without a heavy procurement process and makes these development steps much quicker to start with.
  • New kind of bottom-up leadership which focuses on coaching, working collaboratively within networks and forming a common understanding among actors to inform decision-making

What is the current status of your innovation?

The project was first piloted in 2021 with 4 organisations to test what would be the best way to provide expert support. Due to the positive experiences and results, the Ministry of Finance granted funding for the project’s continuation in 2022. This year’s project kick-started in September with 5 client organisations, and will end in December. We are continuously gathering learnings and insights from experts and client organisations and sharing them via webinars, blogs, and social media.

Innovation Development

Collaborations & Partnerships

  • Ministry of Finance: steering and funding of the project
  • Finnish Digital Agency design team: planning and implementation, ensuring the sharing of learnings, gathering situational data of digitalisation

Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries

  • Citizens will benefit from higher quality digital services in the future
  • Municipalities, public institutions and agencies learn new ways of developing their services
  • Companies that are involved with the challenges of each case benefit from higher quality public services that work together with their own services.
  • The Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities operates in the interest of municipalities, so they benefit from innovations which helps municipalities

Innovation Reflections

Results, Outcomes & Impacts

The feedback from the projects has been positive. Project teams are well committed and enthusiastic about their participation and co-work.

An important lesson learned from the process and methods is the understanding and experience of user-centered development. The process created some change in thinking and attitudes. In addition, some organisations have rethought their development model: how to plan in a human centric way and take their users and their team better into account early in the process. Organisations have been able to try out a new kind of cross-administrative development and valuable new contacts were made.

There is a clear need for public administration development projects to learn from each other. The crystallisation of end results, visualisations and reports done by the project’s experts have been very valuable to the organisations. The outcomes and materials look neutral, are well thought-out and therefore have good credibility.

Challenges and Failures

This year we did not receive as many applications as we had hoped, which may be a sign of failed communications/marketing efforts. Possibly participants don't follow social media as much as we thought or they use other channels. Since then we have hired external communications experts onto the organising team. We learned also to look at communications from a new perspective.

Conditions for Success

  • A clear common goal or target in order to form a shared understanding and strengthen motivation among various actors
  • Public-private partnership in forming a multidisciplinary, cross-organisational pool of experts
  • Ability to demonstrate the project’s value to funders and participants, even though it may not be measurable in the short term.


We believe this innovation could be replicated by other governments in a similar way in order to solve various challenges beyond just digitalisation.

Lessons Learned

  • Collaborate! Reach out to various parties who might be relevant to the challenge, most people want to help and collaborate. With more relevant parties involved you will come up with solutions which serve everyone in a more holistic way.
  • Share! By sharing your knowledge you are not only helping others, but yourself as well. You might find out about other organisations with similar issues and alternative solutions. This also generates more awareness about the project.
Year: 2021
Level of Government: National/Federal government


  • Implementation - making the innovation happen

Innovation provided by:

Date Published:

26 January 2023

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