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The Way Home

The service concept is based on findings in two previous studies in the field of social housing conducted in Sarpsborg: The findings showed that our municipal services were fragmented and complex. But, they also showed that the number of homeless in Sarpsborg was lower than the average on a regional and national scale.

Housing conditions are of importance for people’s lives, health development. We decided to do more of what we did well, and improve it. This brought about the project Way Home.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

The service concept is based on findings in two previous studies in the field of social housing conducted in Sarpsborg, showing that our municipal services were fragmented and complex. But, they also showed that the number of homeless in Sarpsborg was lower than the average on a regional and national scale.

Housing conditions are of importance for people’s health and lives. We decided to do more of what we did well, and improve it. This prompted the project “Hjemveien – Boligsosiale tjenester på brukernes premisser” (The way home – Social housing services on the citizens’ premises). The project was based on service design. Applied tools and processes were used to simplify and improve municipal services, taking into account both the user perspective and the system perspective.

By using service design, we have been able to improve social housing services between municipality sectors, while making efforts more targeted and better for the user. By seeing the complete picture and being able to take correct action on time, we achieve more motivated users who are interested in change to help themselves. We have also gained a more holistic commitment, anchored both politically through planning and organizational through routines.

In the process a working methodology has been developed with guidance folders:

The Way Home as a Guidance folder for those who rent a community residence 
The folder is reviewed and handed over to the tenant when signing the contract. In the folder, the tenant finds useful information about moving in to a new home after the community residence. New tenants are followed up by housing contacts, who will observe the need for other municipal services. 1 year and 2 year conversations are conducted based on the contents of the folder. An individual plan is made for each tenant, and it is mapped to what extent the tenant can contribute. If the tenant does not find another property upon expiration of the contract, the tenancy can be renewed. At this point it will be considered if the tenant is in a position to get a start-up loan or in the need of financial advice in order to purchase a home at a later stage.

My Own Home- guidance folder for those who get a start-up loan
Once the start-up loan is granted, what now? Loan advisors often experienced many questions connected to housing purchases? What can I look for, what does all the words and expressions mean in a prospect? The folder “THE WAY HOME” was not enough to help everyone who got a start-up loan. A new folder “MY OWN HOME” was made. For those who have been granted start-up loans. The folder provides practical information about viewings, different housing types, and bidding. It also explains different words and expressions used in connection with a home purchase. In addition, conversations are offered for those who need further guidance.

A guide for the private rental market is in progress. Intended as guidance / information to those who personally deliver an application for municipal housing, and those who do not rent a municipal residence.

The process of securing permanent housing starts with application for housing assistance. The solutions have led to better procedures and instructions for cross-sectoral cooperation, both internally in the municipality and with other actors. Meetings are conducted on fixed frequencies, and random if necessary. At individual level, comprehensive individual plans are made in co-operation with users. Fixed contacts and follow-up lead to easy communication lines. Joint work tools have been introduced for different sectors, such as GERICA / LMP and Plania.

Advisors at Team bolig (Housing team) provide financial advice to those who rent municipal housing and to those who apply for start-up loans. Our customer area is equipped with wireless networks and PCs, making application processes easier. Other instances have begun referring customers/users with financial issues to Team bolig.

Service design as a tool can easily be used by other municipalities and on a multitude of municipal services. The way Sarpsborg municipality works and our tutorial folders are shared with other municipalities.

The work is rooted both politically and organizationally. Politically, guidelines are given by the municipal council and subcommittees in planning, budgets and single decisions. Organizationally, the work is rooted in the municipal management (councillor’s management team).

Innovation Description

What Makes Your Project Innovative?

THE WAY HOME method is based on the citizens’ perspective of what is right and efficient for them. They are involved and take charge of their own lives, and are thereby motivated to make changes in their lives to help themselves. Focusing on the home, and directing our efforts towards something that means so much to them have had a positive effect.
For the organisation it has been a new situation, and a different way to work.

What is the current status of your innovation?

The Way Home method is implemented in our organization and used every day. It is also a work in constant progress. As it is used on people, there always occur new situations that needs to be dealt with. Both in contact with the citizens and within our organization.

What started with one guidance folder, have now turned into two, and a third one is in the making. The folder has also been shared with other municipalities. We have found new ways to cooperate more efficiently with external partners and internally in the organisation, and joint tools have been put to use in different municipal sectors.

Innovation Development

Collaborations & Partnerships

Sarpsborg has had a lower number of homeless people than the average in both Østfold (region) and the country. The project has proven to be a good tool to further reduce the number of homeless. There is always a specific plan on suitable housing for those are on waiting-lists, but there might be some waiting time due to relocation or maintenance.

Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries

The Way Home has shown us that service design is an efficient tool to improve municipal services.
It has also shown us that providing services on the users premises and let them take an active role in their own lives creates a positive spiral effect, as the users are motivated and more willing to make changes to help themselves.

Innovation Reflections

Results, Outcomes & Impacts

Sarpsborg has had a lower number of homeless people than the average in both Østfold (region) and the country. In 2011 there were 186 homeless. By 2017 thighest number on waiting lists was 13 households. By 2018 the highest number on waiting lists is 8 . The Way Home has proven to be a good tool to further reduce the number of homeless. There is always a specific plan on suitable housing for those are on waiting-lists, but there might be some waiting time due to relocation or maintenance.

The municipality has not had to increase its municipal housing stock. By means of the concept "Leie til eie" (from renting to owning), a number of homes have been sold, and new ones built or bought to replace them.

Keeping focus on the housing situation and following up with housing contacts has also resulted to less arrears, overdue payments and evictions.

We report our results within Team bolig on a monthly basis. Report to the City Council every four months and are being measured according to plans and budget.

Challenges and Failures

We have not experienced any challenges so far.

Conditions for Success

The will to change is the most important condition for an innovation like this. It is also necessary to root it throughout the entire municipality, both politically and organizationally. In addition to what mentioned before, it is also necessary to have the financial means and manpower to see it through.

Replication

We have already replicated and expanded the innovation internally in Sarpsborg municipality. The way Sarpsborg municipality works and our tutorial folders are shared with other municipalities.

Service design as a tool can easily be used by other municipalities and on a multitude of municipal services.

Within our organisation we use the method on different groups of citizens. In the years to come, it is possible that we might have to direct it more towards elderly as this group will increase rapidly. We might also direct and adjust it more towards immigrants and integration.

Lessons Learned

The Way Home has shown us that service design is an efficient tool to improve municipal services.
It has also shown us that providing services on the users premises and let them take an active role in their own lives creates a positive spiral effect, as the users are motivated and more willing to make changes to help themselves.

Project Pitch

Year: 2014
Level of Government: Local government

Status:

  • Identifying or Discovering Problems or Opportunities - learning where and how an innovative response is needed
  • Generating Ideas or Designing Solutions - finding and filtering ideas to respond to the problem or opportunity
  • Developing Proposals - turning ideas into business cases that can be assessed and acted on
  • Implementation - making the innovation happen
  • Evaluation - understanding whether the innovative initiative has delivered what was needed
  • Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways

Innovation provided by:

Date Published:

10 January 2014

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