Sixth-graders designing digital services to support their own well-being

Anniina Ojutkangas30.11.2020WorkReading time 4 min

How could kids better influence their own well-being and feel more included in the ever-changing world we live in? That was the starting point when we kicked off our service design school project, where sixth-graders from Tampere became digital product designers.

Scalable, trailblazing solutions through diverse co-operation

Smart Tampere is a strategic development program by the City of Tampere and Business Tampere that aims for a smarter, more sustainable, attractive, and competitive Tampere region.

The program’s Agile experiments concept offers companies an easy and quick way to get an insight into the city’s and citizens’ needs and to develop and test new digital solutions in a real urban environment in cooperation with Business Tampere, as well as local companies, institutes, academies, and citizens. The aim is to find trailblazing solutions that are scalable, even globally.

Responding quickly to an uncertain situation

In spring 2020, when restrictions were applied due to the Covid-19 pandemic and schoolchildren shifted to homeschooling, a national concern arose regarding children and students’ well-being.

“The need for solutions that support the well-being of children and youth is highlighted in exceptional circumstances, but there’s also a demand for them when things get back to normal. Following and nourishing one’s own well-being are skills that future adults will need”, says Harri Jurvela, the Development Manager of Early Childhood Education and Basic Education of the City of Tampere.

This is when the agile experiments concept, designed for the development of urban environments, was put into practice. It would be used to develop and experiment with new ideas to improve the well-being of children and youth in an agile way, in a situation where uncertainty quickly became the new normal.

We participated in the competition with a concept of a service design school, designed by our service designer Kaisa Ruotsalainen. From ten applications, our service design school was one of three propositions that were selected to be implemented.

After the concepting phase, we brought the new concept to life by planning and facilitating the service design workshops together with my fellow service design colleague Emma Laiho.

Involving children in improving their own well-being 

The sixth-graders who are taking part in the service design school are experts of their own life and peers. Children of their age have grown in the midst of digitalization and are therefore seasoned users of many digital services.

The workshops will run throughout the fall semester. During the project, the children will get to make use of their expertise and practice design thinking through several service design methods, for example by empathizing with different user needs and challenges. The children will also get to build prototypes of the services they design and test them among their peers.

Inclusion and future skills through design thinking

As the world becomes more and more digital, the need for humane skills such as creative problem solving, critical thinking, and co-operation increases. In the service design school project, the sixth-graders get valuable new tools for the future, which they can use widely in different areas of their lives.

The aim of the service design school is to develop a scalable co-creation operating model that increases the feeling of inclusion among participants and gives the children a possibility to get their voices heard. The model could be used not only in the pilot school but also in other schools in the Tampere area or even nationally down the line.

In December 2020, the sixth-graders will present their digital service concepts for the executive team of the Education Services of the city of Tampere, which will decide if the digital well-being concepts will be further developed. 

We will share details more about the service design school and its results in an upcoming blog post, so stay tuned!

Picture: Jussi-Pekka Penttinen

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