What does it take? From resisting to embedding innovation

14 Jan 2015

The Mayor of Cicuciuleni presents his vision of the redesigned service The Mayor of Cicuciuleni presents his vision of the redesigned service

Colleagues of mine from MiLab recently shared our experience redesigning the material aid service in village of Ciuciuleni.

Working in a local development programme aimed at improving governance in Moldova, I have the opportunity to interact directly with local authorities nearly every single day.

This has helped me realize how they initially perceived social innovation: something related to high tech and, thus, not applicable to solving social issues.

During our work with the Ciuciuleni’s administration applying a service design approach, I found some key elements that prevent local governments from embedding innovation in their daily work.

I’d like to share a few of these here:

1.     “It is all about legislation, it’s not in our hands!”

People tend to blame central authorities for nearly all their troubles.

Therefore, I wasn’t surprised at all when the first solution proposed by the mayor was to ‘change the legislation’.

I agree that there are some issues that need to be discussed at the national level, however if this remains the only solution – no change will happen.

During the workshop we learned to use visualization techniques and asked the public servants to:

1) Narrow the issue down as much as possible
2) Generate several solutions, so that some of them could be carried out right away – ‘just do it’ solutions – while others could be saved for the ‘long-term perspective’ pile.


2.     Fear of leaving their comfort zone

As mentioned in our previous post, ”material aid service was mostly inherited from the Soviet era.”

Local authorities in Ciuciuleni see the crowds gather in front of their doors every Monday, the so-called ‘audience day’; but, it never occurred to them that it is in their own power to change the situation.

As result of our joint work during the workshop with Mindlab, one of the prototypes for material aid service provision was to ‘improve the work of the back-office through an ‘internal document management system (DMS)’.

This aims to shrink the queues, as citizens will address only social assistant, who will afterwards obtain all necessary certificates through the DMS.

 3.     Put yourself in users’ shoes

There is nothing new in applying various research techniques for the elaboration of national or even local policies in Moldova.

For example, the National Decentralization Strategy was developed based on a series of public consultations. The main difference is in the way the data is used and analyzed during the decision making process.

Public policies shaped to target all population groups, don’t always respond to the concrete needs of the people.

During the workshop, local authorities were supported to identify several user profiles using results of ethnographic interviews - and to identify concrete solutions directly for these beneficiaries.

As Moldovan villages are rather small, I have heard many mayors say they meet and hear from citizens on the way to the office – so they assume they know what users need.

The service design approach tells the public servant to put themselves in users’ shoes and walk with them the entire journey.

Usually it doesn’t start in front of the door of a social assistant, but at the moment when a single mother decides where to leave her child to go to the mayoralty to ask for information.

There are simply no other reliable sources of information about the service she needs.

We hope to share more insights gleaned from Ciuciuleni with other local authorities from Moldova to redesign more public services at the local level.

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