Innovationshuset, a creative and joint project for all the departments in Copenhagen Municipality.
Q&A with Diana Arsovic Nielsen - Chief of Innovation at the City of Copenhagen at Innovationshuset
What is Innovationshuset and why — in your opinion — is it needed in Copenhagen?
Innovationshuset (in English The Innovation House) is a creative and joint project for all the departments in Copenhagen Municipality. What is unique and absolutely essential about our work is that we create projects with, and not for, the departments. Together with our colleagues at the departments, we put everyday situations to the test. We regard innovation as a process that identifies users’ needs, translates them into concepts by means of design, and generates value through business understanding and business development. Only by linking design with the business we can create sustainable solutions. Innovationshuset is needed in Copenhagen Municipality to consolidate forces to make work of municipal development fast and rewarding and to ensure we put the needs of our citizens first when we develop new services and solutions. By facilitating the formation of organic networks, we make sure relevant users, citizens and private operators are brought together every time we develop new solutions. This ensures us the knowledge to develop the right solutions for the right people, and at the same time solutions that are fit for a rapidly changing world.
Can you give an example of a case that you think is successful from Innovationshuset?
In 2016, we worked with International Citizen Service, a center in Copenhagen that helps newcomers start their life in Denmark smoothly. The aim was to ensure a better reception at the center where they, since the opening in 2013, had experienced great popularity and thus had a waiting line up to 90 minutes.
Together with the staff at International Citizen Service, Innovationshuset observed the users, interviewed them and developed prototypes to test the effect of various ideas on-site. One of the findings of the project was that 55.000 people showed up at the center yearly, but 25.000 of them were rejected at the counter because they lacked the right documents. Therefore, a digital visitation was developed to ensure a shorter processing time. Moreover, the center was refurbished, and a new wayfinding was developed in conjunction with the digital solution.
This brought down the waiting line and the number of complaints significantly, and the project is a successful example of how you can use design tools to rapidly identify user’s needs and test ideas in order to come up with a solution that has the desired outcome.
What is your vision and ideas on what is needed to better enhance design enabled innovation in Copenhagen?
It is not our aim at Innovationshuset to get the best ideas. Instead, our aim is to teach our colleagues and to contribute with relevant methods so that we make sure the best ideas are born where they ought to generate the most value for people: in the many projects that are being carried out every day at the departments.
Therefore, we believe that the way to enhance design enabled innovation in Copenhagen is to make sure the employees throughout the entire organization are trained in using the methods in their daily work. We regard innovation as a craft everyone can learn, but it requires training. Therefore, we run courses to teach employees how to use design and business methods in their daily work. They can then go on to share that knowledge with their colleagues in the departments, and eventually, that knowledge will become part of the DNA of the entire City of Copenhagen.