Design for Government; The Final Result

Introducing ‘Exploration Areas’ a new identity for Finland’s Hiking Areas in the third and final phase of Aalto’s Design for Government course 2018.

14 weeks ago I started a project-based course entitled Design for Government.  The course aims to teach students how to apply design thinking to complex challenges in the government and public sector.

At the beginning of term we were divided into multidisciplinary teams and given the task by the Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and Metsähallitus (a state managed enterprise that takes care of all state-owned land and water in Finland) to come up with ‘new uses, users and identity’ for Finland’s National Hiking Areas. Our team was made up Andreas Sode from New Media, Ming Unn Andersen and Mengxiao Li from Collaborative and Industrial Design, Riina Ruus-Prato from Product and Spacial Design and myself from Creative Sustainability.

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Over the past 14 weeks we have worked closely with our commissioners: The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and Metsähallitus and local stakeholders, to find a solution which addresses the unique potential of each Hiking area, alongside wider concerns regarding our current relationship to nature and biodiversity loss.

Last week we presented our final concept to an audience including members from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, design consultants, civil servants and Aalto alumni at the House of Estates in Helsinki.

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Framing the problem

There are currently five Hiking Areas in Finland that specialise in activity-based tourism. They are distinct from both National Parks and commercially owned forests, but incorporate elements of both commerce and conservation in their activities. The areas are used for a wide range of activities including nature-based events, local business services and forestry. However, the breadth of the activities on offer in Hiking Areas make them difficult to define and in recent years visitor numbers have not increased. We used Evo Hiking Area, located in the South of Finland as a base for our research.

The Ecosystem Perspective

One aspect which we felt was missing from the brief was the ecosystem perspective. All activities within Hiking Areas rely on the health and diversity of the ecosystem, yet their needs are not always taken into consideration. Visitors are rarely informed about the importance of respecting the natural environment and some activities are planned at times of the year which conflict with the natural breeding cycles of native animals.

midterm27-e1527692566339.jpgAccording to Johan Rockström, we have entered the sixth period of mass extinction (2015). The earth has suffered a 60 percent ecosystem decline and both common and rare animal and plant species have been lost as a result of human overpopulation, overconsumption and pollution. In addition, a recent study by Cambridge University reveals our knowledge and experience of nature is also in decline (Macfarlane, 2017).

Today children are better at identifying Pokémon characters than real animals and plants (Macfarlane, 2017).

Concept Development

The development of our project was largely informed by insights gained through interviews and two workshops with Hiking Area stakeholders. We found many engaged individuals working towards improvements in our test site, Evo and their input has been the driving force behind this project. In total, we interviewed over 30 people, conducted one ideation workshop in collaboration with the other two student groups and one evaluation workshop at Lammi biological station.

Introducing Exploration Areas

Our concept, Exploration Areas provides a new identity for National Hiking Areas with a unique educational focal point. The concept addresses rising concerns regarding children’s declining knowledge and experience of nature and aims to attract new and mindful visitors through a rich educational programme.

Exploration Areas would provide informal learning experiences for visitors ranging from 1 hour activities to 1 week study camps. The curriculum will focus on sustainable Use, Experience and Knowledge of nature and would be provided by engaged local stakeholders. Self directed learning opportunities in the form of themed walks and interactive information brochures would be available alongside group learning activities at Exploration Hubs.final-final-pres57.jpg

The Exploration Hub is the physical extension of the Exploration Area’s curriculum. Not only does it offer food, accommodation and information about the area, the Hub also offers additional tools for the visitor to further explore the curriculum of the area. This is done by hosting workshops and conferences as well as by offering learning materials like activity booklets and renting out equipment for learning activities for instance simple biological research tools like a butterfly net or soil testing equipment. The Exploration Hub also provides a calendar that gathers together all the activities that take place in the area.

In contrast with National Parks, we see the flexibility of use in Hiking Areas perfectly suited for an activity based learning programme. In the short-term we aim to create a voluntary working group, compile ‘self-study’ learning material and create a calendar of events. Our long-term goal is to acquire a currently disused premises in Evo to launch the first Exploration Hub where a wide range of learning activities would take place.

If you would like to know more about our project you can access our full report and watch our final presentation.

Design for Government; The Systems Perspective

Looking at the future of Finland’s Hiking Areas: New Uses, Users and Identity in the second phase of the Design for Government course.

“Nature doesn’t need us, we need nature” Per-Erik Skagerlid – Swedish Nature Conservationist.

This spring I started a new project-based course titled ‘Design for Government’.  The course aims teach to us how to apply design thinking to complex challenges in the government and public sector. At the beginning of term we were divided into multidisciplinary teams and given the task by the Finnish Ministry of Forestry and Agriculture to come up with ‘new uses, users and identity’ for Finland’s State Hiking Areas. For the purpose of this project we will focus on Evo Hiking Area, which is the largest continuous piece of forest and only State Hiking Area in Southern Finland.

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Evo Hiking Area. Illustration: Abigail Garbett

In the first part of the course we focused on the ‘Human Perspective’ where we became familiar with the task at hand. This involved meeting members of the Ministry and Metsähallitus who manage the Hiking Areas, interviewing various people involved from Scout groups to the international tourists, carrying out desktop research and finally conducting a field trip to Evo (You can read more about the first phase here).

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First impressions of Evo Hiking Area from the ‘human perspective’. Layout: Andreas Sode, Illustrations: Abigail Garbett

For the second phase we have been focusing on the ‘Systems Perspective’. For this section we built on the data collected thus far to form a more holistic view of the brief and the problem we would like to address. We began this process by expanding on our initial affinity diagram (where we mapped our key findings from the desktop research on a post-it note wall) to include key quotes and insights from our interviews. In the picture below you can see how our understanding has grown from week 2 to week 6.

After we felt satisfied that all our data was represented on the affinity diagram, we began to structure our points into categories and visualised the relationships between different stakeholders. Through this process we identified education, human well-being and ecosystem health as being important leverage points for us. We used systems mapping to illustrate the problems and needs of our stakeholders and with Mengxiao’s excellent illustrator skills our post-it notes were transformed into a complex systems map.

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Systems Map of needs and problems. By Mengxiao Li

Evo Hiking Area has a unique history as the home of Finnish forestry education and currently includes a teaching forest managed by HAMK University and nature reserves. The area is frequently used by the nearby Lammi Biological Station and Scout groups who have a unique educational agenda. We also discovered that local primary and secondary school teachers would like to use the area more to teach children about nature. Andreas helped us to understand the relationships between these educational institutions via a second systems map.

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Education Activities in Evo Systems Map. By Andreas Sode
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Local School Teacher Perspective. Illustration by Abigail Garbett

We also identified that these activities are only possible if the native ecosystem is properly looked after and respected. We spoke with biologists and a conservationist working in the field to better understand the ecosystem perspective. On the one hand the extinction of plant and animal species is happening at faster rate than ever before and one the other we are loosing our knowledge about the natural world.

“The ‘collective memory’ is not maintained and there is a lack knowledge of what once grew” Annette Sode – Biologist.

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From Guardian Article: ‘Have Children Lost Touch with Nature? Illustration by Abigail Garbett

In the context of Finnish Hiking Areas it is essential education and respect for nature is promoted. 

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Looking at Hiking Areas from an Ecosystem perspective. Illustration by Abigail Garbett
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A ‘Rich Picture’ of Evo’s Ecosystem. Illustration by Abigail Garbett

We used Peter Checkland’s ‘rich picture’ technique to illustrate the ecosystem’s complex role in providing education, work and leisure time in Evo.

Looking forward, we will focus on two key research questions for the final ‘intervention’ phase of the project. We aim to consider the potential for Hiking Areas, in particular Evo Hiking Area to provide meaningful nature experiences which raise awareness for the natural ecosystems on which we all rely.

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Graphic by Andreas Sode

Our team is made up of Andreas Sode from New Media, Ming Unn and Mengxiao Li from Collaborative and Industrial Design, Riina Ruus-Prato from Product and Spacial Design and me from Creative Sustainability.

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The Team! Illustration by Abigail Garbett

 

Design for Government; the Human Perspective

The Future of Finland’s Hiking Areas: New Uses, Users and Identity

This spring I started a new project-based course titled ‘Design for Government’.  The course aims teach to us how to apply design thinking to complex challenges in the government and public sector. At the beginning of term we were divided into multidisciplinary teams and given a brief by the Finnish Ministry of Forestry and Agriculture.  We will spend the next three months working on a solution to the brief which we will present on the 22nd of May. For the first phase we have been focusing on the ‘Human Perspective’ by building a picture of the current situation and learning about the needs of different stakeholders.
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Design and Government

At first design and government might seem like an unlikely pair. What does design have to do with making legislation? However, the movement towards design for government acknowledges the ability for designers to drive innovation and create more participatory and citizen-centric governance. Designers in Government can transform policy, civil servant work and citizen services. The role of design in the public sector is rapidly expanding in Europe and Finland in particular. In 2016, Anne Stenros was appointed by the Government as the ‘Chief Design Officer’ (or ‘Chief Disruption Officer’ as she prefers to think of herself) for the City of Helsinki. We met Anne in our first class and learnt that ‘disruption’ is a mandatory requirement for any designer wishing to pursue a career in the narrow confines of Government silos.

The Brief : The Future of Finland’s Hiking Areas: New Uses, Users and Identity

This year’s brief was written by the Ministry of Forestry and Agriculture in collaboration with Metsähallitus, a state owned company in charge of managing Hiking Areas. In a nutshell the brief asks us to first, create a distinct brand image for Hiking Areas, and second to find new and innovative ways of increasing tourism there. It raises wider questions about the trend for eco-tourism and the impact of man on nature. In an increasingly urbanised world, the need for accessible nature experiences in rising and must be examined from both an environmental and social perspective.

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Photography: Ming Unn

The Human Perspective

The first stage of the project is about ‘taking the human perspective as a starting point of design’. So far we have met with stakeholders from the Ministry and Metsähallitus and have begun researching our test site, which is Evo National Park. We took a trip there and have begun collaborating with local users and visitors in the area. We are also in the process of interviewing potential new users and experts within the field.

Evo stakeholder map

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Photography: Ming Unn

Our team is made up of Andreas Sode from New Media, Ming Unn and Mengxiao Li from Collaborative and Industrial Design, Riina Ruus-Prato from Product and Spacial Design and me from Creative Sustainability!