As part of the final activities of the EU-Project Mobile, I attended a meeting of two working groups of Members of the European Parliament last week. The aim of the two-hour event was to exchange views on the opportunities and challenges of co-creation approaches to the development of digital services in age-friendly cities and communities. In particular, we presented our learnings and policy recommendations. To the event entitled: “The future of Europe is co-created. Digital public services for age-friendly cities and communities” was hosted by the Intergroup on Active Ageing, Intergenerational Solidarity and Family issues and the Urban Intergroup. More than 40 representatives* from the European Parliament, the European Commission, national and regional representations in Brussels as well as from other EU and participation projects took part in the events.
Increasingly, public services are provided digitally, but their use is still low. In the recent Ministerial Declaration (EU Tallinn 2017), EU Member States recognised that “more needs to be done” to provide digital public services close to citizens. Part of the challenge is that administrations lack the tools and experience to involve citizens in the design, planning, implementation and evaluation of digital services. As part of our Mobile Age project, we have developed and evaluated co-creation methods with older people, administrations, social service providers and researchers. In addition, a number of practical and accessible mobile applications were developed at pilot sites throughout Europe (Bremen, South Lakeland, Zaragoza and Thessaloniki). For Bremen you can find these applications for the districts Osterholz and Hemelingen on Bremen.De. In my presentation I highlighted the role of local and regional actors in the participatory development of digital services.
Parliamentarians Lambert van Nistelrooij and Jan Olbrycht moderated the following short contributions:
Kieran McCarthy, European Committee of the Regions and Cork City Council: Creating a society for digital change and innovation
Niall Hayes, University of Lancaster, Organisation, Work and Technology: The Mobile-Age approach for senior-friendly digital public services
Konstantinos Kapsouropoulos, European Commission, DG Connect: European policies for age-friendly environments
Juliane Jarke, Institute for Information Management, University of Bremen: Participatory digital service design and e-Inclusion
Susanna Laurin, CEO Funka, Stockholm: Practical implementation of tools for citizen involvement – A Norwegian government’s study
Niall Hayes, University of Lancaster, Organisation, Work and Technology: Accessible digital services for older people
Jonathan Brook, Deputy Leader of South Lakeland District Council: Connecting older adults to technological public services
Here you may find the presentation slides. A summary report of the event is published here.
MobileAge was part of a session organised by the European Commission/REA on co-production and co-creation of digital services. Together with two other EU projects, we discussed the challenges and opportunities of co-creation approaches with around 80 participants. After a short introduction to the projects, we worked in three smaller, rotating working groups on the topics of sustainability, governance and citizen involvement.
A short video of the organizers about MobileAge summarizes our results.
I am delighted to announce that the Special Issue on Probes as Participatory Design Practice which I co-edited with Susanne Maaß has been published. The special issue is interested in some of the fundamental questions of participatory design: How future users can be involved in design processes in meaningful, empowering and creative ways. The particular focus is on the ways in which (cultural) probes may serve this purpose and can be understood as participatory design practice. The concept of cultural probes was developed by Gaver, Dunne & Pacenti (1999) to collect ideas for creative design solutions from prospective users: A set of materials and questions stimulate users to observe, document, reflect and comment on their own everyday life over a certain period. Examples for such probes are diaries, cameras, postcards or maps. As a means of writing ethnographic self-description and self-disclosure and in combination with interviews or group discussions, they allow to communicate insights into everyday processes and structures, which are difficult to observe or investigate otherwise. Since their first introduction, cultural probes have enjoyed increasing interest in the field of human-centred or user-oriented software design. The concept has been amended to include concepts such as “design probes” (Mattelmäki, 2006), “technology probes” (Hutchinson et al., 2003) or “mobile probes” (Hulkko, Mattelmäki, Virtanen, & Keinonen, 2004) amongst others.
All in all, the special issue features five papers that analyse and discuss the use of probes in participatory design contexts, how users may be involved and empowered to design, contest, interpret and reflect on probes; how probes may inform a participatory design process. My colleague Ulrike Gerhard and I have contributed one paper on the use of probes in sharing (tacit) knowing between designers and participants/users and amongst participating users. The paper is based on our research and innovation project MobileAge and is available as open access.
Since my last post, we have had a busy time with our co-creators in MobileAge to not only co-design the map-based application for Bremen’s district Osterholz but to also co-creation, validate and integrate relevant data. Our participants received their own tablets for the duration of 8 weeks and actively complemented the efforts of other stakeholders in the district. We will soon launch the official app (usability tests and evaluation are still to be done).
The co-creation activities at MobileAge’s German fieldsite are progressing well. Since May 2016 researchers from ifib meet regularly with senior citizens from Bremen’s district Osterholz and other relevant stakeholders and intermediaries. One objective of MobileAge is the development of a co-creation methdology and the evaluation of suitable methods.
One method we are currently using and evaluating is called “cultural probes”. In Bremen Osterholz 11 participants were asked to keep a diary for one week, take pictures and illustrate neighbourhood maps in order to allow ifib’s researcher a glimpse into their everyday activities. These so-called “cultural probes” were subsequently analysed and each of the participants was interviewed individually for about 90 minutes. On the 12th of July we conducted a workshop were the results of the probes and interviews were discussed with the participants. Subsequently we jointly developed 3 “personas” based on workshop results and the German Senior Citizen Survey (Deutschers Alterssurvey). These personas portray different ideal types of elderly people living in Osterholz and their life situations. We discussed these personas on the 16th of August. At this workshop we identified relevant topics and themes, information and communication requirements as well as resources of senior citizens. The ideas developed so far are interesting, engaging and very relevant to the life situation of many senior citizens living in Osterholz. We are hence looking forward to the upcoming months and our further collaborative co-creation.
The next project meeting will take place on the 7th of September from 10.30 – 12.00am at the EastSide Internetcafé in Tenever. New participants are very welcome as this would be an ideal event to join our co-creation activities.
The second project meeting of our EU-funded project Mobile Age was held in the city of Zaragoza, Spain from 5th to 6th of July, 2016. Through the connection of open data, mobile technologies and public services Mobile Age aims to improve the public participation of senior citizens across Europe and facilitate their independent living. The objective is on the one hand to collaboratively develop mobile applications with and for senior citizens and on the other hand to test and implement methods for the involvement of elderly people in the development of public online services. The city of Zaragoza is besides Bremen (DE), South Lakeland (UK) and Central Macedonia (GR) one of the field sites where Mobile Age is carried out. The local government of Zaragoza already provides innovative projects for the participation of (senior) citizens.
The meeting was held in the premises of the local government. On the first day of the meeting the current state of the work packages was presented by the responsible partners. An important item was the exchange between the two pilot field sites in Bremen and South Lakeland, where ifib and Lancaster University already are working with elderly on the development of service applications. Besides, the project partner from the local government in Zaragoza reported on their already existing local activities and services for elderly. On the second day a workshop was held to coordinate the activities of the technical and the process strand and the further action was coordinated. The next meeting is going to take place in Bremen in the end of the year.
We kicked-off our co-creation activities in one of Bremen’s most diverse districts: Osterholz. Last Wednesday, 8 June 2016, we conducted the first workshop with 12 interested participants in a meeting room of the district’s administration office. The participants were recruited with support of a local project team at an information event that took place two weeks earlier, through ifib’s participation at a neighbourhood festival and articles in the local newspaper as well as personal communication. The goal of ifib’s co-creation activities in Osterholz is to jointly design and develop a mobile public service application for senior citizens that facilitates social inclusion.
After presenting the project and the team, the participants were asked to introduce themselves. Most participants emphasised their close connection to the district and were looking forward to learning more about it. They bring together a great and complementary mix of expertise and knowledge with respect to knowledge about the district, experience and use of mobile technologies and technology development as well as engagement in voluntary work. They all share an interest in creating something together that might be helpful and interesting for themselves, other seniors and their district
The workshop’s main engagement activity was the validation of a customised quartets (card game) about Osterholz. During the information event, our project team had asked participants to complete questions concerning places of interest, information needs and other topics regarding the district such as “What do I like about the district?”, “Where do I go with visitors?”, “What is missing in Osterholz”. At the kick-off workshop we discussed the contents and complemented them while having coffee and cake. This was a first activity to jointly develop an understanding of the potential diversity of information needs of senior citizens as well as an appreciation for the knowledge and experience that the co-creators bring to the project.
At the end of the workshop cultural probes were handed out to the participants. Cultural probes are hand-made research materials that help participants to self-document their everyday activities regarding certain topics. In case of the Mobile Age project we are especially interested in the participant’s relation to their district, their social networks, their information needs as well as their technology and media experiences and use. The participants examined the cultural probes bag and its contents with curiosity and said they were looking forward to engaging with the material.
We will be meeting again with our participants in ten days to collect the cultural probes. After analysing the materials, single interviews will be conducted with the participants in order to discuss the probes and to gain deeper understanding of their content. We feel excited that thanks to the local support we are able to start their fieldwork with so many interested and motivated participants and are looking forward to the future co-creation process.
I am very excited to announce that we have been selected by the European Commission for a 3-year research and innovation action. The MobileAge project started in February 2016 and will focus on open government data, mobile technology, and the provision of public services in relation to Europe’s elderly population. Europe’s senior citizens are growing steadily and are predicted to comprise of 28% of Europe’s population by 2020. However, senior citizens do not normally share the same level of connectivity to the Internet as younger generations, and while government agencies are increasingly providing their services through digital platforms, this risks excluding senior citizens from the design and use of such services.
Mobile Age will provide the basis for the development of mobile-based open government services focused on senior citizens. We follow a co-creation methodological approach that will allow for a substantive participation of senior citizens. MobileAge will focus on the co-creation of services related to the production and use of open data for cities. This will be achieved by pursuing four objectives:
i) exploring and implementing innovative ways to support senior citizens to access and use public services through personal mobile technologies that are based on open government data,
ii) develop and deploy co-creation approaches and methodologies to engage senior citizens effectively;
iii) develop a situated, practice-based understanding of accessibility, mobility and usability of services from a senior-citizen point of view; and
iv) develop a framework for impact assessment and evaluation for co-creation approaches to open service development for the ageing population.
Mobile Age’s approach will be applied in cities and counties that are already providing innovative approaches for the participation of senior people in the development of city services: Bremen, South Lakeland, Zaragoza and the Region of Central Macedonia, with scenarios related to social inclusion, extending independent living, data curation for a safer and more accessible city, and the management of personal health information.
My role will be to lead a work package on Participatory Design in Civic Tech and Open Data, and I am very much looking forward to this challenging project.