Photography & video — Vilja Pursiainen
Text — Kristiina Markkanen

Youth Support Services Conveniently Under the Same Roof: Ohjaamo

 

Say goodbye to running from one desk to another and agonizing over forms. At the youth guidance service Ohjaamo, help for future planning has been centralised in one place and thought out together with young people.

 

At Ohjaamo, located on the ground floor of Fredrikinkatu, queuing numbers or service desks protected by plexiglass are nowhere to be seen. Instead, the space has plenty of windows and yellow armchairs. The smell of coffee wafting through the air and the round tables create a café-like atmosphere.

Ohjaamo is the City of Helsinki’s guidance service for young people from 15 to 29 years old. At the Kamppi office, young people get professional help with planning their futures, finding study programmes and workplaces, acquiring housing, and life management. Ohjaamo assembles all the services under a single roof, so that young people do not have to run from one desk to another.

“We wanted to create a low-threshold service, where young people can talk on an equal footing with professionals,” elaborates the drafter of the project, Saana Rantsi.

 

The service is a part of the nationwide Ohjaamo network, and it is a joint venture of the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, the Ministry of Education and Culture, and the Ministry of Social Affairs. The Helsinki Ohjaamo is Finland’s largest Ohjaamo, and design offices Rune & Berg and ABCC were designing it.

Service design breaks down organisation structures

According to Ilkka Haahtela, head of Helsinki City Executive Office’s Immigration and Employment Services unit, the importance of service design was highlighted right from the start of the project.

“Thanks to service design and a user-driven approach, we could start from scratch with breaking down organisation structures and protective walls. Through the user’s eyes premises, work methods and processes are merged into an efficient and user-friendly whole,” he reveals.

And that is what Kamppi’s Ohjaamo is like. The employees introduce themselves with their first name and ask how you are doing. You can talk about the things on your mind standing by a computer, in a group around a big table, or on the couch with a professional in the shelter of a booth.

Saana Rantsi thinks that service design professionals also keep the interworking of several parties in line. The cooperation of employees, young people and designers produced a new way of serving young people.

 

In order to implement Ohjaamo, young people from Helsinki were interviewed and design workshops facilitated by service designers were organised for them. Planning the service with a strong reliance on design methods turned out to be a functioning concept, which there is a desire to use in the future. That is why the teachings of the service design project were compiled into an Ohjaamo Service Guide. Eventually, with the help of designers the services, work approach and operating models of Ohjaamo will be compiled into a package that can be applied to planning other services too.

The young person remains the priority in a multi-actor project

The first design stage of Ohjaamo was completed in a compact one-and-a-half-month push. Separate staff or additional resources did not yet exist for implementing the service; instead it was put in motion alongside other work. Employees of Ohjaamo had already been chosen then and although the work had not yet begun, they took part in the service’s design workshops.

According to Saana Rantsi, the multi-actor project was held together thanks to continuous conversation and teamwork. Ohjaamo’s employees, superiors, the steering group and the leadership of the project were in constant interaction at their own levels.


 

The needs of young users were not left aside in the planning, but at times taking them into consideration had its challenges.

“There’s something to learn about whether the young people are included in every planning phase, and how actively. Sometimes too many things are finished without the young people, and the end product may be very far from what they want,” Rantsi states.

“We have to understand the aims of the bureaus behind Ohjaamo, hear the young people and be able to connect the needs together in the end. A bureau can’t be its own independent world, instead it has to be approachable and service design helps with that,” Haahtela says.

2016

Key lesson: For a joint project with multiple actors to stay together and for the young target group to remain at the centre of planning, it is worth supplementing your own expertise with the know-how of outsiders. Young people are reached better with the help of service designers, because they approach youngsters with a language that ministries are not used to speaking.


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