The notion that good service is a service co-designed with the user is not news.
However, for many in Moldova, a majority of public services in Moldova remain totally bureaucratic and alien.
In an attempt to change this, MiLab is working alongside colleagues form UNDP’s Local Development Programme to help local authorities in the village of Ciuciuleni to redesign their material aid service.
This service serves as a helping hand for the people who’ve suffered losses due house fires, floods, health issues and the like. It is worth noting that the material aid service was largely inherited from the Soviet era, and has survived all the social and political changes ever since.
To make this service relevant for the people today, we ventured to apply design-thinking methodology. Along with local authorities, we looked at this assistance through providers’ and users’ eyes.
As expected, we uncovered a lot of loopholes and contradictions which make this service extraordinarily complicated for all parties involved.
1. It is not clear who can benefit from this service: those who suffered exceptional situations (calamities, house fires), people experiencing serious health issues (there are no any clear criteria of “gravity of the problem”), and persons experiencing tough social problems.
In fact, there is a wide range of people who meet this criteria.
2. There are other social services in Moldova (e.g. social aid service) which overlap with material aid service. Some users can actually benefit from the former, thus making public spending inefficient and inexpedient.
3. Strong bureaucratic and user-unfriendly nature of the service: The decision on the disbursement of the money is examined at local level and final decision is made regionally. It takes around two months to approve disbursement.
Empathizing to redesign the service
Conducting research of users’ perceptions of the services, we observed one interesting feature:
Hesitant at first, once people felt we were empathizing with them, they became comfortable and excited to join the process.
We met a man with amputated leg who was trying to obtain material aid, as he had spent all his money for the treatment. Initially he was indifferent to our questions.
Over the conversations, he started providing more details on how he it was difficult for him to collect all documents, how long he was waiting for the final disbursement, and his frustration with the final amount.
In the end, he even gave us some advice how to redesign the service. That is a real advantage of the design-thinking approach!
People were sharing sincerely with their bad experiences and aspirations.
Among them were: lack of information, unjustified long-term process of the material aid disbursement, and non-transparent process of the disbursement.
Designing the service journey map
Afterwards, we organized several meetings to bring these findings to the regional and local authorities and get their views.
We brought with us the insights gleaned from our previous research activities. Together with them we managed to compile a service journey map – a step by step scheme to obtain the service.
Public servants experienced – firsthand and for the first time – the discontent of the users.
Returning to the office we had to build the prototypes to redesign the service for its improvement. We addressed to our colleagues from MindLab in Denmark to assist us in this regard. In November, we held several video conferences with them to identify the best prototypes which could be feasible and efficient to redesign the service.
So far, we have several ideas how we can move forward to better off the service either at central/regional or even local level.
In a short time, we’ll meet up with our mentors from MindLab for a three-day workshop in Chisinau, where we’ll try to deploy tangible and working prototypes of material aid service delivery.
We’ll be back with more details on the progress soon!