Radical Change - Doberman

With an increasing speed in social change, a growing societal complexity and more demanding citizens, the Swedish local governments face tremendous challenges. These challenges can no longer be met by traditional methods – radical approaches are needed to

The need for radical change


With an increasing speed in social change, a growing societal complexity and more demanding citizens, the Swedish local governments face tremendous challenges. These challenges can no longer be met by traditional methods – radical approaches are needed to support innovation and increased speed of change.

Together with SKL, Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, Doberman formed ‘Radical Change’ (Förändra Radikalt), a service innovation and education program, aimed at establishing service design methodology in the Swedish local governments.

All of Swedens 290 local governments were invited and ten project teams from ten local governments were selected as pilots. In total, around 60 people participated in the program.  


Each team brought one service challenge to the table – services that needed radical re-thinking to meet the citizens needs and the capabilities of the staff.

During the program, each team learned about and used a number of typical service design methods and tools to frame the problem, plan and conduct design research, ideate and design, test and iterate a service prototype.

The teams were supported by Doberman and SKL during six facilitated sessions – one to two days each. Short theoretical lectures were mixed with practical exercises, anchored in each team’s challenge. Doberman facilitated the sessions, supported by SKL’s expertise in local public operation. Between the facilitated sessions, the teams conducted design research, prototype testing etc. They also made regular presentations to local staff and management.  

The projects resulted in service prototypes that addressed the challenges. As a result, some radical solutions have been implemented and spread to other local governments in Sweden.


After the program, the service design methods and the principles of design thinking have been established as a new way of working, to various extent, in the local governments. For some governments this new way of working has been widely spread and implemented, with the program participants as strong ambassadors. 

Corner stones

The Radical Change program were built on three fundamental corner stones:

  • Involvement of citizens. The participants got to go out and meet real citizens. Otherwise, no real innovation will take place. Also, citizens may have the best ideas!
  • Cross functional teams. Team members with different roles, from different organizational silos.
  • Prototyping. Iterations of tentative solutions as a way to move forward.


As a pedagogical model in this program, Doberman introduced the service design practice step by step, to ensure that every part was distinct and clear to all participants.

1.     Establish a creative context

 As a first step, all participants were gathered during two days. The framework of the program was introduced and the participants went through playful yet serious exercises, to reduce uneasiness and prestige and to open up for courage and a supportive climate.

2. Framing the problem

The project teams were told to bring their most difficult challenges to the table, e.g:

  • How to break a negative spiral of violence, insecurity and social isolation in a socially vulnerable area?
  • How to turn criticized elder care centers into welcoming and stimulating environments? - How to reduce the number of drop-outs in the schools?
  • How to lower the level of unemployment among young adults?

Big questions, that needed to be narrowed down and well defined. Not an easy task! One important step was to identify existing knowledge about each challenge, existing assumptions (that could be misleading) and knowledge gaps. The identified knowledge gaps served as the genuine starting point for the next step - Design research.

3.     Design research

The participants were introduced to a broad toolbox of methods for empirical research. During a few weeks, the teams were collecting data by interviews, observations, questionnaires etc. Together they met a broad spectrum of citizens: parents, teachers, pupils, patients, relatives, unemployed, employers, people with disabilities and residents. They also met staff at different institutions.

The teams met again in a one-day facilitated session and tried different methods to analyze the collected data, extract meaningful insights and share real-life, empathic stories that fueled the eagerness and passion for solving the citizens’ problems.

4.     Ideation and prototyping

The ideation and prototyping phase started with a two-day session, where each team presented their insights and all participants helped to generate ideas on each other’s insights. All teams selected the best ideas, refined and iterated them under the facilitator’s guidance. The teams met difficult requirements, as the name Radical Change program implied - the ideas had to be radical, i.e. both innovative and powerful.  

Each team made their first prototype – a lo-fi but tangible version of the idea.

As their next assignment the teams made the next version of the prototype, to be tested on citizens and in the local organisation. The making and testing of the prototypes were very fruitful, as it raised a number of questions and generated a great amount of insights.

5.     Presentation and evaluation

As the last formal step in the program, the teams presented their challenges, insights, ideas, learnings and results to their stakeholders, i.e. management at different levels in the ten local governments and SKL on the national level. In total, around 100 stakeholders took part in the presentations.

Continued support

After the formal six-months program, facilitators from Doberman and SKL visited the local governments to support further spreading and implementation of the service design-oriented way of working.


From a combination of evaluation methods – questionnaires, follow-up questions, interviews, reading of reports and media search – we can conclude that the Radical Change program has led to effects on different levels.

1.     Implementation and scaling of service innovations

The program generated a number of radical innovations of which five have been implemented as a part of the ordinary operations:

  • Youtube channels as a tool for dialogue between teachers, pupils and parents, to reach parents that have barriers to formal meetings in Gävle.
  •  A free and flexible patient escorting service for disabled citizens in Laholm.
  • Staff that “moves in”
  • spending an evening and a night in patients homes in Oxelösund before the patient moves to an elder care center
  • to ensure that the patients narrative is well known and is guiding the on-boarding process.
  • Action-based empowerment program for young unemployed in Ronneby. –
  • A chat channel between citizens and politicians and management in Kungälv. Parts of the other innovations have been implemented on different levels. 

2.     Effects on citizens

In some municipalities we can already see direct effects on the citizens lives. In Gävle, more parents are engaged in the dialogue with schools and social service. In Ronneby, young unemployed show increased courage, authenticity and empowerment in job seeking and entrepreneurship. In Laholm, disabled citizens can live more freely, due to non-restricted escort service. Worth noting is that the costs for the increased use of escort services is equal to the reduced administrative costs. In short: more and better service, to the same cost.

We can also see more general effects, as changes in overall attitudes. In Oxelösund, there is a dramatic change in the attitudes and impressions of the municipality – the citizens are now much more positive as well as more satisfied with the provided services. The change is referred to as a clear effect of the Radical Change program. Other local governments express similar observations. 

3.     Service design methodology as starting point in new projects

A clear effect of the ten pilot projects is the implementation of service design methodology in new projects. 40 new projects in different local governmental sectors use the service design methodology, thanks to the program participants being strong ambassadors and facilitators. As one participant states: “Co-creation and service design are crucial when the goal is to form new services that really meets the needs of the citizens today and tomorrow”.

These 40 new projects involve 210 new participants, using service design methods in their strive to develop local services. The new way of working, based on the service design approach, is now clearly spreading without support from SKL or Doberman. 

4.     Organizational changes

The 10 pilot projects have to a various degree influenced the local governments on an organizational level. Four project teams point out new ways of co-operations between different departments, that break the traditional silos. Three teams can see structural changes to ensure involvement of citizens in further service innovation and improvement initiatives. In Eskilstuna, a political decision has stated that all projects in the municipality will use co-creation with citizens as a core in their processes. There are also a few examples of new positions as a result of the implemented innovations.

5.     Effects on staff

The participants in the program have given numerous testimonials about ”mindshifts”, personal and professional development and completely changed attitudes towards their way forward in the local governments. There are also positive testimonials from staff that have not been involved in the program but affected by the outcome.

Some can also point out effects on the staff in a broader scale, i.e. strong general improvements on the staffs attitudes – improvements that are believed to have a strong correlation with the program. Especially strong is the improvement in attitudes about how the local government encourage new ideas.

6.     Distributions of methodology and learnings via media, conferences, awards

The word is spreading! Innovations and learnings have reached other local governments, as well as the national level of public sector. Presentations have been made on at least 75 conferences – by the project teams, SKL and Doberman. Other examples are study visits, hearings and seminars at national administrative bodies as The Ministry of Social affairs, The Swedish National Financial Management Authority, The Government Offices of Sweden and the Swedish Association of Health Professionals. The program has also got a lot of traction in local and national media in Sweden.

One of the innovations, Oxelösund, have been nominated to the prestigious Götapriset, an award for the country’s best development project in the public sector.


As a sidenote, the experiences from the Radical Change program has been discussed in the White House, in a meeting between Megan Smith, CTO of the White House, and Lisa Lindström, the CEO of Doberman ;-)

·  Project Name:Radical change in local governments

·  Category: Non-profit/ Public Sector, Professional 

·  Service Design Award 2016, nominated project for Professional Award

·  Organization: Doberman

·  Clients: SKL (Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions)


·  Website: http://doberman.se/

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