Civic Agency in Public
E-service innovation

Office clerk: –“We’re digital by default”
Daniel Blake: – “Yeah? Well I’m pencil by default.”

The above quote from Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or-winning film ‘I, Daniel Blake’ from 2016, eloquently pinpoints how large groups in today’s society experience digitalization of the public sector. The film portrays Daniel Blake’s struggle against bureaucracy, and how he finds himself on the wrong side of the digital divide, hampered by his lack of digital skills, since public e-services is the only available communication channel to the authorities.

A main problem in digital transformation of the public sector that stands clear from public sector research is the lack of user involvement in development of public e-services. This problem is related to a digital divide in e-service use, where marginalised user groups lack digital skills, and it also blocks the potential in innovating future services based on the growing possibilities in open public data. 

The CAPE project addresses these issues by developing Civic Innovation Centres (CICs), a novel innovation facility hosted in public libraries, where citizens engage in improvement of current e-services, as well as citizen-driven innovation of new services based on open public data. CICs will initially be developed in three project sites: Denmark (Ballerup Library, Ballerup), Finland (Oudi Library, Helsinki) and Sweden (Malmö City Library, Malmö). The goal is to initiate more CICs within the timeframe of the project.

The project consortium consists of the following partners: IT University of Copenhagen, project coordinator (Denmark); Aalborg University Copenhagen (Denmark); Ballerup Library (Denmark); Malmö University (Sweden); and Aalto University (Finland).

The CAPE project is a three-year Nordic research collaboration financed by Nordforsk in the call “Digitalisation of the Public Sector – Research and Innovation Projects”. Local funding organisations are: Innovation Fund Denmark, Forte (Sweden) and Academy of Finland.

Other projects in this call:
COLDIGIT – Collective Intelligence through Digital Tools


Civic Innovation Centres

In the CAPE project, we will explore the concept of Civic Innovation Centres (CICs) as an arena for citizen-driven improvement and innovation of public-interest services. We have chosen the public library as the preferred host for CICs, because it is a non-commercial, all-embracing space for promoting and maintaining community, that attracts many and diverse visitors. 

Also, the public library represent core values in supporting democracy and empowerment with a strong tradition for participation. Concepts like co-creation, maker-spaces and user-driven innovation are well known in the library context.

The first three CICs are established in Helsinki, Finland; Malmö, Sweden; and Copenhagen, Denmark.


Creating values for society

The CAPE project explores new possibilities for civic agency in e-service design and innovation through an action research approach. The expected results are therefore tentative in nature, but we aim to create values for society in several areas:

  • We aim to increase civic agency and digital innovation skills for citizens through meaningful and active engagement in e-service design and innovation
  • We aim to provide service developers with service improvements grounded in a co-design process where citizens and service developers collaborate on equal terms
  • We aim to provide citizens with e-service innovations based on open public data through an active dialogue between citizens and stakeholders
  • We aim to provide new knowledge on best innovation practices and drivers for digital transformation to policy makers, service providers, researchers and citizens

Scaling the CIC network

The CIC:s aim to develop new knowledge related to best practices, innovation processes and solutions, and we also aim to develop a better understanding of drivers and enablers for digital transformation and long-term impacts on society. 

The knowledge produced in one CIC is shared with other CICs through a web-based repository, including a design commons and a data commons. This makes the CIC concept scalable through the existing network of public libraries, providing a powerful infrastructure for sharing knowledge and solutions in public sector service innovation.

Project site Denmark: Ballerup Library

At the Denmark project site, the first CIC is set up at the public library in Ballerup, a municipality bordering to Copenhagen. The Ballerup Library opened in 1982 in a building designed by architect Hans Dall. It is positioned in the centre of Ballerup, and has more than  8.000 visitors per week. There are several facilities apart from tradition library offerings, including café, IT helpdesk and a vibrant maker-space. Ballerup Library has over 500 public events per year. The CIC is developed and operated mainly as a collaboration between Ballerup Library, Aalborg University and IT University of Copenhagen. There will also be cross-project activities involving all partners.

Project team: Ballerup Library

Michael Anker
Digital Manager

Thomas Sture Rasmussen
Innovation- and strategy-developer 

Project team: IT University of Copenhagen

The Co-Design research group, forming the CAPE team at the IT University of Copenhagen, is a recognized research environment in the area of Co-Design and Participatory Design. Its  members originate from research environments pioneering Scandinavian Participatory Design and Co-Design, and each have 15+ years experience in conducting, researching and teaching Co-Design and Participatory Design in Scandinavia, Europe and beyond.

Jörn Christiansson
Associate Professor
Team leader
Principal Investigator for the CAPE project

Camilla Christensen

Erik Grönvall
Associate Professor

Joanna Saad-Sulonen
Associate Professor

In the CAPE project, the ITU team is responsible for overall project management, and will lead the research effort in method development in co-design. The team will also support capacity-building in co-design facilitation for the library-employed CIC facilitators at CICs across the project countries, and lead co-facilitation of service innovation projects together with CIC facilitators at the Danish CIC.

Project team: Aalborg University Copenhagen

The Service Design Lab is an active research lab based in Aalborg University in Copenhagen dedicated to studying and applying service design. In the last decade, the Service Design Lab at Aalborg University has been involved in several EU- funded projects that explored the relation between urban space and public services. Key themes of interest are for example digital social innovation, co-creation, open data, smart cities and service design for public sector.

Nicola Morelli
Team leader

Amalia de Götzen
Associate Professor

Luca Simeone
Assistant Professor

Justyna Starostka
Postdoc researcher

In the CAPE project, the Service Design Lab will contribute with its acquired knowledge on citizen participation in innovation processes, co-design and participatory design to create an impact on the way next generation of public services are conceived. The project will offer the lab an opportunity to strengthen and expand the research about the use of data in the design process within the area of digitalisation of the public sector. 

Project site Finland: Oodi Library

The first CIC for the Finnish project site is set up at the Helsinki Central Library, Oodi. Oodi opened in 2018 and was designed by ALA Architects, it  is situated in the Töölönlahti area of the Helsinki city centre. Beyond books, Oodi hosts a café, a cinema, studios for playing and recording music, coworking spaces, meeting rooms, and a makerspace. Oodi is one part of Helsinki’s network of 37 public libraries.

Project team: Oodi Library

Sanna M. Huttunen
Special Librarian

Riikka Leskinen

Project team: Aalto University

Aalto University team consisting of professor Turkka Keinonen and doctoral candida Nils Ehrenberg has its core competence in human-centred and collaborative design and as well as in design ethics. The team will be supported by the research community at Aalto ARTS and particularly the Department of design. The research foci at the department are collaborative and human-centred design, design for sustainability and research through design practice. 

Turkka Keinonen
Team leader

Nils Ehrenberg

The team will contribute to the collaborative service design development objective of the project. It will act as the project interface for the library partners in Finland. The team will apply (design) ethical frameworks such as Value Sensitive Design and Capability Approach to study the equality and justice impacts of the new modes of participation and co- design developed in the project.

Project site Sweden: Malmö City Library

At the Malmö project site, it is not yet decided where the first CIC will be hosted. Several public libraries will be involved, among them Gararget. Garaget is located in the Malmö City centre and have many activities including a maker space. The Malmö project site also works together with the city’s Strategical group for library transformation. 

Further, the municipality’s internal department for development of public e-services, the Malmö Civic Lab, is engaged in project activities as to explore also the actual uptake of developed services.

Project team: Malmö City Library

Nanna Ekman Lindström

Project team: Malmö University

Per Linde
Associate Professor
Team leader

Suzan Boztepe
Associate Professor

Maria Foverskov
Post doc.

The team at Malmö University consists of two associate professors and a post-doctoral researcher, all part of Malmö University’s Data Society Research Program. This program focuses on the understanding of the digitalization and datafication of society, and on driving positive change through technological development. Professors Linde and Boztepe are heading the theme Digital Civics concerned with research-based activities of designing, developing and evaluating personal and community-based technologies and services to support new forms of civic engagement.

The Malmö University team’s primary responsibility includes research activities in Sweden and coordinating with local partners, particularly the Malmö library. The Malmö University team will contribute to the overall project primarily by:

  • Co-ordinating WP 1 in the project and assuring high quality of work tasks and deliverables,
  • Perform a desktop research study on contemporary best practices in participatory public service development,
  • Co-ordinate, and locally perform, field studies of the pilot countries’ current and emergent citizen interaction initiatives,
  • Co-ordinate, and locally perform, field studies of public administration practice and perception of citizen involvement of public services in the pilot countries,
  • Take part and support local co-design activities of design, testing and evaluation of public services and CICs, • Take part in the project’s dissemination activities.