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How to create a belonging: A service design perspective


Sayalee Karkare Arima

Sayalee is an illustrator and designer currently based in Helsinki. 

The illustrations for the zine are done by Aleksandra DavydenkoAleksandra is designer and cultural figure from Belarus, living in Helsinki.

Aleksandra and Saya collaborated with Educational Center Visio during ”DiversCity Service Design Course” of Laurea University of Applied Sciences. Other members of the project were Magdalena Kosova, Santa Bürkland and Duong Thuy Nguyen.

This article about belonging is part of blog writings of students of DiversCity Service Design – course by Laurea University of Applied Sciences. Visio challenged a group of students to discover how organizations could create more inclusive activities and culture.

Opintokeskus Visio gave us the following Design Challenge:
Design a service or a product that increases the feeling of belonging amongst immigrant
groups, specifically by enabling their participation in the NGO sector. As service designers, our first step was to understand the current state of integration processes in action and prepare a customer journey map that depicts our hypothetical immigrants’ pain points. The immigrant journey towards integration is not the same for everyone, neither is it smooth or linear – instead it is characterised by ups and downs, wins and losses.

Our initial research showed that the biggest concern for recent immigrants was to feel safe and secure before they can participate in their new environment.
It is, like most customer journey maps, an emotional journey and our challenge was to depict the entire scope of it, without writing a novel 🙂

Some inclusive design principles we kept in mind for our immigrant journey map:
● Use as few words as possible to overcome language barriers
● Use storytelling to make it compelling
● Use a main character that has universal appeal and can be easily identified with

After much brainstorming, we decided to use comics to depict the immigration journey from arrival in the new country, right up to integration. Or at least up until the point that the
immigrant starts to feel some kind of belonging in the new country.

To begin with, we showed the arrival of a tropical bird in some nondescript place somewhere in snowy Finland. (To the well versed, it is clear that this bird has arrived with her brood at the Rautatientori main station in Helsinki.) We deliberately went for a bird, as opposed to a human, because, well, everyone can identify with a bird.

Next we wanted to show that the host country often makes very sincere attempts at trying to integrate the immigrant, but often these attempts are misguided, implemented too fast and too soon before the immigrant is ready for it.

For instance, as part of the integration plan, immigrants are encouraged to participate in
language classes soon upon arrival, however they may not have the emotional bandwidth for it. Sometimes, they might have other pressing concerns, such as finding jobs or schools for their kids. This mismatch between the needs of the immigrant and the NGOs offerings can often lead to serious doubts, on both sides, of whether a successful integration is even possible.

The next step in the immigrant’s journey is when they stumble upon a workshop or an event that actually meets their needs. Importantly, this happens usually after they have already spent some time in the host country and understand, to some extent, how things work. Through these early explorations in the new land, they gain courage and find for themselves a community and a group tailored to their own specific needs.

Finally, once their primary needs of safety and security are met, the immigrants can then
begin to integrate and participate more actively in society.

We got some good reviews about our comic customer journey both from Finnish people and immigrants, because it shows in a playful manner how things can be difficult for some
immigrants in spite of the well meaning efforts of local people. It helped us avert the
landmine of assigning blame to any one group and to create empathy for the
customer/immigrant. As it was a comic with minimal words, it could be understood by most people without having to resort to multiple translations. Thus, comics and story-telling can be a useful tool in conveying the customer journey and creating a connect with service providers and help them better understand the customer’s needs.

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