City of Helsinki: Education division

Transforming the education sector through service design

#servicedesign #insight #branding #participatorydesign

Welcome to the world’s most impactful place for learning

In 2016, the Helsinki education division set out a clear goal: to use design methods to create better functioning operating models, include stakeholders, and respond to the changes in the educational environment. Kuudes was chosen as their service design partner in a multi-phased tender process. Since then, we have helped the division in dozens of projects, both big and small.

What does the future hold for education in Helsinki?

We are talking about a major player: the division oversees the early childhood education, preschool, basic and upper secondary education, Finnish-speaking vocational schools as well as the liberal adult education of the capital. There are over 40,000 students in basic education and over 90,000 citizens attend liberal or adult education courses.

At the same time, the metropolitan region is rapidly growing and getting evermore international. This poses new challenges in organising education. Also, the idea of education is going through a fundamentaal disruption: the whole city is seen as a learning environment instead of only classrooms – learning can happen anywhere due to new ways of teaching and studying. Understanding present-day phenomena requires a multidisciplinary approach: piecing together various skills and topics. Learning is a life-long journey untied to a location. 

A strategy for 13,000 people 

In 2017, the city carried out a massive organisational renewal. Smaller units, previously functioning separately, were set to operate together as the new Education division. Before the reorganisation took place, Kuudes received a brief to build a common vision and strategy for the whole division of 13,000 employees – using participatory and service design methods to create commitment and form a common ground. We facilitated 3 workshops with altogether more than 280 participants, performed 10 qualitative, in-depth interviews and had over 1,695 participants in online brainstorming sessions. 

Through this work, we answered three main questions: 1) what is the new division all about, 2) to which direction does the division wish to develop and 3) what does it require to reach this ideal state? The work resulted in the crystallised vision: Helsinki, the world’s most impactful place for learning. The outcomes were visualised in an inspiring format, and the strategy illustration can now be found at every school in the city. 

“Using service design significantly helped to crystallise our division’s vision. We defined a common way of working: together, experimenting and learning, which has created a solid foundation for developing unified working methods. Inviting our personnel and clients to the process increased commitment when executing the strategy.”

Liisa Pohjalainen, Executive Director of the Education Department of Helsinki

New concepts, communication and initiatives with service design

From rebranding the family day-care to helping to form and launch the biggest strategy initiative to prevent social exclusion, our work has always been insight-driven. This means that our projects have been executed with a human-centered approach where stakeholders are given an active role. Thousands of people have taken part in our workshops, interviews, observations, user-testing sessions and panels. Our role has been the driver of organisational change – ensuring the concepts result in tangible solutions that are implemented in the everyday life of the division. 

Projects of our partnership include:


Building a common vision and strategy for the new unit of 13,000 employees.


Creating a current-state analysis about the afternoon activities.


Event concept and digital design to help young people find their path.


Customer-centric development work to change parents’ views on a traditional form of day-care.


Creating a model that encourages young people to take a stand.


Facilitating the planning phase of one of the major strategic initiatives of the city, the Mukana programme.


Defining a vision for basic education that is suited for everyone.

“During our collaboration, we have truly immersed ourselves in using service design to continue improving and developing our services.”

Liisa Pohjalainen, Executive Director of the Education Department of Helsinki

For more information:

Jari Danielsson