5by5: Co-designing an UN program with youth in Kosovo, Maria Søbroe

Interview with Maria Søbroe, Service Design Freelancer

By Twisha Shah-Brandenburg

“Don’t outsource your entire development project. If you want to create fundamental change you need to take part in exploring your challenges – together with your users. This enables your organization to truly own the process.”Maria Søbroe


What is the simplest way to describe what you do to people that aren’t familiar with it?

Most of the projects I work with starts with a challenge or concern, where the user or customer needs are not clear to the client. The combination of  design anthropology with business strategy and design makes service design methods very impactful.

Design anthropology helps investigate the challenge together with the client and their users, through exploratory research like contextual interviews, workshops, or by prototyping new forms of dialogues like an exhibition/event. This supports the framing of a more specific problem the client needs to focus on.

In order to help identify the challenge using visualized user stories and journeys, stakeholder maps and service blueprints etc. can help immensely. By visualizing and creating a strategic plan for the client one can support them in understanding their roles and responsibilities for implementing the right, sustainable service for their user.


What are some key lessons you have learned about co-creation when you work with young people?

Young people have both the time and the eagerness to immerse in co-creation projects. The youth we worked with in Kosovo saw it as a great learning opportunity that helped supplement their education. Through this engagement they learned new methods and tools that they will be able to deploy in their own work.

It is important to meet them where they are and use mediums that they use to communicate. We used social media to collaborate, communicate and prototype with them which was a great success.


What habits or pattern of behaviors do client organizations have to unlearn in order to be successful in adopting co-creation into their organizations?

Don’t outsource your entire development project. If you want to create fundamental change you need to take part in exploring your challenges – together with your users. This enables your organization to truly own the process.

In our collaboration with UN, we invited team members to engage in all activities, enabling them to experience and try out design thinking methods and to engage in the mapping of local youth challenges and initiatives.

This further enabled UN to see the value in working directly with local youth; the young people are the experts about what matters in their daily lives. In order to create a sustainable change through a UN program it was necessary to co-design with them.


How do you make sure that the impact of the workshop isn’t lost after the activity has been completed?

When ending a workshop or project I always do a sum-up together with the participants, and create small ‘Next steps’ as agreements between the stakeholders in order to continue the impact.

This could be follow up activities like a planning meeting or a field trip among the stakeholders to ensure that the insights or impact from the workshop is implemented and ‘owned’ by the stakeholders.


What resources do you use to stay current with different methods / frameworks and their applications as you build out your own practice?

As a member and facilitator in the Danish chapter of the Service Design Network, I’m engaged in planning and executing multiple events throughout the year to promote and evolve the service design community and knowledge sharing in Denmark, sometimes even across Scandinavia or the Global chapters.

This gives me the opportunity to keep a close eye on the newest tendencies and movements through social media, academia and events – not only in the design community but across all disciplines and sectors, bridging service design, UX, tech, politics, health, biology and much more.


Be sure to see Maria’s presentation, “Co-designing an UN program with youth in Kosovo” at the upcoming 2017 SDN Global Conference

Check out other conversations at 5by5.blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s