The SPIDER project

Putting citizens at the heart of service design

The challenge

Social innovation provides a means to develop new products, services, and ways of doing things which satisfy social needs and create new collaborations. Likewise, service design is well established in the private sector but only a limited number of public services examples exist. Innovative solutions will be required as public services face severe budget cuts, high unemployment, an ageing population and higher expectations from citizens.

The project in brief

The SPIDER project was designed with the belief that services are most effective when citizens and governments co-create the services together. In order to gain more understanding in this upcoming field, SPIDER project partners tested their methodology in 8 pilots across different public services.

The project aimed to demonstrate how service design can be translated into cost savings and efficiencies in the public sector, and change the mindset of public authorities in their approach to understanding the needs of service users.

In line with these objectives, the SPIDER partnership chose to collaborate on three particularly costly issues for public authorities:

  • Driving an active youth workforce
  • Extending independent living for older people
  • Encouraging cultural change within public authorities.

SPIDER successfully used service design to create 9 new public services which impacted the lives of 143,555 citizens. Working to address the three issues above with partners, SPIDER also created a service design toolkit and published important results from their research. 

The project developed a delivery method based on a creative approach that views a service through the eyes of the people using it.

The impact

By engaging both service users and service providers in developing and testing solutions, the SPIDER project created new services that were citizen-focused, desirable to use and inclusive.

For example, in Ireland, the Northern and Western Regional Assembly, working with the Institute of Technology Sligo, applied the SPIDER approach to increase dementia patients’ independence and to reduce fatigue of relatives taking care of them at home. The project identified the reasons for career fatigue  team interviewed both patients and their careers and organised workshops to investigate the causes of carer fatigue. This revealed a problem with a lack of free time, particularly at the weekend. In the North West of Ireland care services and day centres, which provide respite for the carer, typically run only from Monday to Thursday.

As a result of these workshops, they created a six-month pilot service for Saturday day centres. During this time, carers provided details of the impact the service had had on their fatigue. They reported being able to spend time with family and friends at the weekend, which had reduced the pressure on them. SPIDER’s financial review indicated that Saturday Day Centres like this offered a sustainable solution.

The 8 pilots created valuable examples of the benefit of service design, and these findings and the toolkit have been used for the training of civil servants. Additionally, more than 560 regional, national and European policy makers participated in the organized workshops or were reached through the organisation of public events. The project was also approached by organisations in Greece and Poland on transferring experience and solutions to youth unemployment

Overall, this project demonstrated the added value of service design, and provided better citizen experiences at a lower cost. They also proved to be cost effective for public authorities as the solutions corresponded directly to the user needs, avoiding costly changes following failed implementation.

Public sector staff has found it particularly useful to be able to look at the problem from different perspectives thanks to empathetic service design tools.

SPIDER Evaluation Report March 2016


143 555

Lives of citizens impacted


regional, national and European policy makers participated in the organized workshops


new public services created

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