3/2014, In English, Tutkimus ja innovaatiot

Online co-creation – Facilitating User-engagement in “Elävä Lappi“ Living Labs

Societal challenges force all the actors in Lapland to find new solutions for development and service design. Living conditions, huge distances and decreasing number of population in rural areas, require new innovations and collaboration that are tailor-made for the specific conditions of the region. Being a sparsely populated area, Lapland is a challenging context for co-creation and innovations, furthermore, local decision-makers and entrepreneurs need assistance in finding the right development track with economical methods. The distances make participation and involvement in decision-making remarkably difficult. Additionally, networking has become an important factor for competitive entrepreneurial activities; therefore old ways of creating services and products are no longer sufficient. (Jäminki & Saranne 2013a; Jäminki & Saranne 2013b.)

These challenges require active contribution and involvement of the actors in the region. The service debate in Living Labs has been able to approach the themes of societal change, new emerging patterns in value co-creation and developing service design methods that can be used to facilitate development processes. Service design is establishing itself as a practice (Miettinen & Valtonen 2012) and innovative methods used in service design process facilitate users’ participation in service development (Thomas 2008). Experiences also show that technology enables new value-chains, becomes more network-like and gives participants new tools (Eriksson, Niitamo & Kulkki 2005). These principles were applied in the Elävä Lappi Living Labs.

Context Elävä Lappi Living Lab

“Elävä Lappi” Living Lab was established in a real-life setting in rural, sparsely populated pilot environments, Kemi-Tornio city area at the Swedish border and Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland. The pilot project was financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) for the period of August 2010 to December 2013. The partners represent all the three universities in Lapland: Kemi-Tornio UAS and Rovaniemi UAS (Lapland UAS after the merger in 1.1.2014) as well as University of Lapland.

The project “Elävä Lappi” was established to pilot and promote Living Lab methods by developing methods for joint, open innovation co-creative processes. The Living Labs follow the principles of the so-called ´Quadruple Helix model´ (see Figure 1) underpinning exchange, shared understanding and local policy development (Arnkil, Järvensivu, Koski & Piirainen 2010). The Living Lab culture is supported by innovative test methods and models which facilitates the inclusion of higher education – i.e. the students and the staff – to the regional project contents.

Figure 1: The Elävä Lappi Living Lab concept offers a wider perspective to the development process and the Quadruple Helix involves end-users/customers, developers, utilizers and enablers simultaneously with the co-creative development process.

Physical and Virtual Labs

The physical labs of “Elävä Lappi” proved to be efficient collaboration places for the Living Lab actors. The workshops were tailored in collaboration with all the actors and it was fairly easy to activate the Lappish participants; after all, people are interested in developing their region. However, for some participant involvement was not always easy; the employees from working life and the digital generation found it difficult to attend the face-to-face workshops.

Technology, on the other hand, seemed to offer more easily accessible and affordable collaboration spaces for the above mentioned groups (Jäminki & Nijbakker 2013). Therefore, Web 2.0 tools that served the Lappish context best, were incorporated into the Elävä Lappi Living Lab (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Different technologies utilized in the Elävä Lappi project.

It has to be pointed out, however, that both the Physical and Virtual labs are important; they only serve different types of participants. The report mainly addresses pedagogical and technological factors of the Labs, since the other results of the Labs have been widely presented in papers and publications (see Merivirta 2013; Jäminki & Saranne 2013a; Jäminki & Saranne 2013b).

Involvement of Higher Education

All the universities of applied sciences have wide responsibilities for the well-being of the region; therefore research, development and innovation (RDI) activities have to be designed to promote the wellbeing of the entire region. The RDI processes in Living Labs were integrated into studies and implemented through real-life innovation tasks, theses and RDI projects. RDI was carried out cooperatively by students, lecturers and representatives of various organizations.

In Elävä Lappi, we piloted Living Lab method and user-engagement both virtually and face to face. For example, there were multiple online inquiries, idea collecting and user researches executed via our website and Facebook page. In addition to these, we organized several workshops that took place in the environment that was aimed to be developed. (See Elävä Lappi 2014.) Shopping Centre Rajalla På Gränsen in Tornio was one of the most important cooperation partners in both virtual and physical Living Labs.

Figure 3: Development workshops were primarily organized in the places that were developed. Online user-involvement enhanced possibilities to participate.

The integration of theoretical and practical issues facilitates the complex learning process. Integration in Living Labs proved to be rewarding but also challenging. The teachers and project staff needed several negotiations before shared understanding of the pedagogical solutions and the project goals were reached.

Implications for The Digital Context

The results gained in the Elävä Lappi Living Labs can be viewed from various perspectives. For the region, the regional developments achieved during the Living Lab activities are prioritized. Decision-makers not only appreciated the shared knowledge but even savings achieved by the use of open source software and the collaboration measures that could be used for targeting the right actions to serve the users.

Another perspective is to see how technology helped to achieve the goals. Web 2.0 is a global phenomenon; however, integration to the Labs requires local tailoring, despite the fact that Lapland operates with international stakeholders. By including the global perspective into the context, true benefits for the regional actors may be identified. To make the changes more visible for the users, the digital criteria set up by UNESCO (2011) and the learning goals of the so-called 21st century were followed.

The results prove that the Living Labs are not only capable of preventing social exclusion by facilitating participation by the help of ICT, actions can even help policy-makers to get reliable evidence of the directions of the actions. Through the ongoing and effective use of media the students had the opportunity to acquire important technology capabilities during the learning activities and the acquired competences can be transferred to working life.

Pedagogical Implications

Experiences prove that when regional service design objectives and technology are integrated into the learning context, educational implementation structures have to be reviewed and re-designed (Jäminki & Nijbakker 2013). Service design and online education require the use of technology and the teachers have to be in charge of the online-services; therefore training teachers has to be given a priority. Changes in pedagogical practice involve co-creation, the use of various technologies and online content but it also involves knowing where and when (as well as when not) to use the technology for various activities.

From the pedagogical point-of-view, the principles of online idea-generating-workshops and co-creation methods require a lot of in-advance planning where both the teaching staff and project employees have to bring their expertise. Reaching consensus always requires a lot of communication. Open discussions focus on functional and theoretical underlying principles but even on the use of methodological choices. The actors have to decide which methods and tools best serve the region. The challenge calls for constant collaboration among all the actors; the teachers and the project employees can’t exclude the regional decision makers and alone make the decisions. (Merivirta 2013.) For ongoing communication and decision-making, online tools bring substantial help.

Figure 4: Elävä Lappi Living Labs tested new and innovative ways of user-involvement.


During the Elävä Lappi project as well as in other regional projects that were implemented simultaneously, the acquired knowledge of Living Lab methods and user-involvement was increased among the staff of Lapland UAS and the participants. This new competence is therefore implemented and taken into practice in other courses of the Degree Programmes. Also, by participating the local enterprises and other organizations, the participants acquired awareness of the importance of user-involvement in working life, regardless the type of field or industry. On top of this, it is worth mentioning that user-involvement creates a core development area in the strategies of Lapland UAS founded in 2014.

The Elävä Lappi Living Labs indicated promising ways of regional collaboration and user-involvement and increased the survival of Lapland and prevented the social exclusion of the residents. Living Lab methodology offered tools for reaching shared goals and supported learning as a network phenomenon, influenced by socialisation and technology. Living Labs, supported by ICT, offered solutions that are not only efficient and co-creative but even more economical and user-friendly for all the parties. (Jäminki & Saranne 2013.) Co-creation of services, management and dissemination of knowledge to all the actors helps to develop Lapland.


Seija Jäminki, Lecturer, PH.D, Lapland University of Applied Sciences, seija.jaminki@lapinamk.fi

Marika Saranne, R&D Manager, M.Sc, Lapland University of Applied Sciences, marika.saranne@lapinamk.fi

Arnkil, R. & Järvensivu, A. & Koski, P. & Piirainen, T. 2010. Exploring the Quadruple Helix : Outlining user-oriented innovation models. Final Report on Quadruple Helix Research for the CLIQ project. Working Papers 85/2010. Tampere: University of Tampere, Work Research Centre. Available at http://www.cliqproject.eu/pubfilebank/savefile.php?folderId=175&fileId=1012&key=adb812d8e220ec363aac5e1c3a83edf3. Accessed on 24.4.2014.

Elävä Lappi 2014. Project’s webpage. In address: http://some.lappia.fi/blogs/elavalappi/about/. Accessed on 10.9.2014.

Eriksson, M., Niitamo, V.-P. & Kulkki, S. 2005. State-of-the-art in utilizing Living Labs approach to user-centric ICT innovation – a European approach. Working Paper. Available at http://www.vinnova.se/upload/dokument/verksamhet/tita/stateoftheart_livinglabs_eriksson2005.pdf. Accessed on 24.4.2014.

Jäminki, S. & Nijbakker, P. 2013. Efforts to implement new learning spaces in higher education. The case of Kemi-Tornio University of Applied Sciences. Article 06 September 2013, Open Education Europa. Available at http://openeducationeuropa.eu/fi/download/file/fid/27791. Accessed on 24.4.2014.

Jäminki, S. & Saranne, M. 2013a. “Living Labland” – Co-creative Innovation Lab Integrating Cross-border Co- creation of services to research, development and innovation in Higher Education. A collection of proceedings published from the 4th ENoLL Living Lab Summer School in A collection of proceedings published from the 4th ENoLL Living Lab Summer School in Manchester (UK) August 27th – 30th, 2013,130–149. Brussels: European Network of Living Labs. Available at http://4thenollsummerschool.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/proceedings-4th-enollss13.pdf. Accessed on 25.4.2014.

Jäminki, S. & Saranne M. 2013b.  Living “Labland” : Supporting Cross-border Living Lab by means of RDI. Presentation at ENoll 2013, Manchester, UK. Brussels: European Network of Living Labs. Available at http://4thenollsummerschool.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/7_enoll-research-session-3_jc3a4minki_saranne_mm.pptx. Accessed on 25.4.2014.

Merivirta, M. (Ed.) 2013. Tee-se-itse-YHDESSÄ : Käyttäjälähtöisyydellä ja Living Lab -toiminnalla kohti Elävää Lappia. Tornio: Kemi-Tornion ammattikorkeakoulu. Available at http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-5897-58-6. Accessed on 24.4.2014.

Miettinen, S. & Valtonen, A. (Eds.) 2012. Service Design with Theory : Discussions on Change, Value and Methods. Rovaniemi: Lapland University Press.

Thomas, E. (Ed.) 2008. Innovation by design in public services. SOLACE Foundation Imprint. London: The Guardian. Available at http://www.solace.org.uk/starter_docs/SFI%20-%20Innovation%20by%20design%20in%20public%20services.pdf. Accessed on 24.4.2014.

UNESCO 2011. UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers. Version 2.0. Paris: UNESCO. Available at http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0021/002134/213475e.pdf. Accessed on 24.4.2014.

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