“We are empowering people to get better public services”

Jose Manuel San Emeterio, Project Manager at ERNACT and IMPROVE’s Project Leader, explains the evolution and achievements of IMPROVE.

There is less than a year for the end of the project and the partners are already piloting the new services developed under the IMPROVE’s novel methodology.

How was the project idea born?

Back to 2014, we started a discussion among different regions from the Northern Periphery about the difficulty that our public authorities are having when delivering sustainable and quality public services due to different factors such as long distances, shortage of skills or difficulty to access the latest technology or innovations making the business case for providing quality services very challenging.

Regarding this situation, 9 partners came together to try to improve this situation. Is that right?

Yes, we came together 9 partners from 6 different regions in the Northern Periphery. IMPROVE is built by partners from Iceland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Norway, Sweden and Finland. This includes different type of partners, such as, universities that have the knowledge in the technologies or innovative methods and public authorities, that are at the end of the day are the ones that are responsible to provide these services. So, we worked together to develop these more responsive services.

At that time, how did you foresee the situation?

We were thinking how could we overcome this issue, so first, we thought that an adequate use of technology was essential. However, we wanted to go one step beyond and we included a key element in the process, the involvement of the community to co-produce the services with them. Communities are most of the times an important part of the solution.

And you developed a common methodology using the existing experiences.

Yes, we didn’t start from scratch and we used the invaluable experience coming from our partners to develop the common methodology that would guide us in the process. Next crucial step was the identification and training of our local champions, who are the people who with the required knowledge about the service but at the same time, and very important, are connected to the community and the final users. In total, we are working with 62 local champions for the co-production of services in the 6 participating regions.

What type of services are you developing at the moment?

We can group the services under two main categories, eHealth/eCare services using digital technologies for better health and care services provision and ePlanning, that includes tools and methods to involve communities in the planning process of their areas having their voices listened. At the moment, we are piloting several of these services. It is remarkable that within this process, we are getting good achievements. For example, we are finally testing nine services rather than the six ones that were planned when we wrote the application.

There is less than one year for the end of the project. Are you measuring the results? Yes, we are and initial results captured are showing a significant impact considering both quantitative and qualitative aspects. Following this approach we are empowering the community and the working conditions of the staff delivering the services have improved. From the quantitative point of view the first measurements made reflect an impact in terms of time and money savings, as well as a positive environmental impact and carbon footprint reduction.

Could you give us any example?

We have a key free service for remote assistance that has been translated in much less need for traveling, making much easier the work for the providers and having less impact into the CO2. Another service that has been developed is related to the use of sensors for toilet assistance, which is being translated in more comfortable patients and less need for laundry services or less production of trash. So, the environmental impact has been very positive.

How can we get in touch with the IMPROVE project and learn more?

We do have a project website (improve.interreg-npa.eu) where you can see our activity and contact details. You can also follow us through our social media platforms. Apart from that, we invite people to join our community called the ‘Transnational Living Lab Network’ where we are open to anybody who has interest on this. We are happy to discuss and share opinions in order to face these common challenges that all of us have in the Northern Periphery.