Traditional industrial processes of product design often churn out oversized items with more functions and higher material throughput than customers actually value. At the same time, producers try to reduce production costs as far as possible, generally to the detriment of the quality of components that cannot be checked at the time of purchase. The planned obsolescence of certain components is a common practice in the manufacturing world, with the clear aim of accelerating the rate of replacement and increasing the volume of product sales. Such a design process is not working for the benefit of a given place and a given community: the high material throughput that results from increasing product sales has negative environmental consequences such as resource depletion and waste, and many products are unrelated to the actual needs of local communities.
The conventional approach to the design of new products and services has not actively involved end users. If local economies are supposed to deliver value for communities in a given place, a more prominent and active role has to be given to users. This creates the challenge for entrepreneurs to meet representative members of the local community and to engage in meaningful co-creation. Local authorities can be instrumental in this process. They also can make businesses more aware of local/territorial challenges and encourage them to integrate them into the design of new economic activities.
The PSS toolkit described here is based on the notion of a "Product-Service System" (PSS), i.e. a system in which the service or function that is provided to a community of users and the products that are necessary for the underlying interactions are integrated into a system. Designing a product under the conventional industrial paradigm differs radically from designing a Product-Service System: whereas the entrepreneur is the main (and often only) actor in the former, he is part of a wider set of interactions in the latter. In other words, businesses are not designing products but participate with other stakeholders in the co-design of a system of which they are a part.
The PSS toolkit is a methodology using a combination of methods to generate and then pre-test ideas of potential business opportunities formulated around urban sustainability challenges in form of Product-Service Systems. The toolkit starts with a workshop methodology that combines system thinking and participatory design in order to inspire and test new Product-Service Systems. However, whereas other workshop methods typically stop at the stage of idea development, the toolkit goes further into testing the attractiveness and the feasibility of the implementation of the proposed system.
In particular, the toolkit contains microtools allowing to test the systems by confronting their most critical/sensitive aspects in realistic simulations so as to "debug" the system (assess the viability of the solution, highlight the opportunities it represents and any weaknesses, etc.) and to gain a better understanding of how it could be implemented (through partial simulations, a detailed run-through of the service process, ongoing self-completed interviews with the stakeholders, etc.). This Reality Check also makes it possible to examine the system from the users’ point of view (appeal and maturity with regard to the concept, sensitivity, etc.).
Any department willing to make a link between specific local transition challenges and the potential business models this transition can create. In one application in Brussels, the regional environmental agencies worked with a consultancy to host a series of workshops in which a range of stakeholders (including entrepreneurs and potential users of new services) looked at business opportunities in different areas such as urban logistics or green spaces. The role of the facilitator is to identify and invite relevant participants and frame the problems that are addressed with the toolkit. The facilitator needs to keep the discussion among the participants alive and produce documentation material that all of them understand and appreciate.
The following expertise is required to apply the different tools: animation of participatory processes, animation of multi-stakeholder workshops, expertise in new Business models, knowledge and trust of local landscape of entrepreneurs and potential users.
FACILITATORY (PUBLIC) BODIES:
socio-economic development department; environmental and sustainability department; community development department; strategic planning department
LOCAL TASK FORCE:
entrepreneur; investor; business; community group; professional expert; local or regional authority
urban region; (sub-)urban communities
MAIN NECESSARY RESOURCES ARE:
monetary investments; local knowledge; expert knowledge; public institutional set-up
Please get in touch with our expert contact for additional material’