Italian public institutions are characterised by complex structures and long bureaucratic processes - these create gaps between public officers and citizens, decrease the efficiency of public services and increase frustrations and disappointments for both government employees and citizens. The social services in Turin are no exception. Social service offices in Turin are delivering critical services, such as housing emergency situations, income support and re-entry into the labour market. However, the current organisational structure and management of the multiple public service departments does not allow collaboration across departments nor the possibility to take a holistic view on the problems. There is thus a strong impetus to search for new ways of organising government-civil society interactions.
Addressing this challenge and building on its leadership in social innovation (with the Torino Social Innovation (TSI) local policy program aiming to support the flourishing of social innovation in the city as one of the assets along which to regenerate the urban economy), the Municipality of Turin together with the University of Bologna organised an experimentation process in 2017. This process followed a certain design and included three phases, namely the definition of local challenges, the co-creation of solutions and the development of these solutions. In facilitating each of these phases, they made use of the innovation tools and resources in the SIC Learning Repository.
The aim of the experimentation was to improve the efficiency and coordination of social service delivery and consequently promote the innovation of the organisational culture and setting. The main outcome of the process was the set up and experimentation of a new integrated service called ‘TO-HOME’ where employees coming from three different social service departments (housing, employment and social care) could start collaborate and work together in delivering social services with increased awareness of the needs and perspectives of the end-users. The aim of this new service is to become more effective and efficient in addressing the challenges of a group of vulnerable people (at risk of eviction) by integrating the knowledge and experiences of the different sectors. The new service creates new relations and collaborations within the Municipality, (between employees from different departments) and with external stakeholders (e.g. associations, networks, civil servants, other public and private organizations involved in interventions addressing housing and unemployment challenges).
The process played a crucial role in building capacities of public servants around social innovation and especially on the use of tools and methods for designing public services and for getting closer to the perspective of end users. Another innovative aspect is the support by action researchers of the University of Bologna through which the experimentation process itself shows the value Science-Society interaction and the societal impact that it can create.