Empowering marginalised communities: Innovative services piloted in Helsinki

Artikkelikuva: Empowering marginalised communities: Innovative services piloted in Helsinki

The CommuniCity project, which is ultimately aiming to run hundred pilots, kicked off in Helsinki with four pilots. The project invited residents to participate in the development of new digital services for the marginalised communities in collaboration with tech companies and the City of Helsinki.

Cities face countless social and economic challenges, the solving of which would improve the lives of residents. The CommuniCity project tackles these challenges by developing innovative digital services in collaboration with cities, professionals and residents. The project will organise a total of three open calls, one of which has already ended, with the second currently underway. The aim of the project is to ultimately carry out a total of one hundred pilots across Europe by August 2025.

In Helsinki, the four pilots of the first round were carried out in collaboration with the City of Helsinki’s Virtual Services Unit of Disability Work and Uusix workshops. The target groups of the pilots were home care clients, unemployed people and people with intellectual disabilities. At the same time, another nine pilots were carried out in Amsterdam and Porto, the other two partnering cities of the CommuniCity project.  

The technological solutions piloted in Helsinki were selected via a Europe-wide open call in spring 2023. Each selected pilot team was awarded a grant of EUR 12,500 to develop and test their solution, with co-creation and close dialogue with the City of Helsinki’s divisions. The project’s piloting work package is coordinated by Forum Virium Helsinki, with Project Manager Silja Peltonen having been strongly involved in the implementation of the Helsinki pilots.

“It has been wonderful to see how effectively the pilots of the first round responded to the challenges presented by the City. The pilot teams found ways of working together with the target groups and managed to take into account their specific needs,” Peltonen praises.

Using virtual reality to practise daily routines

CTRL Reality’s virtual reality (VR) application InclusiVerse develops users’ social and digital skills and allows them to practise new everyday life situations. The application is aimed at people with intellectual disabilities who need to boost their confidence and practise social interactions. It includes both pre-recorded situations and real-time exercises based on collaboration focusing on job interviews and grocery shopping, for example. The content and degree of complexity of the application can be tailored to correspond to the user’s needs and initial level.

During the pilot period, the application was tested using a Meta Quest VR headset together with the City of Helsinki’s Virtual Services Unit of Disability Work and their day activities clients. The pilot period also included a road show, during which the application was used by as many as 150 clients. The pilot received positive feedback from clients and staff about both the content of the application and the testing sessions. Upon the end of the pilot, there were wish to see more of these types of applications offered to clients of day activities.

Supporting independent living with radio wave technology

Service Center  Helsinki, together with five home care clients, tested a system that supports the work of home care nurses and the independent living of clients. The pilot involved outfitting clients’ homes with sensors that transmitted data to Palvelukeskus Helsinki’s alert centre, on the basis of which the centre could dispatch an on-duty home care patrol to assist a client, when necessary.

The solution provided by Digitaalinen Tehdas Oy and developed by Inlisol Oy alerts home care personnel when the client has a fall at home. The solution can also be used to anonymously monitor clients’ daily rhythm and deviations from it. Furthermore, the system is able to measure clients’ vital functions to obtain preventative data about deteriorating health, which can help predict increases in the risk of falling, for example. The solution is based on artificial intelligence and radio waves.

Job seeking support for people with poor Finnish skills

One of the ways in which thejob seekers in Helsinki are supported is through rehabilitative work activities. The City of Helsinki’s rehabilitative work activities units and the ESF-funded DOT – Enhancing Digital Skills through Work Activities project took part in the CommuniCity open call in order to find easy-to-use and plain-language training content for rehabilitative work activities clients whose native language is something other than Finnish. 

During the pilot, Aiedus provided clients with training on the use of digital devices and services with the aim of introducing clients to the most common digital services and teaching them how to use digital services that are useful in working life. In addition to this, the aim was to provide participants with the means of independently maintaining and developing their digital skills in the future. The rehabilitative work activities units of the City of Helsinki Social Services, Health Care and Rescue Services Division were satisfied with the results of the pilot and the training content compiled during it. Aiedus, in their part, gained strong client insight and valuable experience in the production of tailored training content.

Service map helps city residents

The rehabilitative work activities units of the City of Helsinki and Stereoscape Oy co-created a work activities service map. It highlights the rehabilitative work activities units of the City of Helsinki Health and Social Services, and their locations. The map provided information on the services that the units offer in a language designed to be as easy to understand as possible, accompanied by illustrative visualisations. The map could be accessed through a browser on any device. 

The map service was designed using co-creation methods, with the City’s experts and clients participating in a design workshop where the objectives of the service were defined and aligned with users’ needs. Once ready, the map service was tested together with digital instructors and rehabilitative work activities clients, who provided the developers of the service with valuable feedback. The service map was deemed a successful solution, as a result of which the pilot was extended to autumn 2024.

The CommuniCity project’s third open call will be launched on 10 September 2024 with the aim of finding up to 62 new technological solutions to be tested in real-life conditions with cities and the third sector. Up to 15 of these pilots will be carried out in Helsinki during the first half of 2025.

Additional information

Project Portfolio Manager, EIT Digital Silja Peltonen

Silja Peltonen
Project Portfolio Manager, EIT Digital
+358 40 742 6360

Project Manager, Communications Specialist Anne-Mari Sandell

Anne-Mari Sandell
Project Manager, Communications Specialist
+358 40 903 1922

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