Entrepreneurial experiences in Haarlem

The city of Haarlem is keen to improve its services to local entrepreneurs. To this purpose, they have initiated several activities. One of these is the campaign ‘More Service, Less Rules’. Another such initiative is a qualitative research among local entrepreneurs to learn from their experiences. STBY was asked by the Chamber of Commerce to conduct this study. The aim was to elicit entrepreneurs’ experiences and satisfaction with the municipal service delivery, and to advise on solutions to the barriers that entrepreneurs are facing.

For this study, a variety of local entrepreneurs were recruited (both small and large businesses, and operating in various sectors). In contextual interviews at their workplace, they were asked about their recent experiences with the municipality. Each entrepreneur shared around 3-5 experiences, both daily routines – such as the owner of an event agency applying for an event permit, and unique applications – such as a the owner of a packaging plant dealing with soil pollution. To facilitate a detailed yet organized collection of these experiences, Customer Journey Maps were used to structure the interviews. In addition, each entrepreneur was asked towards the end of the interview to recount the most burning issue, which was recorded on video. These clips were later edited into short films, a powerful tool for illustrating barriers in service experiences, and for kickstarting discussions on potential improvements.

The experiences all being documented in the same format, enabled the identification of recurring patterns and barriers in the analysis stage. An underlying process across the set of service experiences could clearly be identified: starting with a preparation stage wherein entrepreneurs look up information on their own, followed up by a stage wherein for instance an application is submitted and discussed with the municipality. The municipality then takes the application into consideration, which finally results in an answer. Surprisingly, this often wasn’t the final stage in the process: a lot of times the answer from the municipality led to a new cycle of follow-up steps.
In each stage of this process, one or two recurring barriers were identified. For instance, during the first contact with the municipality very few information is given on the process lying ahead so the entrepreneurs don’t know what to expect and eventually get confused by sudden requests or the absence of feedback. These barriers make the process very complex for entrepreneurs and they often end up spending a lot of time as an intermediary between several departments and individuals within the local government.

The barriers identified in the study, highlighted clear areas for improvement, giving the municipality of Haarlem the opportunity to empathize and work on concrete solutions. To support this process, various presentations on the results of the research have been given to different departments from the municipality. Special effort has been put in the design of an inspiring booklet which gathers the stories from the entrepreneurs; the customer journey maps as well as the edited films and a visual overview of the experiences patterns and barriers identified. A total of 150 of these booklets and dvd’s have been distributed, enabling the municipality to recount the experience of local entrepreneurs and the key insights from research. These deliverables offer a useful steppingstone for further service improvements.

Co-creating neighbourhood participation

How to step up from the occasional neighborhood consultation to more ongoing neighborhood participation as part of a public space design project? This was the challenge…

Towards better digital inclusion

Approximately 2,5 million people in the Netherlands still experience difficulties while using digital devices such as computers, smartphones or tablets (Stichting…

Learning by doing

The best way to learn a new skill or a new way of working is to actually do it. This does not mean however that you have to start from scratch and figure everything out by…

Exploring Remote Teamwork

Over the past decade, as more digital tools have become available for remote collaboration, and more organisations have embraced flexible working, teamworkers…

Global online learning

The Reach Network of professionals in design and innovation has brought its seasoned practitioners from around the world together to create 5 masterclasses on

Exploring listening experiences

Stations, the new app introduced by Spotify in the US, offers a radio-like listening experience for users who don’t tend to curate their own playlists and listen …

Speculative design with MSF

In collaboration with our Indian REACH partner Quicksand, we helped Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) to rethink their role as a global organisation within the future…

Collaborative R&D Labs

What Design Can Do and STBY have recently tried out a new format for bringing professionals together to develop their thinking and practices around complex societal…

Supporting the energy transition

As part of a large scale national program to transition the use of energy in the Netherlands from natural gas to electricity, the Dutch government is eager to learn…