Assimilate or Integrate – Speculative Services

Denmark has historically been a homogenous country with a strong sense of national identity. A recent rise in immigration numbers, along with other demographic changes, has created a set of social challenges for the evolving Danish society, and presents new opportunities to explore supports and services for both newcomers and locals. One such existing support is International House in Copenhagen, a government office and service center where most if not all newcomers must visit to begin their life in the capital of Denmark or in many neighboring municipalities.

International House’s mission is to attract, welcome, and retain foreigners in Copenhagen, but at the moment relatively few services are offered beyond the official paperwork required upon arrival in the country.

Our project team was set with the task to explore opportunities for International House to make a bigger impact on the long-term prospects of newcomers. We used a speculative approach to Service Design, which meant our work was focused on stretching and challenging our understanding of the space, rather than generating feasible or even desirable concepts. We conducted user research at International House and on the streets of Copenhagen exploring individuals’ thoughts and opinions about immigration and integration of newcomers into society through a variety of activities, games, and provocations.

Our findings led us to focus in particular on the common gaps in cultural understanding and expectations between newcomers and locals, as well as the role of negotiation and “valuation” in the process of integration. Below are three near-future speculative services we generated as provocations, representing three different ethical orientations:

1) Selfish – Kickstart Denmark

An online service where potential newcomers to Denmark have to start a campaign to earn votes of current Denmark citizens to get selected to live in the country. Danes receive the ability to judge the skills and qualities of individuals willing to live in Denmark and pick those who they feel represent the best fit for local culture.

2) Altruistic – Together Denmark

An online service that connects newcomers and locals for an experience or skill share, with a particular aim to expanding the understanding of newcomers beyond cultural stereotypes or “valued” job skills, and encouraging cultural exchange. A local could, for example, provide Danish conversational practice, and get in return a lesson in storytelling to guitar playing to a conversation about current state of aerospace engineering – whatever it is that newcomer can offer and the local has interest in.

3) Coercive and Prejudiced – My DaneScore

A state-enforced mechanism whereby everyone who is either seeking to get a permit to stay in Denmark or is already a citizen must attend courses on Danish culture, language, as well as social events. A point system is used to reflect the success in these activities, with a score that must be maintained. If one stops attending these events and courses the score goes down, and the residence permit or even the citizenship may be revoked.