Renovating Izegem Town Hall

Service Design project: Izegem Town Hall 

What was the problem?

The town of Izegem detected that the city registry offices were too small. They did not have enough space and were not ergonomic. The idea to renovate the building thus popped up quickly. Several brainstorming sessions later however, it seemed that the idea was not specific enough. Many aspects of service provision, contact with the citizen, personnel welfare, working hours and organisation came up, that more than just a basic idea was needed.

The town hall consists of many offices on different floors covering zoning, mobility, payments, environment, civil affairs, etc. Every office also had its own way of doing. At one you have a central point of contact, at another you sit and wait until someone comes. The busiest even has queues at certain times of day. An important point for services at the town hall is furthermore that many of the clients are there against their will, because they are obliged to get some official documents.

What did they do?

Via the VVSG (Association of Flemish Cities and Municipalities) the town of Izegem started a service design project. Design Flanders was contacted for advice, and helped the town with a reallocation of the 15,000 euro they had set aside for a designer/architect to a larger budget needed to shape a vision for their services. “We could never have done it alone. It takes an open mind to tie an organisational and spatial concept together. The problem is that you know an organisation all too well when you have been a part of it for years.”

Pars Pro Toto aided the town to start thinking outside of the box. Three fundamental parts at the start of the project were the analysis of the problem, a workshop creating personas to have a better picture of our average citizen, and a learning journey to another municipalities. Later on, the staff withdrew to a castle for the day for a creative workshop. A new personnel structure based on clusters was drawn and this was translated this into priority work processes and a map. While brainstorming and co-creating, also the issue of social cohesion between the staff was analysed. Ultimate dreams for a canteen, garden and office spaces arose.

What was the result?

The result of the intense trajectory was a report with a reflection of the towns real needs, formulated more specific than the vague idea they started with. This report was also used as a briefing for the architect. It encapsulates the vision of the town of Izegem, and also the people for whom it was designed: the personas. The town for example started working by appointment, and opened up their back office. They had the idea of offering services just like a takeaway restaurant does. “The things you need from your town council without having to actually sit around and wait (your ID card, driving licence, copy of your birth certificate, etc.), we call the ‘functional takeaway’. You can picture it now, that hamburger joint you go to when you are hungry and just want to buy something quick to fill the gap. It doesn’t have to be delicious, it just has to do the job.”

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