This project addressed the problem of ‘mobility poverty’ in a rural environment by employing design—a user-centred, systematic approach combining analysis with creative techniques—to discuss mobility poverty and to propose new policy (local, regional) and service options.
Different user and stakeholder groups were involved, ensuring gender and socio-economic balance. The first stage of the process produced insights into the needs and the specificity of needs of particular user groups. The result was a vision for policy and for a new integrated service: a ‘village point’. This village point is the transition point between the formal public transport system and the more informal village-based system. The concept combines services, mobility and social function. One element of the concept is to bring back services to locations near the people who need them, reducing the need for transport.
The design process involved all stakeholders (policymakers, local employers, civil society, service providers, users) in all stages of the process. Because specific groups have specific needs, each group was involved in appropriate ways. For example, interviews were conducted with underprivileged people, and ideas were tested with them separately rather than together with other target groups in co-design workshops. A separate focus group was organised with the support of an association working with and for mothers living in precarious situations. A diversity of profiles (considering gender, age, self-sufficiency, employment status, household structure, and so on) were included, ensuring that the needs of diverse groups were translated into research topics.
The project was launched through a public procurement process. All information is public, and everything produced was available online during the project. Adapted communications tools were developed for different target groups (specifically for local policymakers and stakeholders who can take a leading role in implementation, but less so for underprivileged groups at this final stage).
This bottom-up process started from the needs and ideas of the target groups then moved to challenging points of views and ideas in order to develop holistic solutions. However, this process cannot guarantee that future trends will be fully considered because various barriers can exist in the mindsets of users and stakeholders.
The design process and the participative techniques ensure that stakeholders are confronted with each other’s perspective and consider it in the conceptual design process. There is, however, no direct impact on existing practices. Such impact may occur in the future, as future policies and services can be built upon acquired insights. Nevertheless, the process does not guarantee this.
Learning outcomes are linked to the approach and the insights generated from user and stakeholder needs, but also come from an increase in openness to new ideas and to a holistic approach to addressing problems. Mobility is about much more than policy. It also plays a central role in the lives of people who tend to be excluded from society. These people may face various forms of discrimination, and if their needs are not met, their chances and inclusion in society are reduced.
The design approach produces new insights and innovative solutions. The inclusiveness and the participatory process allow the development of more holistic policies, and they challenge policymakers to integrate results into their policies. For society, the breaking of boundaries between silos created by policy domain means the creation of new value that benefits all target groups, with specific emphasis on disadvantaged groups.