Designing and envisioning a more resilient social system

Service Design and
Product Design & Validation

With Instituto da Segurança Social, I.P.


Increase the capacity to solve requests promptly, map situations that compromise or delay citizens’ service, and ensure consistency in responses.


Four validated prototypes with guidelines and guidance for implementation.
Audit of Segurança Social Directa and UX & UI recommendations.

Instituto da Segurança Social, I.P.
Service Design, Product Design & Validation
6 months
Strategy, Research, Prototyping, Validation, Testing
Sofia Carvalho, Tiago Nunes, Assunção Sampayo,



Maria Loureiro


Instituto da Segurança Social, I.P. (Portuguese Social Security Institute) — therefore mentioned as ISS, offers multiple service channels to the people. However, they are not perceived as a whole because the assistance is not standard, depending on the channel or person answering, leading to cumulative problems that could take too long to solve. Therefore, our challenge was posed:

How can we increase the resolution of citizens’ issues in the first contact?

our role


Service Design project to study, rethink and systematize the experience in Segurança Social’s diverse service channels.


Prototype solutions that bring tangible results to citizens and long-term impact on the institution’s culture.

Service Blueprints for transactional actions (as-is).


We started by understanding how client service worked and identified the different touchpoints between citizens and the ISS. From there, we mapped service blueprints for the key processes and services.

We wanted to understand how the institution’s world was structured, focusing on transactional support. To do so, we got acquainted with the organization’s environment and quickly identified a lot to uncover behind the behaviors, culture, and systems in practice.

We kept asking everywhere we looked: what stopped transactional requests from happening? Under seven key categories, we mapped the blockers in place. Later, we prioritized action areas to create long and short-time impacts and activated action points.

→ Design vs. Reality: some departments have less resources than needed
to follow up on processes as they are envisioned;

→ The pressure from the citizens in line can have a significant impact on the workers’ performance and the service they provide;

→ The time allocated for each task is often short and does not contemplate abnormal situations;

→ Time for learning and staying up to date is meager and overlaps with opening hours;

→ Many things depend on the coordinators, who need to juggle different responsibilities and local services;

→ Many problems are born from good intentions: some actions and guidelines aimed to solve something urgent or temporary end up causing friction in the long term.

Field (and Listening) Observation Contact Center
Quick car debrief
Framework Analysis


Services visited across 3 districts


Interviews (research and user testing)


Soon to be released national pilot projects


Frameworks filled




Validated prototypes


Km traveled

strategy and vision

Considering the nature of the organization, multiple stakeholders permanently interact to coordinate efforts and respond to the Portuguese social and economic landscape. Those stakeholders include the Ministry of Labor, Solidarity & Social Security, the Tax Authority, and parish councils.

In order to promote the service’s sustainable future, it’s crucial to diversify and supplement sources of income — it’s not enough to respond to crises and collect contributions. The service must cement a healthy, active, and voluntary relationship between citizens and the ISS with trust present on both ends.

While designing a strategic path for this future, we envision opportunities for the organization to map, anticipate and respond to the citizens’ needs. By providing them with a value framework, citizens will also acknowledge the value of ISS and the impact of their contributions to the system. That clouts an opportunity to change the way citizens perceive the services.

Aware of the main challenge, we understood that to solve more transaction issues on the first contact, we needed to facilitate the involvement of other players without creating an overload for the front-office workers.

We were determined not only to tackle the problem we were first presented with but to start from there and envision the future of the social system alongside the people in the field. In fact, we used that vision as a strategy to craft and backup each prototype we delivered, and we believe that was vital to its success.

The future is at the intersection

Solutions that support the future growth of ISS must find balance between the organization and citizens’ interests.

The path toward ISS sustainable future is a two-way road. It's not enough to create actions on the Social Security side, whose primary objective is to collect contributions. It's essential to cement healthy, active, and voluntary relationships between citizens and the system.


Our aim was to prototype solutions that brought tangible results for citizens and a long-term impact on the institution’s culture. Our outputs materialized with moments of collaboration, learning, and skill-building:

  • 4 prototypes;
  • +100 ideas and best practices identified;
  • UX Audit of Segurança Social Direta (user’s portal) with 200+ practical opportunities to better the experience and accessibility;
  • Guidelines to create and maintain a conversational system: decision tree, conversational style, and language;
  • Figma workshop with tools and guidelines to empower workers to create new user guides.


Three out of four prototypes created during the project are currently under further development as pilot projects owned by the institution.

Understanding information regarding rights and duties should be straightforward. That is especially important when there are a lot of changes going on — as it happens when expecting a new family member. We developed a visual and interactive guide that helps new and future parents to understand their rights — in a practical way. The ultimate goal is to apply the guide structure to other social benefits and use it as a reference in the future.

We understood that to solve more transactional issues on the first contact, we needed to facilitate the involvement of other players without creating an overload for the front-office workers.

We started from the platforms the workers were familiar with and prototyped a direct channel between the front and back office, allowing them to solve requests while assisting a citizen.

Once sent between services and departments, the questions included in the project scope could now be solved digitally within minutes — in opposition to days and even weeks. There was a great acceptance from both technicians and citizens.

Independent workers have to interact with ISS regularly. Although recurrent, those interactions often raise tension and doubts. Most questions can be traced and profiled to craft adequate answers. Therefore we developed a chatbot that answers the most common questions: from opening activity to delivering income statements or how to amend a mistake.

Across the country, we found countless strategies and talents created by workers and applied to day-to-day matters and problems. We created a communication channel specifically to share good practices between different departments, local services, or districts. We tested an online space within a platform already in use, where now people could share their skillfulness with colleagues and departments.

Left: Prototype Right: Implemented Chatbot

Building a prime user experience

Pursuing the effort to be more digital, ISS understands the importance of delivering a good user experience.

We helped build the foundations for a remarkable user experience and enhance the service’s digital competencies. We conducted a UX audit applying usability heuristics and go-to practices. We assembled a list of improvements, opportunities, and suggestions for Segurança Social Direta (users’ portal) with more than 200 ideas for improvement.


Following the prototype’s successful results, the support channel was turned into an official pilot rebranded as “Resposta Agora” (Reply On-Demand). Now implemented in five districts — but now with more actions (50 in total) and a broadened participation aiming towards an implementation nationwide.

Using our chatbot prototype as inspiration and the guidelines provided during the project, the organization has designed and implemented its version, now fully running on its website.

Ultimately the goal is to answer 90% of the requests in under 15 minutes. We designed several actions to accomplish it. Several are being implemented, enabling a global 79% success rate for resolutions under 15 minutes and 88% up to 30 minutes, with all requests solved in hours.

Before this channel, the requests were always sent from front to back office, dragging the resolution. Now, citizens can see their problems solved as quickly as in one minute — a record registered in several services.

The practical guide to new parents deployed as a pilot rebranded as “Visita Guiada à Parentalidade” (Guided Tour to Parenthood) on ISS’s channels and served as a base to enable workers to create similar guides for analogous situations.


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